AZAB with an Audio Compass

First published on Saturday, 01 June 1996  at reproduced with the kind permission of

AZAB with an Audio Compass

by Jim Moore

(Jim received the Qualifier's Mug for the following passage.)

It all started in Falmouth, back in 1992. I was reporting to the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club for the start of `Blind Week', an annual event organised by RYA Seamanship Foundation (now Sailability) for sailors who have a visual impairment. I was assigned to the Sun Legende 41 The Legend of Isles and when I was introduced to its owner/skipper Malcolm Eyles, little did I know what was in store for me.

By the end of Blind Week a friendship was started and later that year Malcolm invited me to be his crew in the l993 Brixham to Santander two-handed yacht race. This was a great new experience for me as I had never before sailed short-handed and for the first time I would be totally reliant upon the audio compass. This device was developed by Autohelm to enable visually impaired people to helm a compass course independently. Its speaker delivers a high bleep when there is a need to go to starboard and a low bleep when there is a need to go to port. When on course it is silent of course, or so they say -- not the way I helm.

I will not dwell on this event other than to mention one very memorable occurrence some few miles after the start when we had a spinnaker broach. `How could you, Malcolm', I thought, `I haven't been trained for this'. I looked towards the shoreline, too far to swim, water and ropes seemed to be everywhere. I don't like spinnakers!

Having set the stage I will now proceed to the real drama of my sailing experience.