baby stay steering sail

last weekend I spent some time experimenting with a steering sail on the baby stay

I used a high aspect dinghy jib that once belonged to an Express Dinghy

I have to say that it worked beautifully

both under power and with just the genoa rolled out

it seemed to hold a course on everything from close(ish) hauled to broad reach


I have tried sheet to tiller steering on the main or genoa and always found that I had to compromise a little on the setting of the sails and had to tolerate some small amount of backwinding

this set up keeps the lines very simple

changing the angle to the wind is dead easy

the main driving sails can be set for optimum speed

you do not actually need a baby stay as mine is just raised on the spinnaker pole uphaul and the foot is anchored to the bottom of the baby stay - although it could just as easily go to the main mooring cleat in the middle of the foredeck if you do not have a baby stay

you could run a line from the mast to the bow roller and set the foot of the sail wherever you wish

I started with a bit of rope on the clew of the sail but found that a strong bit of bungee brought back to the grab rail on the roof worked much better

it made the system more responsive to small changes in wind direction

I am told that surgical tubing is really good stuff for the leeward side of the of the tiller mechanism but I bought some thing slack bungee and used it four times at about six foot long and that seemed to give me a nice even correcting force on the tiller

I will spend more time refining it when doing the long journey to Scotland and report back

I think that it should be possible to use a similar arrangment using a whisker pole to set the steering sail a little outboard so that it will even work when running

it will save us a lot of power on the long journey to scotland avoid that relentless graunching of the Raymarine - and keep us simple folk entertained

If I can get it to work downwind and get it to hold course without the spinnaker collapsing for an hour then I will consider that to be a real triumph

here is the set up

I will put it in the "tremendous success" box

This is about Centaur Project, Dylan Winter's Blog, Sailing around Britain.

9 Responses to “baby stay steering sail”

  1. 22 April, 2014 at 10:40 pmTomH says:

    Looksa v.effective arrangement – I am encouraged by the possibility of the “three sheets” giving the necessary control.

    More video ;)

    If the arrangement is based on some particular reference material – please advise so I can see that as well. Being a multihull sailor it would be great if this/it could be versatile enough to work for that type of boat.
    Numerous multisailors have tried various sheet-to-tiller arrangements without success – suggesting that the larger speed delta’s are the culprit.

    Thanks as usual – you always bring us nice tidbits.

  2. 23 April, 2014 at 7:39 amdylan winter says:

    I have some playing to do Tom, but so far it seems very robust – you seem to be less dependent on inherent boat directional stability and you can trim the sails and she will hold course relative to the wind. I have yet to try it in a seaway and obviously I want to see if I can use something similar downwind. I came across it through this link

  3. 23 April, 2014 at 10:54 amdylan winter says:

    The problem is that you multi-hull boys accelerate and decelerate so much changing both the wind speed and apparent wind

    this is not going to help much with apparent wind but it does seem to keep you on a good course over a wider range of wind speeds than the standard sheet to tiller steering

  4. 28 April, 2014 at 12:59 pmJ. Peter Haliburton says:

    Having the boat steer itself without electronics, or an expensive windvane cluttering up the transom is very interesting. My boat has a TillerTamer, but that is inadequate for gusty winds, and usually just holds me on course long enough to set the sails.

    I have seen a setup where the line on the TillerTamer can be attached to some something stretchy, and that alone works well for close to the wind. This would be easy to put in place and experiment with.

    I don’t have the means of putting another small sail on my boat, but the methods of using the boom are possible. This is what I will play around with once Serenity gets back in the water. Probably another month before that happens. We are all getting anxious here. It was a long winter.

    Some ideas here:

  5. 28 April, 2014 at 1:39 pmdylan winter says:

    I did not actually have it attached to the baby stay – as long as you have a place at the cross trees to mount a block then you could bring the foot of the genoa down to a point in the middle of the foredeck – either to a cleat or to a rope between the bow and the foot of the mast

    well worth playing with and it seems so much better than the other sheet to tiller steering methods I have used

    I will have a go with it when I return to Katie L


  6. 28 April, 2014 at 2:46 pmJ. Peter Haliburton says:

    This is the video I was looking for…

    I don’t have any kind of small sail to rig on the foredeck, so I have to work with what is on the boat. Using the boom looks less complicated than some other methods.

  7. 30 April, 2014 at 2:17 amJ. Peter Haliburton says:

    I wrote up a blog post as a place to store some information at

  8. 30 April, 2014 at 6:54 amdylan winter says:

    I read it enjoyed it. I tried leaving a comment but failed to get through the barriers between myself and the web.

    I try to minimise them on here – it does mean that I get a few bits of nonsense every day but handbag adverts are not that offensive

  9. 30 April, 2014 at 11:08 amJ. Peter Haliburton says:

    I just made the commenting more open, but it had many options for user validation. I’ll have to try it while logged out to see exactly how it works.

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