2018 Pittman Innovation Awards

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Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Pittman Innovation Awards Class of 2018. As has now been the case for a number of years, the latest in electronics is once again very much a part of the mix in everything from safety to racing. However, this year’s winners also include new takes on such basic products as the safety tether and the lowly canvas snap. Also exciting to see is the trickle-down effect in action in the form of North Sails’ new NORDAC product line: it would be hard to find a better example of this phenomenon than the same cutting-edge technology that powered the Volvo Ocean Race fleet a short years ago now being made available to cruisers. Finally, kudos to Scanstrut for the new para sailing system it developed in conjunction with RS Sailing to get more handicapped skippers out on the water. Not only does this product more than do justice to the memory of SAIL’s long-time technical editor Freeman K. Pittman, who died of Lou Gerhig’s disease in 1996, it speaks to all that’s good about sailing in general.

Overall Winner

01TeamO-Autolock

Teamo Autolock Tether

Few accidents offshore are more viscerally disturbing than the thought of going overboard, especially when sailing alone. Which is perhaps why the new TeamO Autolock tether struck such a chord. In use, this clever and much-needed product solves two very real problems that are inherent in the design of standard tethers—the way they can get underfoot, and the way they can leave you dangling overboard at a fair distance even after successfully catching you. Better still, because of the way it locks in at any length—similar to the seatbelt in your car—in many cases the Autolock will keep you well short of ever going over the side in the first place: something West Marine’s Tom Burden found especially appealing, being a veteran of the Singlehanded Transpac. Congrats to TeamO for improving this vital bit of kit! For more, click here

OVERALL WINNER JUDGES: 

Nigel Calder (systems expert and author), Tom Burden (author of the West Marine “advisor” series of articles), Gerry Douglas (chief designer and vice-president of Catalina Yachts) 

CRUISING By Charles J. Doane

02Nordac-sailboat

North Sails 3Di NORDAC Sails

North Sails has been making 3Di sails composed of layers of filament tape incorporating exotic high-modulus fibers for some time, and these have come to dominate performance sailing in such demanding venues as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Vendée Globe. Meanwhile, the default cruising sails for most sailors have remained the same woven polyester sails that first emerged on the market in the middle of the last century—until now. Read more...

03Gill-1062JacketMens

Gill Hydrophobe Down Jackets and Vests

It has been an enduring dilemma for sailors down through the ages: how do you stay both warm and dry when out on your boat? To solve this puzzle, the sailing gear specialists at Gill have devised a unique hydrophobic water-repellent down insulation that doesn’t clump up and cease holding in warmth when it gets damp. Read more...

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E-Wincher

The concept of a stand-alone portable electric winch handle to help grind manual winches is certainly not a new one. Previous iterations, however, have been simple and straightforward, little more than oversized electric drills, while the newly developed Ewincher from France takes the game to a whole new level of sophistication. Read more...

SYSTEMS By Jay Paris

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DOMETIC – CFX 95DZW Portable Refrigerator/Freezer

For many years, Dometic has offered a wide range of portable refrigerators, but the Dometic CFX 95DZW is notable for having many more features than its predecessors. While described as a portable unit, it is not one you pick up, put under your arm and walk away with, even more so if it is loaded. Read more... 

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JEFA Modular Steering ‘Cassette’

It has been a long time since the majority of sailing yachts of any size were conned using only a rudder, its stock and a tiller. Over time steering systems have also grown tremendously in complexity, with many of today’s boats having not only twin helms, but also two rudders and their associated connections, including autopilot drives. Read more...

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SUREFAS CAF-COMPO Snap Studs

Usually, our Pittman Award winners are picked almost exclusively in recognition of their engineering and design, especially in the systems category. However, in the case of these composite studs, aesthetics also played a part. Not only that, but this aspect of their design was instrumental in the positive response the snaps received at the recent METS trade show this November in Amsterdam. Read more...

SPECIAL MENTION

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Scanstrut Para Sailing System

Sailing has long been recognized as one of those few physical activities where people with disabilities can compete on the same level as those without, and now Scanstrut, working in cooperation with boatbuilder RS Sailing, has made it possible for even those who are severely handicapped to take a small boat out on their own. Read more...

SAFETY By Ben Ellison and Adam Cort

09Exposure-OLAS-light

Exposure OLAS Float-on multipurpose flashlight

Sailors can now choose from three different MOB alarm-and-locate systems based on relatively inexpensive Bluetooth tags and smartphone apps. In addition to CrewWatcher—last year’s overall Pittman winner, now manufactured and distributed by Weems & Plath—there’s also Sea-Tags from France and OLAS from the U.K. Read more...

ELECTRONICS By Ben Ellison

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Vesper smartAIS App

SmartAIS is a significant set of free new features that Vesper Marine has added to its existing Wi-Fi-equipped AIS transponders, like the WatchMate XB-8000, by deeply extending the hardware’s integration with Vesper’s WatchMate phone and tablet apps. Read more... 

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Garmin ActiveCaptain

It’s somewhat coincidental, but also very telling that all three 2018 Pittman Electronics awards involve phone and tablet apps working closely with dedicated marine hardware. In fact, Garmin’s new ActiveCaptain app, actually combines two existing apps with numerous other new features to create the highest integration yet between onboard navigation electronics and the mobile devices most us bring sailing. Read more...

12-Mazu-Skymate

SkyMate Mazu and mSeries all-in-one Satellite Comms

SkyMate has built a comprehensive communications system specifically for beyond-cellular bluewater boats by maximizing the same relatively inexpensive Iridium short-burst data (SBD) service that has proven its reliable global coverage in such portable devices as the Garmin inReach. Read more...

RACING By Adam Cort

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Zhik Isotak X Extreme Foulweather Gear

Developed in conjunction with the Chinese-flagged Dongfeng team in the current Volvo Ocean Race, Zhik’s new Isotak X foulweather smock features a number of features designed to keep sailors as warm and dry as possible in the “firehose” conditions for which that event is known, including robust neck seals in both the wrists and neck, and top-grade materials throughout. Read more...

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Racegeek d10

While its name might not be the sexiest, the Racegeek d10 more than makes up for it with a tremendous amount of functionality, thereby providing smaller boats with the same kind of instrument performance once limited to big-budget grand prix programs. Read more...

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E-Furler

As leisure time becomes an increasingly precious commodity and large crews harder to organize, more and more sailors have begun turning to shorthanded or even singlehanded racing. However, in doing so, these same sailors quickly find themselves having to figure out how to handle their spinnakers, even relatively “easy” to launch and retried A-sails. Read more...

February 2018

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