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Development of the Harness Release System HRS™

Myles Uren Product Manager discusses Spinlock's development of the harness release system and why you may or may not be considering it.

Why did we develop HRS™?

Whilst man overboard and entrapment is uncommon, the question of releasing yourself from the yacht /boat has been a topic of discussion for many years. Staying connected to the boat is undoubtedly safer than being in the water and use of a safety line is actively encouraged. However, in the event of a fall overboard, a casualty can find themselves being dragged/trapped alongside or behind the vessel. A situation which can be hard to be released from.

The offshore special regulations and technical training have always actively encouraged the carrying of a knife – one of the best methods of quick release. Quick release safety line hooks and loops have been developed but are not considered a finished solution.

For the 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race Spinlock were fortunate enough to be commissioned to develop the latest in lifejacket harness technology. The first stages of the development process allowed Myles to assemble a group of ocean sailors, forming a focus group for discussion and quickly developing a brief for the Volvo Ocean Race Deckvest with a set of new and developed features. A method of quick release was considered essential.

Myles Uren comments “At the time we were unsure what the level of interest or understanding of a harness release system would be with the Volvo Ocean Race group. However, with both experienced and younger ocean sailors, the desire to really develop the latest in harness technology was apparent and allowed us to bring this feature into the lifejacket.” 

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What is HRS?

Spinlock still considers a knife to be an essential piece of carried equipment. However, we have yet to develop a reliable consistent safety line clip release system. Instead, we are focused on developing a release system of the actual lifejacket harness. Testing showed that the harness release system needed to be simple to understand, simple to use and simple to maintain as well as reliable over the lifetime of the lifejacket. At the same time, the harness release system must meet the requirements of the ISO12402 approval.

The Spinlock HRS developed for the Volvo Ocean Race and now fitted to our VITO lifejacket harness is a discreet but easy to locate two-stage release handle which with a short pull opens the soft loop harness connection.

As well as the focus on user simplicity the HRS system is a surprisingly detailed piece of design engineering combining rotating metal parts in a moulded locking system interacting with a fibre loop system.

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When should I choose the HRS?

Myles Uren comments “Undoubtedly the topic of quick release and quick release systems is much debated, it is perhaps not suitable for every user. For example, a lifejacket owned personally by a sailor who understands his lifejacket means that an HRS can be well understood and used if needed. In a charter situation where multiple users of one lifejacket may occur, HRS is probably not suited, with the instructors of the lifejacket best focusing on the fit and use of the standard lifejacket. The HRS system is easy and simple to use but it is best understood when the lifejacket harness is owned and used by a single user”.

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