It’s only a matter of time before all of the most stubborn one-design classes cave to allowing electronic compasses, at least those without GPS capabilities. The International Laser Class is the latest to allow such devices, prompting developers at Velocitek to push forward with its slick and stripped-down Velocitek Prism compass. At only 137 grams, it’s the lightest of its kind, and the display numbers are plenty large and visible with polarized sunglasses. A couple of technical notes: The tilt-compensated heading-in-degrees magnetic is updated every 250 milliseconds, it’s water-resistant to complete immersion for 30 minutes at 10 feet (don’t drop it overboard) and the display has a 250-degree viewing cone for visibility from a trapeze or full-hike position. The unit’s battery is replaceable, and the warranty is two years. Mounting brackets are available. The Prism does not have a countdown feature; leave that to your trusty wristwatch. $399, velocitek.com
After sailing offshore with the Mustang EP 38 inflatable ocean racing vest for six days and nights, we found plenty to like, but as in life, nothing’s perfect. Let’s start with the positive: This is one of the most comfortable vests I’ve worn. Its weight is placed on the shoulders, rather than the back of the neck like most other less technical inflatable PFDs. Sail with it all day and you’ll forget it’s there. It also fits snug to the body — much like a standard life jacket — so it doesn’t impede activities such as grinding winches or moving about in confined spaces below deck. However, to don the vest, you need to pull it over your head. I don’t have a particularly large head, but it’s still a snug fit. If you’re wearing a hat or sunglasses, those have to come off first. If your jacket has a hood, you must pull the hood over your head before putting the vest on or it will get bunched up inside the back of the vest. When you take off the vest, it’s sunglasses and hat off, hood up, then remove.
The additional effort involved in putting the vest on or taking it off isn’t a deal breaker unless you’re the type who likes to add or take off layers as the day goes on, or if you’re standing multiple watches in overnight races in which you normally remove your foul-weather gear when off watch. If that’s the case, plan on adding a little extra time.
Mustang claims the hydrostatic inflator will only inflate when submerged, not in rain, spray or high humidity, and that much I can vouch for. It’s U.S. Coast Guard approved and provides 38 pounds of buoyancy when inflated.
The PFD comes with removable crotch straps, back-mounted spray hood, internal storage for AIS and other electronics, integrated harness, whistle and lifting loop. The only thing missing is a loop at the top of the unit so that it can be hung on a carabineer or hook. $369, mustangsurvival.com.