Shoreham student’s life-saving invention

Nicolas Smith, 22, has created an lifesaving invention for sailors SUS-150624-155105001
Nicolas Smith, 22, has created an lifesaving invention for sailors SUS-150624-155105001

A SHOREHAM student has come up with a innovative design which could one day help to save the life of a sailor in distress.

Nicolas Smith, 22, who is a final-year design student at Brunel University London, has come up with a fool-proof method to stop power boaters ignoring or bypassing ‘kill cords’ – by integrating them with a lifejacket.

The cords are designed to cut the power of a boats engine if the user falls overboard. However, recently there have been a number of injuries and fatalities caused because sailors did not choose to use a kill cord.

Nick, of Church Green, felt these deaths were unacceptable and went about designing a method to counter it.

Explaining his idea, the 22-year-old said: “The heart of the system is a simple ball and cord fitted to a boat’s console and connected to a dock on the helmsman’s life jacket.

“Once the ball and cord is pulled from the console of the boat and connected to the life jacket, a switch inside the ball is activated. This enables the engine to be started and run.

“If, for any reason, the ball becomes disengaged from the life jacket the engine will cut out immediately.”

Aware that drivers sometimes bypass the kill cord Nick’s design also incorporates a delay switch to allow for a short period of disconnection provided the boat is in neutral.

Nick added: “A further consideration was that the new design had to work both existing boats and lifejackets so it can be easily installed at both point of sale or as an aftermarket item.

Brunel’s head of design, Dr Ian De Vere, was impressed with Nicolas’ inventive idea. He said: “Not only is Nick’s design well-engineered but extremely well thought through.

“Other designs have required boat owners to invest in new life jackets as well as an improved kill cord and often only truly work in brand new boats. Nick has neatly avoided all those issues.”

Nicolas’ prototype was displayed at the prestigious Made in Brunel exhibition on London’s South Bank last month.

In 2013 a father and daughter were killed in Cornwall after they were thrown out of their speed boat. The driver of the craft did not use the engine cut-off line, which was key in the tragedy.