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Backstays, Breast Backstays, and Running Backstays


SJSoane
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In setting up a rigging table for my 1760 English 74 HMS Bellona, I came across some ambiguities regarding backstays for the topmasts. Can someone help me figure this out?

 

Steel's tables for a 74 ca. 1800 list 3 pairs of standing backstays on the fore topmast set up with deadeyes, and also 1 pair of breast backstays set up with tackles. Lee's Masting and Rigging book confirms 3 pair of standing backstays for ca 1760, but says that there were no breast backstays between 1733 and 1839; the foremost backstay likely served as a breast backstay. Lees also refers to a running breast backstay set up with tackles, which sounds like Steel's breast backstays. Are Steel and Lees referring to the same thing with different names?

 

Best wishes,

 

Mark

 

 

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Hello Mark,

 

Lees refers to the Breast B/S set up in the usual fashion ie with deadeyes, but considers that very few English ships carried them, basing his view on having found only two contemporary models of ships of 1719 and 1733 fitted with them, and then presumably a model circa 1839 also with them.

 

Lees differentiates between a Breast b/s and a running breast b/s which is set up with the tackle on the channels.It may be that by the time Steel was writing, breast backstay (with tackles) was the norm as the other form had not been in use for many years and there was no need to specify between the two.

 

In the AotS book Bellona by Brian lavery he shows 3pr of standing b/s on the Fore topmast and what he also calls a Fore Breast b/s  having the tackle and falls set up. He shows on the main topmast in addition to the three pr of standing b/s a shifting b/s, something Lees says were not generally seen. A breast b/s is not shown on the main Topmast.

 

Longridge writing about rigging his model of Victory decribes three forms of topmast b/s, standing, breast and shifting and he includes all three on his model on the fore and Main topmasts.

 

Personally if I were rigging  Bellona I would include the 3 standing pair, and the breast b/s (with tackles) on both Fore and Main Topmasts.

 

B.E.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks, B.E., it does sound like the Lees' running backstay is the same as Steel's breast backstay with a tackle rather than deadeyes.  I read somewhere that the tackle on a backstay was used to bring the upper masts rather more upright in certain points of sailing. I need to re-read Harlands' Seamanship in the Age of Sail to see if he has anything to say about that.

 

Best wishes,

 

Mark

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Thanks Frankie, I have Harland's book, and I will look that up. I keep meaning to read that cover to cover, to learn more about how they really used all of the equipment we build, in all sailing situations.

 

My personal knowledge of sailing is limited to small dinghies in the lakes at the base of the Rocky Mountains a number of years ago. It takes a lot of imagination to scale that up to a 74 gun ship...;-) 

 

Mark

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