Vizual Marine completes first sea trials of breath-controlled boat

Chichester based company Vizual Marine have completed the first sea trials of the ‘sip and puff’ adapted Artemis 20. The boat was taken to Weymouth and Portland Sailing academy at the beginning of the month for trials with Hilary Lister, a quadriplegic who hopes to sail around Britain later this year, using only her mouth to control her boat.

Vizual Marine have been working alongside Canadian Steve Alvey, the inventor of sip and puff technology, for many months to develop a system that can be sailed using the sip and puff technique as well as by a remote control should the sailor come into any difficulty.

The sailor is seated in a custom seating module that maintains the body position and comfort level. They can control everything on the Artemis 20 using only their breath through an innovative Power Assist System. The “control stalk” positions three pneumatic “straws”, ready for breath commands as a “sip” or a “puff” semaphore. These straws are connected to sensitive pressure switches on a computer, programmed to do exactly what the sailor needs.

The control computer and its graphic displays are housed in a watertight module mounted in front, like the instrument panel on your automobile. A gentle “sip” or “puff” on one of these straws is interpreted by the control computer to update the status display and then activate electric servo motors that change the course of the boat, trim one of the sails or control the navigation computer.