2014 Pittman Innovation Awards

Sailing has always been a technology-driven activity, and the spirit of innovation that prompted the first Stone Age sailor to cast off and let the wind do the work remains as vibrant today as ever.

Sailing has always been a technology-driven activity, and the spirit of innovation that prompted the first Stone Age sailor to cast off and let the wind do the work remains as vibrant today as ever. Of course, many of today’s innovations harness the now commonplace “miracles” that are part and parcel of the modern era. Nonetheless, a surprising number are the product of good-old common sense, the kind of thing that prompt you to wonder, “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

Named after Freeman K. Pittman, SAIL’s long-time technical editor who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1996, the Pittman Innovation awards recognize outstanding new products created by a sailing industry that remains forever fresh in its thinking. As in years past, our team of judges—executive editor Adam Cort, cruising editor Charles J. DoaneJay Paris is a veteran naval architect and SAIL's long-time technical editor, Ben Ellison is SAIL's electronics editor and owns the marine electronics web site, www.panbo.com and editor-at-large DavidSchmidt—roamed many boat shows, both in the United States and abroad, to uncover the best of the best in the realm of sailing gear. We think Freeman, once again, would have been impressed by what his fellow sailors have come up with.


In a field packed with moreinnovative products than we’ve seen for a while, SAIL’s judging panel had to think long and hard before awarding the overall prize to B&G’s Sailsteer and Sailtime software. In the end, though, it was unanimous. "The sailing features are much more relevant,” said Tom Burden, comparing the new software to the power-oriented products found in other MFDs. Peter Nielsen agreed, adding, "It would make me think a little harder about how well I was sailing my boat.” In Nigel Calder's words: “This was my favorite product. I think it would definitely enhance the sailing skills of many of our readers.”MORE

Overall Winner Judges:Nigel Calder (systems expert and author), Tom Burden (author of the West Marine "advisor" series of articles), Peter Nielsen (Editor, SAIL magazine)

by Charles J. Doane

Jurgan Tool-Free Clevis Pin

Though fiber rigging is de rigeur on many modern race boats, most cruisers are still keeping their masts up with wire. And those that do switch to fiber often find that metal turnbuckles remain the easiest way to keep shrouds and stays taut. This, in turn, means most of us are still messing with clevis pins secured with the same sharp cotter pins that have been ripping up our sails and working lines for the better part of a century. Enter the Jurgan Tool-Free Clevis Pin, which does away with cotter pins entirely and is secured by a discrete roll pin held in place by an internal spring-loaded piston plunger within the body of the clevis. As the name suggests, you don’t need pliers or a screwdriver to install or remove these clevis pins, nor do you need to tape them up to protect your sails. The pins come in 48 different sizes and are CNC-machined out of 316 and 17-4 stainless steel to ensure strength and durability in the marine environment.
From $35. Crealock Development & Manufacturing, crealock.com

Pontos Automatic Four-Speed Trimmer Winch

This is an amazing new winch system from a French manufacturer that will have many sailors rethinking whether they really need electric winches on their boats. Each Pontos winch is equipped with an automatic clutch that pops in two extra gears when loads hit a pre-set threshold. There are no additional buttons or switches; you need only change the direction of your grinding rotation when it’s time to engage the lower gears, the same as with conventional two-speed winch. Cruisers will likely be especially interested in the "Trimmer" version, with its extra-low gearing that cuts the effort needed to handle any given load in half. For those more interested in performance, there’s a four-speed "Grinder" model with extra-high gearing that allows sail-trimmers to quickly and efficiently pick up scads of slack in a line without having to tail it by hand.
From $1,080. Pontos, pontos.fr

Raymarine Evolution Autopilot

For cruisers looking for better ways to stay off the helm, this new super-sophisticated electronic autopilot from Raymarine is a godsend. Equipped with advanced aerospace guidance technology and software, the Evolution autopilot automatically monitors vessel motion in three dimensions and constantly learns and adapts to your boat’s particular characteristics while steering. The system is self-calibrating, has plug-and-play components that are easy to install, and is compatible with hydraulic, linear or rotary drives for both wheels and tillers. Heading data is automatically corrected for onboard magnetic fields, and is fast and accurate enough to feed MARPA and radar overlay functions on multifunction plotter displays. The EV-2 version of the system also has a dedicated CAN Bus port for connecting to sophisticated steer-by-wire systems. Autopilots used by professional grand-prix solo sailors have been steering as well or even better than humans for some time. Now everyday cruisers can also enjoy this kind of cutting-edge performance.
From $1,599.Raymarine, raymarine.com

by David Schmidt

PROtect tapes LOOPX

PROtect Tapes’s new “LOOPX” may look low-key, but it has already logged hundreds of foil-borne miles aboard Oracle Team USA’s AC72 during the 34th America’s Cup. The concept is simple: thin “ribbons” of Dyneema are applied to a pressure-sensitive, one-sided adhesive film, creating a user-friendly tape that is incredibly strong for its weight. To attach a block or floating tackle, simply make a loop between the hardware and its corresponding hard point, or pad eye, using the included ruler to measure the total amount required. Next retrace this loop five to eight times and cut—no splicing or knotting required. According to PROtect Tapes, a five-turn LOOPX strop can support between 710 and 1,420 pounds, while an eight-turn strop can support between 1,135 and 2,270 pounds, depending on the film width and fiber size involved. The end result is a featherweight self-articulating attachment that can serve as primary gear for the weight-obsessed or as a temporary backup lashing if you’re in a jam. LOOPX is available in widths ranging from 12 to 25 millimeters and in fiber sizes ranging from two to 12 millimeters.
From $20. PROtect tapes, protect-tapes.com

Karver Systems KJ Jammer

Karver has revolutionized rope clutch design with its new line of high-load KJ Jammers. These minimalist units can be bolted to a deck or cabintrunk like a standard clutch, or fitted aloft to serve as a halyard lock, or on a foredeck to secure an A-sail tack line. Inside the cone-shaped alloy housing are three movable jaws. When engaged, these jaws grip the line from all sides, eliminating slippage while minimizing wear-and-tear. A two-string pull locks the unit, and a two-wire trigger releases it; both mechanisms can be fitted with messenger lines for remote operation. The cone-like tube can also be quickly removed from its bracket, making its internals that much easier to access for maintenance.
From$349.Karver, karver-systems.com

Southern Spars EC Torque 

The Southern Spars EC Torque furling headsail stay replaces rod rigging and expensive headsail foils with a lightweight composite alternative. The product comes courtesy of Southern Spars’ composite rigging division and uses the company’s ultra-strong Element C6 (EC6) standing rigging as its backbone. To create its EC Torque, Southern Spars carefully positions numerous narrow-diameter “pultruded” rods of EC6 and wraps them in an integral torque-transferring structural element, which holds the rods together in a stiff bundle. An abrasion-resistant outer jacket comes next, and the units are finished with Composite Rigging’s patented conical-shaped epoxy terminals. Once complete, a rigger can attach the bottom of the bespoke forestay to a furling drum and its top to a swivel with titanium end fittings. The EC Torque then evenly and efficiently furls any hanked-on or sleeved headsail with no noticeable swivel lag. EC Torque is already in use on a number of maxi yachts. In coming years we expect to see it on smaller boats as well.
$NA.Southern Spars, southernspars.com

Doyle Stratis ICE Sails

Doyle Sailmaker’s new America’s Cup- and Volvo Ocean Race-proven Stratis ICE sails offer the same strength, weight and shape characteristics as a 100-percent standard-modulus carbon-fiber laminate sail, but without the durability issues. According to Doyle, the secret behind Stratis ICE sails is an exclusively licensed Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWP, a derivative of Spectra) fiber combined in a crimp-free pattern with a laminate that includes an ultra-light Taffeta jacket, or jackets, an X-ply layer, a “zero” layer and a carbon compression structure. The result (all held together through judicious use of a low-temperature glue) is a flex- and fatigue-resistant grand prix racing sail that’s 10 to 15 percent lighter, but still holds the shape you need to be first at the finish.
Call for a quote.Doyle Sailmakers Inc., doylesails.com

by Ben Ellison

B&G SailSteer and SailTime

B&G's Zeus Touch chartplotters and radars have achieved a new level of sailor friendliness with the addition of the company’s SailSteer and SailTime software. The former is a unique screen graphic that usefully combines more data elements than have ever before been seen on even a modern color instrument display. These include heading and COG (course over ground), set and drift, current and opposite-tack laylines, and recent wind-shift history. The latter is a set of algorithms that compute values like DTW (distance to waypoint) and ETA based on real-time layline data rather than the straight courses a powerboat might drive. B&G has also significantly increased data available to third-party racing and cruising apps via its GoFree WiFi accessory (as have siblings Simrad and Lowrance). In 2014 the Zeus sailing features will migrate to a new H5000 autopilot system, which includes a 5-inch graphic display that shows SailSteer and can be integrated with the new 7-, 9- and 12-inch Zeus 2 multi-touch chartplotters.
From $1,629. B&G, bandg.com

DeLorme inReach SE

The inReach SE (screen edition) is an extraordinarily versatile handheld GPS tracker and global two-way Iridium satellite messenger. The color screen provides easy access to all functions, including a virtual keyboard on which you can type 160-character messages to friends and family, or to search and rescue personnel you may have alerted via the SOS button. The device supports Twitter and Facebook posts with map links, and allows you to connect via Bluetooth to your Apple or Android mobile device, where DeLorme's Earthmate app can not only log all your messages and tracks, but display them on worldwide maps and U.S. charts. The SE can also send GPS data to other charting apps, and its lithium battery, USB charger, and a choice of RAM mounts makes an always-on boat setup easy. Finally, the DeLorme Explore web portal keeps a complete history of your inReach use and lets you create a custom ShareMap where friends can follow your voyaging and stay in touch.
From $300. Delorme, inreachdelorme.com

Garmin Quatix Watch

The Garmin quatix (as in "aquatics") is so much more than a sailing watch. Sure, it has countdown timers and can deliver COG, SOG, compass heading and even a 24-hour barograph, thanks to its battery of built-in sensors. Sure, it contains constituents for 3,400 North American tide locations and can graph them fairly quickly. But what really sets this “timepiece” apart is its ability to communicate over two wireless protocols and actually interact with the other electronics on your boat. Via Bluetooth, for example, the quatix can share tracks, routes and waypoints with Garmin's BlueChart Mobile iPad app, allowing you to, say, head off for a dinghy ride (or race) with a few important marks named on the watch's map screen and then download the trip (or race) onto a real chart when you get back. The quatix can also use very low-power Ant wireless to talk with a GNT 10 accessory box attached to your boat's NMEA 2000 network, allowing you to stream wind, depth and other data (regardless of the source sensor brand) and set off a Garmin MOB alarm. The Quatix can even be linked directly to a Garmin autopilot head, making it possible to change course from anywhere onboard. Finally, and perhaps most amazing of all, is how relatively easy it is to access the quatix's myriad functions using just its five buttons and 70 x 70 pixel screen. A truly extraordinary device by almost any standard.
$450. Garmin, garmin.com


Balmar Smartgauge

Balmar is now bringing its Smartgauge battery monitor to the U.S. market, making it possible for American sailors to keep much closer tabs on their battery banks. In addition to displaying battery voltage and state of charge, the Smartgauge can also be configured to provide alarms for low battery voltage and capacity. Its basic two-bank setup requires that only three wires be connected to the battery terminals, and because it does not require any shunts to measure input and output currents, installation is especially simple. In operation, the Smartgauge measures a number of different parameters and then applies a series of proprietary algorithms that are selectable for six different battery types to determine the exact state of charge. Over time it uses this information to “learn” exactly how your batteries perform to further hone its own precision. One independent battery manufacturer reported accuracy to within a fraction of a percent after six months of use.
$320.Ballard Commercial Industries Inc., balmar.net

Orbit 7100 Toilet

Toilets on most sailboats are installed in confined spaces, especially in the area of the cabin sole. Worse yet for those looking to upgrade from a manual system, electric toilets, in particular, tend to have large stylized bases, which can make for an especially tough fit. To simplify things, Dometic has created what it calls its Omnidirectional Rotating Base Technology toilet. In addition to having a comfortable “home-size” seat and a deep bowl, the compact base unit—which is comparable to the base on a manual system—rotates through 360 degrees so that it can be secured where desired. The only thing that requires “customization” is the length of the flushing water hose from the base to the top of the bowl, a simple task. As a practical matter, the toilet incorporates Dometic's MasterFlush macerator with a 10-blade stainless steel cutting wheel to shred effluent. The seawater model has a flush-only switch, whereas the freshwater versions have a dual-action switch for “add-water” and flush.
$500.Dometic, marine.dometicgroup.com

Inno Tank

Now here’s a creative piece of kit. For those looking to install a new fresh or wastewater tank in a confined space without having to tear out a bunch of cabinetry, there is the Inno Tank from Holland, available in three sizes, from 13 to 40 gal. Shipped flat with a separate rigid top plate and cover that can accommodate two fill fittings, a pickup tube and a optional ultrasonic sender for a gauge, the flexible Inno Tank can be inserted through a small opening into an almost infinite number of cavities. It is then blown up with air to fill the allotted space and cured with a small ultraviolet bulb until it becomes rigid—a process that takes only a couple of hours. After the tank has fully hardened, it is opened up, the bulb is removed, an inner liner inserted and the oval top cover with its fittings is fastened down. The inner liner can be replaced annually to ensure a clean tank for each new season.
From $1,525. Inno Tank BV, innotank.nl

by Adam Cort

TeamO Back Tow

Experience has shown that simply being tethered to a boat does not ensure you will survive a man-overboard incident. All too many sailors have drowned at the ends of their tethers because they could not hold their faces clear of the water while being dragged by a boat. The new TeamO Back Tow harness solves this problem through what the company calls its “back pull” technology, which when deployed transfers the anchor point of the harness from the front to the back. As a result, an MOB is pulled through the water back-first, making it much easier to breath. Created by solo transatlantic veteran Oscar Mead of the UK, the TeamO harness is still awaiting official ISO approval before it can be put into full prodction. Here’s hoping the process goes quickly.
$NA. TeamO Marine Safety Products, teamomarine.com

WatchMate Vision

Vesper Marine has achieved yet another quantum leap in AIS technology for recreational mariners with its WatchMate Vision, which features a chartplotter-like full-color display and cutting-edge Wifi connectivity for smartphones or tablets running a compatible app. Combined with a neat magnifier function, the result is an AIS system that makes it that much easier to figure out where you are vis-à-vis the surrounding traffic and terrain, and an ease of use that can be especially critical for less-experienced watch standers. As with Vesper Marine’s other AIS products, the WatchMate includes a number of functions and filters that allow you to focus only on those vessels that pose a potential threat. The system can also be integrated via a USB or NMEA connection with a laptop, chartplotter or other device to ensure users have the ability to effortlessly monitor the traffic in the area from anywhere on board.
$1,249. Vesper Marine Ltd., vespermarine.com



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