The Highfield Lever

Original Highfield Lever

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.

ABI Lever

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.

Inner Forestay Release Lever by Schaefer Marine

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 Ratcheting Turnbuckle

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.S.J. - Sherman Johnson Inner Stay Quick Lever

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!

19 thoughts on “The Highfield Lever

  1. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment
    (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything.
    Do you have any tips and hints for rookie blog writers?
    I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  2. Looking into adding a removable inner forestay on a 34′ sloop. Now, after consultations and reading, I’m seeing several options – conflicting ones! Would like to keep it simple and avoid having to install running backstays. Any advice would be appreciated

    1. Hi Al,

      I apologize for the late reply. It’s busy time. “Safety and functionality achieved through simplicity”… our motto. There are a few options for you. The most simple approach can be found here. Don’t forget stowing this (if removable) is almost as important to how easy it is to deploy and rig. So read more on that here. Also please feel free to email us directly with questions and pictures at

      Thanks and I hope you find what you need.


      1. Was this sent to me on porpoise ? reply only FYI — have fun ‚Äď winter is coming ‚Äď more time to blog in the snow !
        Keep up the good work

        We need to compare notes on the rigging business – very strange and beautiful business after 45 years and getting weirder — chasing parts to repair stuff that should be replaced with new — explaining that metric and UNF threads are not the same even if they are left hand ‚Äď yea ! LOL

      2. Hi, Thanks very much for the reply and helpful information. One follow up question regarding adding a stay sail on a 34′ sloop…
        Is the Solent rig the only one that does not require the addition of running backstays? I have heard that mounting a storm jib stay sail on the mast at the second spreader – or at the 2nd reef point for the main – might also allow for this.
        Thanks again

        1. HI Al,

            The Solent Rig is the only one that I would recommend when omitting the use of additional backstays. Island Packet yachts are notorious about rigging stay sail stays without backstays opposite for the forestay...and it has worked for them. Though, I would stay away from this (pun intended). The second spreader bit would only make sense if the rigging is aft swept and I could be convinced of that. As far as the second reef part is concerned this also makes some sense but what if you want to sail with full main and a staysail...and go upwind? I'd stay away from that as well. 

          As a last option you can do the stay sail stay with standing back stays. This removes the need to deal with runners and is a permanent fixture of the boat’s rigging. It would attach opposite the stay sail stay at the mast and then terminate to a chainplate aft of the aft most shroud with a turnbuckle. This is a very viable option.

          Remember the backstay will do two things: 1. support the mast extrusion properly when flying the inner foresail, 2. allow the inner forestay to have tension and reduce luff curve, essential for going upwind.


          1. Got it. Thanks for explaining this so well. Funny too, because I’m siting next to an IP and I had noted the lack of backstays behind the inner forestay!

            Auklet has a 7/8ths -Selden -fractional rig with a swept back deck stepped mast and single back stay. I would be wary, like you say to be, of adding any torque or strain to the rig without backstays even though its heavily constructed and supported.

            It sounds like the Solent rig is a great compromise since it’s simpler and cheaper to install and can be set-up even so that the deck attachement point is far enough back to allow for better heavy weather sailing (even though, as you pointed out, it looks odd not to have the stays run parallel).

            My guess that one possible drawback (for a removeable stay) is the length of cable that needs securing when it’s not in use. There’s a lot more to clang and bang around.

            Now, being unfamiliar with a Solent rig, I need to figure out what the sail options are that work best. Ideally, I’d want to have just one (maybe two) that can work in moderate to heavy weather and which can fit the existing tracks!

            Man, there’s a lot to this thing called sailing!

            Thanks again.
            Al Kernan

  3. We have a 2000 Hunter 460. An option for these boats was an inner forestay for a stay sail. Our boat does not have this option. We would like to retrofit an inner forestay. Ours is a non furling mast. It has a sheave for a forestay halyard and an anchor point for the forestay. Is it feasible to retrofit an inner forestay. I understand we would need a 4 sheave deck organizer and additional clutch. The one thing I am unsure of is the anchor point on deck for the forestay. In pictures in the owner’s manual, it looks like a simple pad eye. It seems that the load on this pad eye could be very high in some conditions. Is the pad eye tied into a bulkhead or is the deck reinforced in some way?

    We are currently in South Carolina but tentivly plan on being in Annapolis for the sail show in October.

    Best Regards,
    Tom Eschbaugh

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, the deck fitting can be a folding pad eye but needs to be backed up by something structural, i.e. bulkhead, or tied into the boats stem somehow. We would need to see pictures of the foredeck and what's below decks to make the right recommendation. However, I am sure that a Hunter of this vintage already has a design drawing that specifies the Sta-sail-stay's deck attachment method, no?

      Are you considering making the stay permanent with a furler or removable?

      We would be more than happy to help with this project further. Just let us know how.

      Thank you for the comment and feel free to contact us for further questions.


  4. I would appreciate your advice about employing some type of Highfield lever to tension the outhaul on a 125 sq ft mainsail.

    1. Hi thanks for commenting. I would not use a Highfield or quick lever for this. Instead a block and tackle of some sort would be a better choice. The Highfield lever has two positions tight and very loose. An outhaul typically requires several settings of tension, thus a block and tackle is the typical set up for this.


  5. Why only the inner forestay? Smaller trailer yachts which are rigged constantly would surelyu benifite from one of thes levers on the forestay would they not? Can you provide availability in Oz [Australia] please.
    Tnx Berny

    1. Sure, but there I might be inclined to just use a regular turnbuckle with velcro wrapped pins. The quick lever is handy when in a foul weather situation and you need to quickly rig a working jib.

      Having said that, we can ship to AU indeed Berny. We just did! Let us know the pin diameter, wire size, and I can price on out for you….shipping will be whatever it takes to get it there. Please note you will most likely need to modify the length of the cable too. Fill out our work request form for pricing.

      Thanks for checking us out!!


      1. for the smaller vessels — Johnson Marine makes a range of “QUick Release Levers”
        over center lever — and we have mailied riggging parts to a residential address — marked “value under $1,000 ” and packages were delilverd with no additional chargers ? not sure if that still works but it was too simple – regards, Brooks for
        Sailing Servces in Miami — simple search on a Johnson part number 14-210 should show an example ?

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