The overall winner of Sail magazine’s 2015 Pittman Innovation Awards is the Allen Brothers Keyball Trapeze.
The panel — composed of systems expert Nigel Calder, West Marine "advisor" series author Tom Burden, and Gerry Douglas, chief designer and vice president of Catalina Yachts — recognized the product's originality.
The panel also liked that the product helps solve a serious issue facing the sailing community — the safety of its dinghy sailors, a group that includes many of sailing’s arguably most vulnerable practitioners, the young and newcomers to the sport.
“This looks like a smart product that does a good job of helping solve a serious safety issue,” West Marine’s Tom Burden said in a statement.
Named after longtime Sail technical editor Freeman K. Pittman, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1996, the innovation awards recognize the outstanding new products created by a sailing industry that remains forever fresh in its thinking.
As in years past, the magazine’s team of judges — executive editor Adam Cort, cruising editor Charles J. Doane, technical editor Jay Paris, electronics editor Ben Ellison and racing editor David Schmidt — roamed boat shows here and abroad to uncover the best of the best that’s new sailing gear.
One of the unique things about the Pittman Innovation Awards is the way each year’s winning class seems to have a distinct personality. Some years are hardware-driven, others see simple, common-sense solutions to vexing problems afloat and some are a mishmash of the above.
For 2015, “mishmash” seems to be the only way to describe an assemblage of gear that includes everything from a portable hot spot for making satellite calls on your cellphone to the latest take on that most ancient piece of marine hardware, the humble cleat, the magazine said.