Improved Sailing Performance With DesignFlex Enabled Sip-and-Puff

Towcester UK June 2015:

Variohm EuroSensor has recently supplied World Magnetics DesignFlex™ pressure switches for a customised Sip-and-Puff pressure switch system that allows quadriplegic World Champion sailor Melvin Kinnear increased control of his servo-assisted Hansa Liberty sailing dinghy. Developed by Paul Bennett – a volunteer for the charity Tideway Sailability - the single-crew dinghy features servomotor driven winches for its main and jib sails which are normally reeled out and fine-tuned by a combination of joystick control and separate hand operated switches.

As high level quadriplegic with limited touch sensation, Melvin finds it tricky to operate both sails together as he needs to keep switching between the two sails for race-performance fine tuning. As he cannot feel the switches he has to look away from the sails when operating them which is really bad news when racing.

The Sip-and-Puff system completely overrides the jib circuit allowing Melvin to have simultaneous control of the sails via the two different systems. By using the joystick to control the mainsail, he blows through the Sip-and-Puff to move the jib out and sucks if he wants the sail to come in.

The new control system has been extensively trialled at Tideway Sailability who sail at Surrey Docks in London - and the great news is that it has turned out to be really intuitive and made a real difference to Melvin Kinnear’s sailing performance. He was the 2010 Liberty World Champion (Full Servo Class) and this year is lining up to sail in the European Championships at Rutland Water in July.

Variohm’s technical support team helped the volunteers at Tideway Sailability with the simple circuit required to interact the PSF102 DesignFlex switches with the existing joystick system. The compact components are packaged in a small weatherproof housing that includes an integral membrane to allow for atmospheric pressure changes.

With a wide range of standard mounting and porting options, modular Designflex pressure switches are widely used for mobility applications. Other areas for ultra-sensitive pressure, vacuum and differential pressure switching include medical and dental equipment, commercial appliances and HVAC; as well as use in demanding construction, agriculture, automotive, defence and eco-friendly equipment. The range covers pressure from 0.25 to 4137mbar (0.1" H20 to 60psi) offering long working life and high reliability with a choice polyurethane and Teflon diaphragms. Application specific options include field adjustable set point, controllable hysteresis for precise deadband setting, and factory calibrated versions for tamperproof use as well as full military spec' versions.


 About Melvin Kinnear:

Melvin injured his spine in a fall from height in 1974 aged 17.  Before the accident he’d been keen on athletics and archery formed a good part rehabilitation activities at the spinal unit. After discharge from hospital he was on the lookout for another exciting sport or activity but at that time there was nothing available. He decided to concentrate on getting a job (spending time with Islington Council, amongst others) and trying to live as normal a life as possible.

Melvin found that for literally decades there were very limited sport opportunities but since the internet things slowly started to change. There had been some pioneering individuals getting involved in more active sports such as sailing, skiing and scuba diving and openings started to spread helped by support from initiatives like the Backup trust.

Around 2004 Melvin joined Tideway Sailability at Surrey Docks in London and learned to sail the Liberty dinghy that was fitted with servo controls.

Racing followed and had early success in the Greenwich regatta and Access TT (travellers Trophy) series. 


About Tideway Sailability:


Tideway Sailability is a unique sailing club in central London where people with disabilities participate on equal terms to those without a disability.

As it is 100% run by volunteers, all money raised goes on the activities, premises and boats. Tideway have a large fleet of specialist and standard dinghies and dayboats available to members and groups of participants.

Membership is a community of people of all ages from 8 years old upwards with or without disabilities who sail together.

Activities include sailing on the dock, Thames river trips and racing at other clubs throughout the UK. Tideway sails on Sundays throughout the year and on Wednesdays and Thursday in the summer from Wednesday 8th April 2015.

To sail with them, offer support as a volunteer or donate, please visit the website:

Article published on: 15/06/2015