The Integral Backstay Adjuster

Hydraulic Backstay Adjuster

Integral backstay adjusters can play a big role in how a boat sails. Being able to adjust the backstay tension from the pump of a handle can be useful on cruisers just as much as racers. We all need to make general changes to the boats trim depending on wind and wave conditions in order to keep control of the boat.


Please note: in the case of the offshore cruiser or racer, one should have a fail-safe device rigged by a professional for any hydraulic backstay tensioning device.

Holmatro Backstay Adjuster

HOLMATRO {click image to link manufacturer website}

Holmatro, makers of the Jaws of Life, are trying to set some new standards when it comes to integral adjuster technology. Holmatro’s HIA line-up comes in two different colors, classic black or a silver metallic. One of the design flaws that I’ve notice on earlier model adjusters (regardless of manufacturer) is that you have to crawl on the deck to try and read the gauge; causing most of us leisure sailors (myself included) to not even look at the darned ‘thing’. This is bad practice, considering the power of hydraulics. The feature that really sets Holmatro apart from the rest, is the automatic two-speed function of the ram. The automatic two-speed function allows you to achieve adequate backstay tension with fewer pumps of the lever than some of the older/ other manufacturers.  Once the hydraulic cylinder detects a specified amount of pressure, the unit kicks into “second gear” and fine-tuning is achievable with some additional pumps of the lever.

Although fairly new, this unit comes at a price starting about $800 more than the competitors. In my opinion, just to have the gauge in a more visible location is well worth the price alone. Read here for more information.

UPDATE: Although still available through our friends at Euro Marine Trading Inc., these units are now harder to get in the USA and are only available through suppliers in Europe; due to this, lead times can be excessive for parts orders.

Navtec integral backstay adjuster

NAVTEC {click image to link manufacturer website}

For those of you that are a bit more price conscious and like to go with what works, the Navtec unit has an incredible reputation. Navtec’s integral units seem to be the most popular on wide array of boat designs. The units offer similar design to those of Holmatro (I am pretty sure that Holmatro’s designers were copying Navtec but that is just my opinion).

For a reliable/ quality adjuster for a reasonable price look no further! Some models have the gauge on top some are down at the deck. You’ll have to look for yourself and see what their latest design is, as they are always changing. Although cylinders that are driven by panels, usually in the cockpit,  come in black or silver, Navtec’s integral units come in black only, for now…

Harken Integral Adjuster

HARKEN {click image to link manufacturer website}

The newest of them all is Harken’s New Hydraulic Lineup. This is such a new product there is no real r&d which I can see as a concern to some, but rest assured this is a company known to its dedication to quality (just ask Americas Cup Teams). Once again Harken known for innovation, boasts a gauge that is mounted on top (much like the Holmatro) AND can also adjust to 4 different positions allowing it to be seen from almost any angle, THANK YOU HARKEN! Instead of the two speed function which Holmatro adds as a luxury, Harken has created a pump that is 1:1 actuating. Meaning that oil is delivered as the handle goes in and out, instead of the competitors’ design which only delivers oil when the handle is being pulled away from the cylinder. This may also be a work around for One Design rules (all of you J105 racers out there!), disallowing two speed pumps………at least until they catch on ;-0)

“Price wise, Navtec, Sailtec, and Harken integral adjusters are all comparable.”

NEW model Sailtec adjuster

SAILTEC {click image to link manufacturer website}

Lastly, we have Sailtec‘s line of integral adjusters. Sailtec is also a reputable company on a  smaller scale. This company (like Navtec) has also been around for many, many years, proving their quality and dependability. What I like about Sailtec is that they have left their design relatively unchanged over the years which makes service parts readily available!

Service intervals:  all of these units need to be serviced at some point. The service intervals, like anything else, will mostly be determined by geographical location as well as wear. Navtec units are the most affordable to service followed by Sailtec which require slightly more parts and time. Holmatro and Harken’s are still too new to really know anything about service intervals and cost, so we’ll just have to hold out and see.

All in all, all of these products truly do an outstanding job at what they are supposed to do, tension a stay hydraulically. Not to mention these are all reputable companies that will stand behind their product 100% (within reason). That being said the decision will come down to personal preference, look, functionality, and service life. As well as of course, purchase price.

Click the links to the various manufacturers, take a look for yourself. If you need help deciding you can always give us a shout, we’d love to hear from you.

As always thanks for the read and if you have a question for us or would like us to take a look at your rigging hydraulics, leave us a comment down below……….

Posted in Americas Cup, Annapolis Sailing, Around the World, Baltimore Sailing, Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Product Review, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Da Vinci’s Orinthopter

Da Vinci's Orinthopter, first designs of people in flight, man propelled flying machine

‘Just a quick blurb on some art that we were privileged enough to be part of. The model of da Vinci’s Orinthopter was recently moved from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, re-cabled by Jim Donaghy (thanks for the mention), and moved to the Center for Strategic & International Studies in John Hamre Commons.


Sometimes the stuff we get to be part of is just plain… cool.


PS – we really appreciate the plugs and mentions. We are starting to get some real traction out there, So Thanks to Everyone for Following Us!!!

Posted in Home is where the heart is, Not Sailing Related, Rigging, The Biz! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reeving Halyards

Some people are daunted by the task of attempting to run-in or reeve new lines which run internally or cannot be easily accessed. Halyards for instance present the problem of, “how do I get the old one out and the new one in?”. Let’s address some technicalities first…

~Not all eye splices are created equally.

If you are about to buy a new halyard, ask the rigger (splicer) to splice a soft eye (a.k.a. reeving eye, Flemish eye, pull eye) into the standing end. The reeving eye is NOT to be confused with a structural eye splice. A reeving eye is a NON-structural soft eye which is there ONLY for reeving purposes. See picture below

Reeving Eye, Soft Eye, Flemish eye, Pull eye, Core dependent eye splice, The Rigging Company

When you order a new halyard (or any internally run line, i.e. reef lines) from us, one end of the line will have what is called a reeving eye or soft eye spliced into it.

When we (The Rigging Company) go to run-in new halyards we use the old halyard as the messenger for the new halyard. So, now stick with me on this {cracks knuckles, sigh}…

….we do this by cutting off the working end (shackle end) of the old halyard and attaching the standing end of the new line using the methods depicted below. Alternatively, you can save the old line in its entirety, BUT this takes more time, a lot more messenger (or some small diameter leader), and is not without its problems. When saving the old line in its entirety you will attach the messenger at the standing end of the old line and pull out the old halyard using the messenger as a chase. Once the chase makes it all the way through you can the detach it from the old line and re-attach it to the standing end of the new line and run it in that way. As I said, the latter is a more time consuming method, and is not recommended unless the old line in its entirety, eye splice and shackle, need to be kept in tact. Trying to do it this way also presents this inherent problem; running the much smaller messenger line through all the way will increase the chances that the line will ‘jump the sheave’ and get wedged between the sheave and the sheave sides, jamming the line. This will require a trip aloft in order to be resolved and may STILL not be do-able at that. Fractional rig owners BE-WARE, if it is the main halyard that we are talking about (and that is the only halyard that goes to the top of the mast), you may have to take the mast down or go up in a crane to correct this….expensive!

“Regardless of which method, saving the old halyard or cutting off the old working end, make sure that you keep a little tension/ friction on the line during the pull-in process to help to prevent the line from ‘jumping the sheave’.”

In either scenario….Here are the methods that we employ to attach a line to another line for reeving. Before getting started there are some –  Knots to Know: the Bowline and the Half Hitch.

Tools required to attach two line to eachother. Tools Required: You will need a small diameter piece of line, approximately 1/8" or so should do it. The piece of line doesn't need to be any longer than 3 feet or so (maybe even less). Next you will need some tape, preferably white electrical (or vinyl) tape. Lastly you will need a sharp knife, a riggers knife is our tool of preference.

Tools Required: a small diameter piece of line, approximately 1/8″ should do it. The piece of line doesn’t need to be any longer than 3 feet or so (maybe even less). Next you will need some tape, preferably white electrical (or vinyl) tape. Lastly you will need a sharp knife, a riggers knife is our tool of preference.


The Reeving Eye Method

The easiest method. You can only do this if your rope has a soft eye spliced into its end. So make sure that your new line comes with this, that way you can simply tie the messenger to it via bowline.

The Half Hitch Method

The most used method. You can even use this on old wire halyards (you’ll likely need cutters) It is very simple but will cause an increase in the rope’s dimaeter and may therefore not fit through certain hardware, i.e turning blocks, rope clutches, masthead, or exit slot (if internal).

The Half Hitch Method Reducing the Rope Diameter

Same as above but done by reducing the ropes diameter. This method is only available with double braid lines.

The Poke a Hole in it Method

My favorite method, as it is the fastest. In my experience this only works with old crusty rope. You will also need an additional tool, something pokey: a spike, a fid, a small Phillips head screwdriver. This method also increases the rope diameter, but only slightly.

I have also found these techniques to be helpful for attaching a line to another line in order to duplicate a block and tackle. This can be helpful if you are too put off by the complexity of the tackle.

However, if you want to learn how it’s done correctly (recommended). Here is a good video that demonstrates one of the more difficult block and tackles to reeve…the 6:1 purchase.


In searching the internet, it seems that most people use thread, needle and tape to achieve the same thing. Some just use tape, NOT RECOMMENED. Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat, but we find that our techniques require the least amount of fuss and are also the the most dependable. Besides, we do this for a living ;-0)

Don’t Forget: When running the line one should apply a bit of friction to the line ensuring that it stays put on the sheave. Do this especially when the messenger goes over the sheave.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please leave us a comment below if you have questions.

Thanks for the read.



Posted in Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments