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Safety & Technology – BSI Report

BSI’s intention is to continue making our sport safe for all competitors and
help our sport to grow. This is done by ensuring we are working on all
options on how to keep our sailors safe. My focus this past year has been on
Match Racing technology because this is the largest area of concern. In the
past two Blind Match Racing Worlds there have been several collisions.
Although this is apart of the sport it is still an area of growing concern.

Currently we are utilizing the Homarus system, it has brought Blind Sailing
this far however, we need to begin looking at a more robust system. When
wind speeds reach a certain level and waves are at a certain height, the
system becomes limited in its ability to help navigate the competitors
around the course. In addition, when the system is pushed down into the
water due to a boat strike, it takes a large amount of time for the system
to recover. BSI has began to ask for two full systems to be present at all
events so back up pieces can be used when appropriate.

With this knowledge in hand, it is time to begin looking at either improving
the system we are currently using or begin looking for alternate options.
There is a partnership, in its infancy stage, working to improve the
limitations of the current system by making the components more water tight
and help increase the durability of the components. In addition to this, the
Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS) has developed a much
larger base for the buoy. The buoy is very large and filled with air so if
hit it will bounce off of the boat and not be pushed under water therefore,
keeping all components dry.

As for the tact indicators, it is of concern for the competitors hearing
with the speaker system being so close to them, the speaker system easily
filling up with water and the mercury switch failing with potential leakage
of mercury into the water, the system needs to be worked on for a future
generation. Again with the help of Olin College, a new electronic switch has
been developed to help with consistency for keeping the indicator working
properly for the duration of an event. Also, SEAS has removed the speakers,
made them able to be placed up on the mast and keep the noise above the
heads of the sailors. This not only helps reduce the concerns of the sailors
hearing, it allows the sound to travel further for the other boat to hear.
This is not the end result for this system and it is an on going change and
will keep the sailors posted with possible changes.

It is the intention of SEAS to pull all of the new pieces together for the
spring of 2020 and begin testing and hope to have a product to use at the
next Blind Match Racing World Championship. This will not be possible
without the support of the BSI membership and potential sponsors. The
organization of Visually Impaired Sailing Institute & Organization of North
America (VISION) is working to raise money to help pay of the equipment
needed to create two fully operational systems. The estimated research and
production of this equipment is $20,000 US Dollars. It is with request of
any organizations who are able to support the efforts to please contact BJ
Blahnik at bj.blahnik@gmail.com to ask any questions.

At the 2018 BMR Worlds in Scotland, the French team introduced some new
technology which gives audible compass readings and other bits of
information to the sailors. Many of the competitors were very excited about
this concept and we will continue to follow the progress of this technology.
With the blind sailors request to keep moving towards inclusion of the para
sailing there is a constant push back from World Sailing of what technology
cannot be used. With this in mind, the technology presented would not be
allowed in competition however it is being used often in French events and
have had high success with their technology. We encourage France to continue
their efforts and keep BSI posted of their progress.

Beyond the technology, with regards to safety, the rule change in Scotland
proved to be beneficial with no collisions after the first two major
collisions. The change was made to have the umpire to call out, after
sounding collision warning, for either boat to make a correction change. If
the umpire makes this announcement and automatic penalty flag is raised and
either a penalty will be issued or a green flag will be given. This process
is ongoing and will continue to evolve to ensure the safety of the sailors.
It is clear the sailors are getting closer and closer which is making the
match racing even more exciting which means BSI will continue to be even
more diligent when it comes to sailors safety. If any questions on this
matter, please email BJ Blahnik at bj.blahnik@gmail.com

Thank you,
BJ Blahnik
Safety & Technology – BSI

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