The Highfield lever was originally invented by the late Mr J. S. Highfield in about 1930. I believe this concept was initially intended to load and release running backstays at a predesignated tension. This method for runner tensioning has since been replaced with ‘high speed’ synthetics, fancy blocks, tackles, and/or dedicated winches.
Some years later, A.B.I. (also Merriman made one) really refined this lever design into a much smoother, sleeker looking piece of hardware. This specific lever quickly became popular as the first choice when it comes to an inner forestay quick release system. Almost at the point of eliminating its competition, A.B.I., unfortunately went out of business. Since then the sailboat market has missed a good quality lever for all of its removable inner stays.
Today, three other companies have attempted to come to the rescue. Schaefer Marine has recently announced its New SRL 500, currently available in only 1/2″ configurations. Schaefer has pretty much ‘nailed it on the head’ when considering price and design. In typical Schaefer fashion, this is one high quality and super sleek lever. Here is where they fall short in my opinion, the eye attachment point for the stay offers no adjustment to the stay length, which I see as critical. If you look closely and compare the A.B.I. and Schaefer levers, the A.B.I. uses a female threaded lug instead of an eye. The eye attachment does not allow for any stay length adjustment unless fitted with a turnbuckle which is doable, but ifnothing else, a bit clunky.
Wichard brings the most expensive option to the table, by a long shot. This adjuster can’t really be classified as a quick release lever as it is hardly ‘quick’. The ratchet action handle however does provide plenty of adjustment and allows for high tensioning with out the use of tools. So I guess it is faster then a turnbuckle, but still I may look down different avenues for fitting your inner stay with a good ‘Highfield’ lever. There are also a few other tool-less adjusters available on the market, but these (like the Wichard) may be better suited as mechanical backstay adjusters rather than ‘quick release’ levers.
C.Sherman Johnson, makers of the best lifeline fittings in the world, has also announced its version of the inner stay quick-release lever. C.S.J., although not as sleek as the Schaefer, has nailed it in regards to functionality! The key is the female threaded lug. Here is what needs to happen with the Schaefer model in regards to adjust-ability (and it would be, simply perfect!). This allows for the lever to be fitted with a threaded Jaw which pins to a marine eye at the end of the stay, allowing the length of the stay to be adjusted. These design characteristics, along with the soft edges and smooth finish made the A.B.I. lever so successful. Keep in mind these removable inner stays will usually find themselves in the stowed position. Therefore, using only a marine eye and fast pin, as well as a fast pin at the deck/toggle connection, allows for a quick and easy, rigging and storage of the inner stay.
Read our blog on storing inner stays properly, here!
Don’t forget you can always contact your local rigger or leave a comment, should you have questions as to how to set-up your removable inner fore stay.
P.S. – Always make sure your inner stay is properly fitted with a toggle at the deck!