Servo Assist Controls

Servo Assist Controls are generally used to allow people with limited mobility to enjoy freedom and independence on the water by sailing solo. Sailing is one activity where the use of powered equipment serves only to level the playing field and not give the sailor an advantage. It encourages integration and allows previously disadvantaged people to participate, to compete, and to win against others more physically able.


The Access Servo Assist System can be fitted to all single seat models of the 2.3 and Liberty, along with the SKUD18. The sailor who uses Servo Assist equipment generally has significantly limited mobility and seeks the security and support provided by the narrow cockpit of the single seaters and the custom centerline seating of the SKUD.


The System can easily be converted for manual use by disengaging the steering winch clutch and hauling the double ended sheeting system by hand.


The Servo Assist System

Access Dinghies are extremely easy to sail servo assist and a severely disabled sailor can be very competitive against anyone. Unfortunately, however efficient servo assist equipment may be, sheet and helm winches will always be mechanical and without feel, and slower than an able bodied person working sheets and joystick manually. But without doubt, its better to be sailing without feel than not sailing at all.


Access 2.3

One mast, mainsail only. With only one sail, the 2.3 servo assist system comprises a helm winch, mainsheet winch, a control box, a control device, typically a joystick and batteries.



Two masts, mainsail and Jib. With two sails, the Liberty system comprises helm winch, mainsheet winch, jib sheet winch, control box, sheet winch selector module, control device (typically a 4-way joystick) and batteries.

Generally the main and jib sheet winches work together like on a radio controlled model yacht, but on the Liberty the main or jib can be detached and one of them fine tuned. There are several ways to do this switching depending on the sailors needs.

·                     A finger controlled (latched) press button.

·                     A magnetic reed switch (latched) activated by a magnet attached to finger, cheek or other moving body part.

·                     A sip or puff (latched) switch

NB. Latching means the winch stays on when the switch is activated and must be pressed again to stop it. Momentary switches are only "on" while being activated.



Single mast, mainsail, jib & asymmetric spinnaker. With three sails, the SKUD 18 system comprises helm winch, mainsheet winch, jib sheet winch, control box, sheet winch selector module, control device (typically a 4-way joystick) and batteries.

Generally the main and jib sheet winches are operated separately and the spinnaker is operated manually. A broad range of switching options are available.

There are three main types of control systems:

·                     4-way joystick - the basic system, the simplest most reliable and easiest to use.

·                     Sip and puff - where severe quadriplegia prohibits the use of a joystick. Each sailor requires a personal module to guard against spread of infection. This is an unnecessary added expense which can be avoided for most sailors who are better off using a joystick.

·                     Paddle switches - great for people with severe CP and the like who have difficulty with fine finger movements and insufficient control of their breath for sip and puff.


Sip and Puff control systems can use unnecessarily complicated electronics which are therefore more prone to failure, and add an unnecessary complications in each sailor needing their own personal module to guard against spread of infection. We therefore do not recommend sip and puff except in those circumstances where other systems are unsuitable. Generally, why use a system like sip and puff as the standard when it is only really required by the minority of severely disabled sailors.

Only in North America are sip and puff systems widely used, in the rest of the world there are very few wheelchairs driven by sip and puff, most using joysticks which are far more reliable, easier to use and less costly. Access Dinghy recommends that the boat should be sailed using the same method as the sailor's wheelchair is driven, utilising the sailor's most moveable and agile part, whether it be a hand, foot, chin etc.



Other Links

Access Liberty with Chin Servo

Access 2.3 Servo Electric

Access 303 Servo Controls

Access Liberty Servo

Access Liberty Servo

Access Liberty Servo Winch Components
© 2006 Access Sailing Systems Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.