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:Ā 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.

Selden hydraulic tensioner. Selden backstay adjuster. Selden integral adjuster
SELDEN {click image to link manufacturer website}

Selden‘s new line ofĀ HIT hydraulic adjusters, seem to have taken a up the hole left behind in the market fromĀ Holmatro,Ā makers of the Jaws of Life. This is all unconfirmed, but it is a strong theory of mine (so it could be fake news), that Holmatro sailboat hydraulics department is now being produced and re-branded by Selden. This sleek new hydraulic line up comes in two different colors, classic black or a silverĀ 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’.Ā This is bad practice, considering the power of hydraulics. The feature that really sets Selden 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. Ā 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 beautifully constructed of high quality materials, this unit comes at a fairly high price startingĀ 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 (not to mention the two speed pump). Read here for more information.

Navtec integral backstay adjuster
NAVTEC {click image to link manufacturer website}

When it comes to the most popular name in sailboat hydraulics,Ā NavtecĀ units have always had an incredible reputation. Up until recently (see link below) Navtec’s integral units seem to have been the most popular on wide array of boat designs. Although many hydraulic service and repair parts are still readily available, Navtec had to recently announce its liquidation.

Harken Integral Adjuster
HARKEN {click image to link manufacturer website}

The newest of them all isĀ Harken’sĀ 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, boastsĀ a gauge that is mounted on top (much like the Holmatro)Ā ANDĀ 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 haveĀ Sailtec‘s line ofĀ integral adjusters. Sailtec is also a reputable company on a Ā 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 whichĀ makes service parts readily available!

Service intervals: Ā 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. Selden and Harken units 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 stayĀ hydraulically. Not to mention these are all reputableĀ companiesĀ 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……….

8 thoughts on “The Integral Backstay Adjuster

  1. I have a harken backstay adjuster
    When tensioned bothers the port and starboard rigging are hand tight
    When the valve is fully released the tension on the pump side is hand lose but the other side is still very tensioned
    Is this normal?
    I have a Blue Jacket 40

  2. I’m in need of a new adjuster for my J/42. The original SAILTEC one leaks despite two rebuilds by SAILTEC. Does it make sense economically to buy a new unit from you? I do not need help with the install.



  3. Thank you for all this information! I’m looking for a replacement to the ridiculous back stay adjuster in our First 35s5. The French have some great qualities but engineering is clearly not among them. :-)

    1. Lol. Hi and thanks for the read. We can provide backstay adjuster from any manufacturer. We will also help you install it properly.

      Depending on what you have now we may even be able to help you get your existing on working better.

      Feel free to email us or inquire further when it suits you.


  4. Helpful information. Fortunate me I found your web site unintentionally,
    and I am surprised why this twist of fate did not came about in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

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