Freedom to sail using a dual-switch system
which utilizes pneumatic technology.
The Sip 'n' Puff system at the heart of the Martin 16 sailboat allows people with the highest-level disabilities to sail.
A small sip or gentle puff of air
is all that is required to activate this switch forward or reverse.
The mechanism is completely enclosed within the machine. The mouthpiece
ergonomically shaped to fit comfortably between the lips. The
Sip n’ Puff is a term used to describe a dual-switch system
which utilizes pneumatic switches. A single piece of tubing, accessible
to the user, controls both switches. A slight pressure (puff)
operates one switch, while a slight vacuum (sip) operates the
All functions, including setting
the sails and steering the boat, are controlled by the sailor’s
breath. The term Sip 'n' Puff, is somewhat misleading. Implication
is that the user must sip from the tube, or puff into the tube,
much like drinking from a straw, or blowing up a balloon.
In reality, the pneumatic switches
are very sensitive. The switches are activated by a slight vacuum
or a slight pressure. This is accomplished by creating this vacuum
or pressure within the mouth. No actual sipping or puffing, to
the degree normally thought of as 'sipping or puffing', is required.
Unlike other control methods, sip
'n' puff control keeps conductive material away from the user.
This eliminates the possibility of electrical shock.
The integration of the Sip 'n'
Puff system into the Martin 16s owes much to the success of Steve
Alvey of Calgary, founder of DSA Alberta. Steve's work in the
early 1990s also paved the way for development of the windlass
auto helm, which allows sailors to select how they wish to pilot
a boat: manually, by joystick control or by sipping and blowing.