The idea for sip & puff controls for a sailboat came from Sam Sullivan, a quadriplegic and founder of the Disabled Sailing Association. Sam had seen high-quads operate their wheelchairs by sip & puff, and envisioned that this technology might be used to control a sailboat. The world’s first sip & puff control system for a sailboat was designed by the Neil Squires Foundation (Vancouver, Canada) and installed on a Sunbird sloop the “Royal Spirit”. The Royal Spirit debuted at the Mobility Cup regatta in 1994.
The sip& puff technology was refined and adapted to the new Martin 16 sloop in 1998 under the “Royal Bank Project”. The Disabled Sailing Association of Alberta with the financial support of Royal Bank Financial Group managed this project. Steve Alvey brought a volunteer Project Team together, several companies donated parts and equipment, and a robust, self-contained system was designed and hand-manufactured to meet the needs of high-quad sailors.
Steve Alvey and Mark Isaak have continued to advance the design, functionality and reliability, culminating in the current Mk V Power-Assist System. Power-Assist Systems are now in service at DSA programs and on private boats in Canada, USA, UK, Italy, Sweden, Israel, Netherlands, Japan, Greece, Australia and Puerto Rico. The Power-Assist System design is modular and versatile, and also used on the Sonar, Freedom 20, Catalina 22, Tripp 40, Cal 20, 2.4mR and Challenger Tri-maran.
Sailors with high-level disabilities use Power-Assist Systems to compete on the same starting line with able-bodied sailors. The Power-Assist System has changed the lives of these sailors, and more like them each year.