2011 Pittman Innovation Awards

Each winter SAIL honors the memory of the late Freeman K. Pittman, who served as the magazine’s technical editor for 14 years, by recognizing the most innovative new products of the last 12 months in his name. For 2011, SAIL executive editor Charles J. Doane (Cruising Gear), editor-at-large David Schmidt (Racing Gear), senior editor Adam Cort (Safety Gear), electronics editor Ralph Naranjo
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Each winter SAIL honors the memory of the late Freeman K. Pittman, who served as the magazine’s technical editor for 14 years, by recognizing the most innovative new products of the last 12 months in his name. For 2011, SAIL executive editor Charles J. Doane (Cruising Gear), editor-at-large David Schmidt (Racing Gear), senior editor Adam Cort (Safety Gear), electronics editor Ralph Naranjo (Electronics), and technical consultant Jay Paris (Systems), spent hours combing boat shows both at home and abroad, identifying the best the sailing industry has to offer.

A number of groundbreaking products made their debut in the past year. Some were incremental or evolutionary in nature, while others were true game-changers. Who would have ever thought we’d see the day when a 50-foot sloop could be made to pirouette in its own length and slide sideways into a berth with just the touch of your fingertips, or that something as seemingly basic as a winch could be made even easier to use?

CRUISING GEAR

Yale Spectra Ph.D Rope

High-modulus Spectra rope has been around for a while now, but you rarely see it on cruising boats. It’s stiff and hard to handle, and you really shouldn’t tie knots in it. It’s also not very UV-resistant, unless you sheath it with polyester in a hybrid doublebraid construction, in which case it is difficult to splice. Yale’s new Ph.D rope solves these problems by using strands of Spectra that are individually wrapped in tiny polyester sheaths. The result is a nice single-braid rope that any idiot with a fid can splice in two minutes. The rope also has a soft hand and never kinks or hockles. Yale is pitching this cordage to racers, but Ph.D Spectra may well make its biggest splash among cruisers. For here, at last, is a high-tech rope that is truly cruiser-friendly. From $0.98/foot. Yale Cordage, yalecordage.com


Max-Prop Ecowind Propeller

This sexy new four-blade prop from the folks at PYI has a spring in the hub that automatically varies the pitch of the blades as the load on the blades changes. By maintaining optimal pitch at all times, whatever the conditions, the prop is supremely efficient and maximizes boatspeed and range while decreasing fuel consumption. As with any Max-Prop, the blades also feather automatically when your boat is sailing, decreasing drag and increasing boatspeed when the engine is switched off. The Ecowind is fully adjustable, though maximum pitch is set not by adjusting blade stops, but by changing the spring tension inside the hub. The prop can be easily removed from its shaft without being disassembled and routine servicing consists of merely hitting external grease points on an annual basis. The Ecowind is certainly not cheap—prop diameters range from 14 to 22 inches at prices from $4,800 to $5,600—but if you’re a long-distance cruiser who burns a lot of fuel motorsailing, this prop will soon pay for itself. PYI, Inc., pyiinc.com
***To watch a full video review of the Max-Prop Ecowind Propeller by SAIL's editors, click here***

Harken Rewind Radial Electric Winch

Harken got a nod in last year’s Pittman awards when we recognized its innovative new line of Radial winches. This year the company upped the ante yet again with this new electric Rewind winch, which can both trim and ease a line under load at the touch of a button. A two-way tailing arm captures line leading on and off the tailing jaw, and a toggle switch controls the transmission. With the drive in forward, the winch operates as a conventional two-speed electric winch; in reverse you have one speed for trimming line and one for easing. Unlike Seldn’s new reversible winch (see Racing Gear), which is entirely manual, Harken’s Rewind winch can only ease line in electric mode. But for cruisers who are increasingly relying on power winches and furlers to control larger boats, this represents a big step forward in ease of handling. From $5,575. Harken, harken.com***To watch a full video review of the Harken Rewind Radial Electric Winch by SAIL's editors, click here***

RACING GEAR

Facnor FlatDeck Furler
Standard furling systems are prone to overrides, and their bulky drums require that a headsail’s luff be cut short. Enter Facnor’s clever new FlatDeck headsail furler, which uses webbing in place of a standard furling line to reduce drum size and eliminate overrides. The furler’s drum design also provides maximum torque when furling the sail. Torlon ball bearings ensure maintenance-free performance, and twin luff grooves facilitate headsail changes. A swivel connects the webbing with a rope tail and prevents the webbing from twisting. A series of stanchion blocks can accommodate both webbing and rope, ensuring a clean lead from bow to cockpit. Available in four sizes, for boats from 26ft to 60ft LOA. From $2,100. Facnor, facnor.com***To watch a full video review of the Facnor FlatDeck Furler by SAIL's editors, click here***

Seldn Reversible Winch
Self-tailing winches work great, but there’s always the potential for injury or an overide when a sheet is eased under load. Seldn’s new reversible winch solves these problems with additional gearing and a modified tailing arm that makes it possible to ease sheets with one hand without handling the line. When it’s time to ease, simply press a button on the unit’s handle and turn clockwise. Although this kind of performance benefits all sailors, the winches should be especially valuable on a racecourse. Helmsmen can now easily tweak their mainsails while keeping maximum weight on the rail; a trimmer can precisely ease his jib sheet to duck a starboard-tack boat and know exactly how much to take back in to return the boat to its groove. Available in four sizes. from $1,400 (handles included). Seldn Mast Inc., seldenmast.com

Spinlock XXC0812 Powerclutch
Spinlocks’s XXC0812 Powerclutch sets a new standard in clutch design by using an innovative combination of materials to safely handle loads as high as 5,180 pounds while keeping weight at a minimum. The rope-bearing sections of its jaws are ceramic-coated, both to add gripping texture and mitigate heat buildup from fast-running lines. The body is made of CNC-machined aluminum with locally reinforced unidirectional carbon fiber. All critical internal components are titanium—rather than stainless steel—to save weight, and Torlon roller bearings ensure high performance and longevity, even under extreme loads. All told, these material and design choices have produced a clutch that delivers hefty performance, while retaining the same physical size and weighing 15 percent less than the competition. The XXC0812 Powerclutch is available in a traditional bolt-on, upright configuration, or in a side-mounted bonded-on version that can be directly epoxied to a deck or spar. Call for custom pricing. Spinlock Ltd., spinlock.co.uk ***To watch a video review of the Spinlock Powerclutch by SAIL's editors, click here***

SAFETY GEAR

Spinlock Zero Sports Flotation Vest
How many sailors have been injured or drowned because they couldn’t be bothered taking a few simple safety precautions? Spinlock Zero lifejackets are so comfortable there’s no excuse not to wear them, and so cool you’ll want to wear them even if they weren’t. Zero lifejackets feature high-stretch, multi-panel construction and slim foam flotation panels to ensure ease of motion and to avoid snagging lifelines when hiking out. A ribbed “venting system” ensures that the wicking garments you’re wearing will wick as intended. $125. Spinlock Ltd., spinlock.co.uk***To watch a full video review of the Spinlock Zero and other deck vests, click here***

ELECTRONICS

B&G Zeus Multifunction Display
B&G's Zeus Z8 and Z12 multifunction displays have been optimized for use on sailboats and include a tactical application that merges your boat's polars, real-time performance, and current set and drift to deliver layline information, updates on preferred headings and favored-tack feedback. The system also includes a full suite of navigation tools for cruising sailors. Weather data can be downloaded in a GRIB format and overlaid on the chart. The same can be done with radar images with MARPA tracking. Data from an AIS class B transciever can be layered on the digital chart as well. From $3,095. B&G bandg.com

Standard Horizon Matrix AIS
The two-in-one features found in Standard Horizon’s new Matrix AIS Class D VHF transceiver-AIS receiver make it one of the best electronics buys on the market today. Not only is this a versatile DSC radio, it can also track AIS class A and B contacts and display them on the unit’s multifunction LCD display. The dual-channel AIS receiver features a CPA (closest point of approach) alarm that identifies any AIS targets on a possible collision course. The radio can be interfaced with a GPS plotter and uses the vessel’s MMSI identification code to allow ship-to-ship voice contact with AIS targets. There’s also a handy channel 16/9 selector button, independent DSC channel 70 receiver, automatic NOAA weather alert feature and a connector for a RAM3 microphone. It’s hard to think of a marine electronics package with more versatility and bang for the buck. $399/Standard Horizon, standardhorizon.com

Garmin GPH 12 Autopilot
Garmin's triple-axis spherical gyro compass and a processor quick to respond to heading changes give it exceptional course-holding ability. The system’s steering algorithm is smart enough to discern the difference between self-canceling roll-induced yaw fluctuations and actual heading changes. It can also steer via networked wind sensor readings, GPS step-turn routes laid out on a chartplotter, or by manually overriding the system from a remote location. Components are integrated via Garmin’s proprietary cabling or a generic NMEA 2000 interface. From $1,999 (for control unit only). Garmin Ltd., garmin.com

lsatPhone PRO
Compact, easy to use and less expensive than other handheld sat phones, the new portable Inmarsat lsatPhone Pro has much to offer cruisers and racers alike. Billed as a transoceanic communicator, the unit is equipped with built-in GPS, voice, text and email capability, and represents one of the most cost-effective satellite communications alternatives on the market today. It can also be used to efficiently download compressed OCENS GRIB files and WeatherNet on-demand data. The lsatPhone Pro's high-capacity Lithium-ion battery and low-drain circuitry deliver up to eight hours of use on one charge (about 100 hours in standby mode). Its use of Inmarsat geostationary satellites requires a clear view in the direction of the satellite in play. Due to the angle and azimuth of the satellite in use, careful alignment of the built-in antenna and on-deck operation may be necessary. A docking station is also available for use belowdecks. With its competitive pricing and dollar-per-minute useage fees, the lsatPhone is well worth a close look. $650. Inmarsat PLC, inmarsat.com

SYSTEMS

ProMariner ProNauticP/Sterling ProCharge Ultra
ProMariner and Sterling Power have co-developed a range of intelligent all-digital battery chargers that enable much better control of the charging process. The ProMariner’s ProNauticP series includes nine models for 12- and 24-volt systems, with outputs from 10 to 60 amps feeding up to three battery banks. (Sterling markets its products as the ProCharge Ultra line.) The chargers’ global AC input auto-ranging feature handles various voltages and frequencies, while its power factor correction maximizes the available AC power. Twelve selectable charge profiles include flooded, sealed, AGM, gel and lithium batteries, plus custom settings. An equalization mode charging at 15.5 volts can desulfate flooded batteries. “Distributed on demand” technology automatically senses and distributes the available charging amps to any one or combination of banks. From $199. ProMariner, promariner.com; Sterling Power, sterling-power-usa.com

Dometic Marine SailVac
Until recently, Dometic’s integrated holding/vacuum tank/pump units were all more or less rectangular boxes, more easily installed on powerboats and larger sailing yachts than on mid-sized sailboats. However, the company’s new SailVac system features a vertical configuration with a curved tank that is significantly narrower on the bottom than on top, thereby fitting neatly against a boat’s topsides outboard of the head. The unit’s 21-gallon roto-molded polyethylene tank includes a series of recessed ribs and indentations to withstand vacuum loading, and internal baffles protect vacuum components from wastewater at high heel angles. When used with a VacuFlush head, the system needs as little as a pint of water per flush. From $1,670 (with toilet). Dometic Marine, dometic.com

Sea Joule Solar Bilge Pump
With its new automatic solar rechargeable bilge pump, Sea Joule has developed an effective solution to the age-old flooded dinghy problem. Forget climbing into an unstable dinghy to bail it or dragging it up onto a dock to tip it out. An integral float switch activates this 6.5in–square-by-4.5in-high pump as necessary to prevent water from collecting in your dinghy in the first place. The unit’s cover incorporates a solar cell, which charges an internal gel cell battery. On the sides are a connection for a 3/4in discharge hose and a stainless steel locking point hasp for securing the unit. This past season, SAIL’s test pump proved its worth over and over again. $226. Sea Joule Marine Inc. seajoule.com

Dock & Go
Groupe Beneteau, Yanmar and ZF Marine have created a joystick docking-maneuvering system for sailboats. What makes this possible is a saildrive leg that can spin through 360 degrees and is closely coordinated with a bow thruster. Activating the Dock & Go locks the helm and establishes a command link between the joystick and both the saildrive and the thruster. Pushing the joystick forward, aft or side-to-side causes the boat to move in the corresponding direction. Rotating the top of the joystick causes the boat to turn around its central axis. Although it looks simple, Beneteau reportedly spent months trialing the Dock & Go under various conditions. It's available on Beneteaus equipped with Yanmar’s 75hp saildrive and (as 360 docking) on a number of Jeanneaus. A Dock & Go-equipped Beneteau Sense 50 in Annapolis proved the technology works exactly as intended. From $16,000. Groupe Beneteau, beneteauusa.com

2011

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