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1. WO2020115695 - DISPOSITIF DE SÉCURITÉ AQUATIQUE PERSONNEL

Note: Texte fondé sur des processus automatiques de reconnaissance optique de caractères. Seule la version PDF a une valeur juridique

[ EN ]
"A personal water safety device"

Introduction

The invention relates to a personal safety device for use by persons engaging in water related activities, especially freestyle open water swimming.

The risk of drowning, hypothermia or being struck by a fast moving boat or jet ski to persons engaging in water recreational activities is always of major concern. However, persons engaged in water sports especially those engaged in competitive events are often loathe to inhibit their movements by wearing a safety device such as a personal floatation device (pfd). The popularity of triathlons is on the rise and increasingly athletes in triathlons are being encouraged to use personal floatation devices to ensure their safety during swimming events and also when training as this is typically done in small groups or by lone swimmers unsupervised. Most triathletes believe they are safe while swimming. They site wetsuits, lifeguards, divers, etc., but the fact is, with all of those things available people still die at an alarming rate in the swim portion of a triathlon. Most of the casualties are seasoned triathletes, most of whom were wearing a wetsuit but were never seen by a lifeguard. Or worse, were seen too late.

In light of the increased risk to recreational swimmers, various personal floatation devices have been developed. Such devices include, for example, lifejackets having bladders filled with a buoyant material. Such lifejackets are, however, cumbersome to wear and not very suitable for those involved in competitive swimming events.

Other known personal floatation devices include tow or drag buoys, which are constantly inflated and are pulled behind the swimmer. These do help alert other water users to the presence of a swimmer and provide the ability for a swimmer to rest, but they greatly hinder the swimmer by causing drag. In addition, they can get blown by the wind into the swimmer's arms and legs and hinder the sighting and swimming of other athletes. As a result, they are not allowed in competitive events and can only be used while training.

Other known pfds are attached around legs, arms, wrists or the waist with inflatable devices deployable when required. These types of pfds are however, still relatively uncomfortable to wear and significantly restrict the free movement of the arms, legs and torso of the users wearing them. These devices are also relatively cumbersome and are badly located on a competitive swimmer's body. In addition they affect arm rotation and body position in the water thus affecting the wearer's ability to swim with a normal arm or leg cadence.

The known personal floatation devices are fine for pottering around in the water but not for serious triathletes or open water swimmers.

There is a real need for an improved personal safety device which overcomes the problems associated with known devices and which is comfortable to wear at all times.

Statements of Invention

According to the invention there is provided a personal water safety device comprising a backpack assembly, the backpack assembly comprising a slimline body section and a harness assembly, the harness assembly comprising a left shoulder strap configured to extend over the wearer's left shoulder, a right shoulder strap configured to extend over the wearer's right shoulder and waist straps configured to extend around the wearer's waist, the slimline body section of the backpack housing;

a compressed air container,

an air bladder in fluid communication with the compressed air container; a pull cord coupled to a trigger attachment on the compressed air container; a lanyard permanently attached at one end to the body section of the backpack and at the other end to the air bladder;

a holding cord permanently attached to one end of the air bladder;

a waterproof compartment; and

identification means,

wherein the body section of the backpack is elongate in shape and configured to be positioned on the upper back area between the shoulders of the wearer and wherein the body section of the backpack is neutrally buoyant in water.

In one embodiment of the invention the identification means comprises a signal light unit. Preferably the signal light unit comprises a GPS tracker and water temperature sensor.

In one embodiment of the invention the body section comprises a hydrophobic material which entraps air bubbles.

In one embodiment of the invention the body section comprises an elongate central opening comprising a quick release fastener. Preferably the quick release fastener comprises a hook and loop type fastener.

In one embodiment of the invention the pull cord extends out through the central opening of the body section of the backpack and comprises an actuation handle.

In another embodiment of the invention the shoulder straps and waist strap are connected to a central connector. Preferably the shoulder straps are permanently attached to the central connector and the waist straps are detachably connected to the central connector. Most preferably the length of the shoulder straps and waist strap are adjustable.

In one embodiment of the invention the central connector comprises a hydrophobic material on its outer face and a non-slip, anti-chaff material on the rear face of the connector.

In one embodiment of the invention the shoulder straps and waist strap comprise a non-slip, anti-chaff material. Preferably the shoulder straps and waist strap are manufactured from an elastic material with silicone grips.

In one embodiment of the invention the personal water safety device comprises a whistle and a manual inflator means.

In another embodiment of the invention the lanyard comprises a quick release buckle.

Brief Description of the Invention

The invention will be more clearly understood from the following description thereof with reference to the accompanying drawings in which: -

Fig. 1 is a perspective view from the rear of the personal water safety device of the invention;

Fig. 2 is a perspective view from the front of the personal water safety device of Fig. 1;

Fig. 3 is a side view of the personal water safety device of Fig. 1;

Fig. 4 is a view of the personal water safety device of the invention in position on the upper back area of a wearer;

Fig. 5 is a view from the side of the personal water safety device of the invention in position round the upper torso of a wearer;

Fig. 6 is a view from the front of the personal water safety device of the invention in position across the chest area of a wearer;

Fig. 7 is an enlarged view of the central connector on the harness assembly on the personal water safety device of the invention showing the straps in a closed position in more detail;

Fig. 8 is a further view of the central connector on the harness assembly as in Fig. 7 showing the straps in an open position in more detail;

Fig. 9 is a perspective view of the air bladder and associated components of the personal water safety device of the invention with the air bladder in its inflated state;

Fig. 10 is a perspective view of the backpack assembly and the attached air bladder and associated components of the personal water safety device of the invention with the air bladder in its deflated folded state; and

Fig. 11 is a perspective view of the detachable signal light unit from the water safety device of the invention shown detached for charging on a charging mat.

Detailed description

A large number of people take part in water-based activities every day. Many will do so without taking their personal safety into consideration as the personal floatation devices currently on the market are often very cumbersome and awkward to wear.

Training for and taking part in triathlons involves spending long periods of time in the water. Typically, someone training for an Iron distance Triathlon race in which the athlete must swim 3.8km, will spend 1 to 1 ½hrs in open water, three or four times a week. An athlete training for a 10km swim, will typically spend a minimum of l½hrs and typically 2½hrs training in open water four or five times a week. These swims are completed in both wet suits or in skins (without a wet suit).

These athletes are very exposed to the effects of hypothermia (even in a wet suit in relatively warm water), the onset of which can cause cramping and confusion. The athlete can become exhausted, hitting the equivalent of the "wall" in marathons. However, the last thing an athlete needs is to have to carry an additional personal floatation device (pfd) which causes unnecessary drag, adversely affects stroke

mechanics or affects the body's position in the water. This slows the athlete down, making them more exposed to the very thing they strive to avoid, cramping, hypothermia, exhaustion or (in a confused state) swimming off line into the path of a boat.

The commercially available personal floatation devices (pdfs) such as those which are attached around a user's waist, legs or wrists are very cumbersome and awkward for triathletes to wear. Wearing such devices has a significant impact on the effect of drag for a competitive swimmer. As the pfds interfere with an athletes performance they are less inclined to wear them and more often choose to ignore the risks and swim without any personal floatation device.

Locating a device around the waist has several notable problems. The waist is fully submerged in the water and therefore one of the areas of the body most exposed to the effects of drag in the water. The level of the waist area in relation to the water line greatly affects the alignment of the entire swimmer's body. Tying what is effectively a weight around the waist, lowers the waist line in the water which in turn affects the swimmers "catch" or the angle their hand enters and catches the water. They effectively act as weights around the swimmer's most pivotal point, the waist. In addition they offer no assistance in making the swimmer more visible in the water, as they are located below the water line.

Locating a device around the thigh also has several disadvantages. Again, this is one of the most exposed areas of the body to drag and attaching a bulky item will cause a lot of drag. Attaching a device to one leg as opposed to another, will cause the body position to be "lop-sided", again affecting the swimmers body position, dropping the waist and affecting the swimmers body alignment and ability to "catch" the water as described above. Again, they offer no assistance in making the swimmer more visible in the water, as they are located below the water line.

Any device located on the waist or thigh has an added problem when they are being inflated. Because these items are located well below the water line, when the CO2

canister is deployed, the upward velocity can be substantial. With the CO2 canister itself attached to the inflating bladder, it can strike the swimmer in the face causing substantial injury.

Locating a device on the wrist is also problematic, as lifting any weight on your wrist over a long distance swim would be crippling not to mention the drag of water.

The present invention provides an improved personal safety device which overcomes the disadvantages of known pfds. The personal safety device of the present invention is almost imperceptible to the wearer while worn and does not impede the wearers athletic ability. Most importantly it allows an open water swimmer to be more visible at all times and especially to emergency personnel in the event of any emergency.

The personal safety device of the present invention is less restrictive than known personal floatation devices. The personal safety device of the present invention is so lightweight and discreet the user hardly notices that they are wearing it.

The personal safety device of the present invention provides a comprehensive safety device which not only provides flotation assistance when required but also alerts other water users to the presence of a vulnerable swimmer in the vicinity. Once inflated it visibly notifies onlookers that the swimmer is in trouble and needs assistance. The swimmer can use the inflated air bladder in the device to rest while assistance arrives and also use it to wave to nearby onlookers, highlighting their plight. The device covers all the major risks to the safety of open water swimmers, while at the same time providing a user friendly device which is seamless to wear, thus encouraging its regular use for training and competition.

The personal safety device 1 of the present invention comprises a backpack assembly comprising a slimline body section 2 and a harness assembly. It was found that a backpack type assembly results in minimal interference with an athletes swimming ability. The harness assembly is permanently attached to the body section 2. The harness assembly comprises a left shoulder strap 3 configured to extend over the

wearer's left shoulder and a right shoulder strap 4 configured to extend over the wearer's right shoulder. One end of the straps 3 and 4 are permanently attached to the upper end of the body section 2. The other end of the straps 3 and 4 are permanently attached to a central connector 6 by means of tri-glides slides 8 or the like. Two waist straps 5 extend around the waist of the wearer. One end of the waist straps 5 are permanently connected to the lower end of the body section 2. The other end of the waist straps 5 are detachably connected to the central connector 6. Quick release interlocking clasp buckles 7 or the like allow the waist straps 5 to be easily and quickly attached and detached from the central connector 6. The central connector 6 rests against the chest area of the wearer. The central connector 6 is suitable and comfortable for both male and female users to wear.

To put on the safety device 1 of the invention the user passes their head between the two shoulder straps 3, 4 and attaches and secures the two waist straps 5 to the central connector 6. The length of all the straps 3,4,5 are adjustable using slim line seamless strap sliders 9 or the like.

The personal floatation device 1 of the present invention is back mounted and as a result it does not interfere in any way with a users swimming ability. The slimline body section 2 of the backpack assembly is configured to be positioned on the upper back area between the shoulder blades. Its slimline profile means it is hardly perceptible to the wearer. The backpack assembly is unisex fitting comfortably on either gender.

The slimline body section 2 of the backpack defines a compartment which houses a compressed air container 10, an air bladder 12 in fluid communication with the compressed air container 10, a pull cord 13 coupled to a trigger attachment 11 on the compressed air container 10, a lanyard 14 permanently attached at one end to the body section 2 of the backpack and permanently attached at the other end to the air bladder 12 and a holding cord or "buddy handle" 15 permanently attached at one end of the air bladder 12.

The body section 2 of the backpack also comprises a waterproof compartment which may be used to house a mobile phone or keys or the like. The body section 2 may also comprise storage means for energy packs/gels.

The air bladder 12 is elongate in shape and when inflated provides a float which may be positioned in various ways to allow the user to rest and support their body. The inflated air bladder 12 may also be used to wave and signal for help. The lanyard 14 which connects the air bladder 12 to the body section 2 of the backpack comprises a quick release clip means. A quick release buckle 20 allows the air bladder 12 to be completely detached from the body section 2 of the backpack if required. This allows the wearer to give the inflated air bladder 12 to another swimmer who may be in distress. The distressed swimmer can use the holding cord or "buddy handle" 15 to hang on to the air bladder 12 until help arrives.

The presence of the lanyard 14 and holding cord 15 allows flexibility in the positioning of the air bladder 12 once inflated. The air bladder 12 may be used to tow a fellow swimmer in distress using the lanyard 14 and holding cord 15.

A mouth piece 23 allows the user to orally top up the air in the bladder 12 if required. The mouth piece 23 also allows the air bladder to be deflated when it is no longer required. A whistle 24 may be attached to the air bladder 12 which allows a user to call for help.

The compressed air container 10 may be any commercially available small CO compressed air cartridge. The compressed air cartridge container 10 is typically a 16g CO cartridge. The cartridge 10 is easily replaceable after use. The spent cartridge is simply unscrewed from the trigger attachment 11 and replaced with a fresh cartridge.

The backpack assembly is substantially elongate in shape and comprises an elongate central opening 18 extending essentially two thirds the length of the body section 2.

A flap covers the opening 18. The pull cord 13 with an easy to grip actuation handle 16 extends out from the lower end of the opening 18. The flap allows the opening

18 to be secured using an easy to open quick release fastener. Any suitable easy to open fastener means may be used. For example the fastener system may comprise a hook and loop type fastener system. Such a fastener system allows the air bladder 12 to easily expand and push itself out of the central opening 18 when the compressed air cartridge 10 has been activated. Once out of the body section 2 the air bladder 12 continues to expand into its fully inflated state outside of the body section 2. The fastener system also allows the backpack to be easily repacked and reloaded after an inflation has occurred and the air bladder is no longer required. After use, a new CO2 cartridge is attached to the air bladder and the airbladder folded up and re-loaded into the back pack ready for use.

The body section 2 of the backpack also comprises identification means to ensure that the wearer is clearly visible in the water at all times even when the air bladder has not been inflated. The identification means comprises a signal light unit 17 located on the upper end of the body section 2. Positioned at the upper end of the elongate body section 2 on the backpack the signal light unit 17 is always visible above the water line. The wearer of the device 1 is therefore always visible. Unfortunately there have been instances where athletes have been injured by boats or other motorised devices due to their lack of visibility in the water. It can be hard for emergency personnel to identify a person in distress if they do not have any identification means. Weather is very unpredictable and therefore it is vitally important to be clearly visible at all times in open water.

The signal light unit 17 may comprise a GPS tracker or other signalling means for signalling the location of the user during an emergency situation. The light unit 17 may also comprise a water temperature sensor and a rechargeable battery to power the light, GPS and water temperature sensor. The GPS tracker allows the user to map and track their different routes and monitor their progress. The water temperature sensor allows the temperature of the water to be determined. Using Bluetooth communication the GPS tracker and water temperature sensor can relay information to a smart phone and /or anonymously to a centralised website which can display the

information in real time. The information obtained may be used in many different ways to improve the experience of triathletes or other users.

The signal light unit is detachable from the body section of the backpack for recharging the battery. The battery signal light unit 17 may be recharged on a charging mat 19 with a power supply 20 as shown in Fig. 11.

The device 1 of the present invention is intended to be worn on a user's back just like a backpack. The device is very lightweight and slimline in shape. Its position in the centre of the upper back between the shoulders minimises its impact on the wearers swim stroke mechanics and body position.

The hydrodynamic design and material of the backpack assembly does not impede the wearers swimming ability in any way. The hydrodynamic design minimises the affects of water drag. The device 1 has smooth lines, there are no sharp edges or "pointy" bits created by adjusters, toggles or clips. It is very comfortable to wear with no "pinch points" which can cause chaffing and burns from the repetitive nature of swimming. These are very important features in the highly competitive field of triathlons where seconds can make such a difference in a race.

The body section 2 of the backpack is neutrally buoyant. This means it neither sinks nor floats, the weight of the backpack is equal to the upward buoyant force exerted by the water. The neutrally buoyant nature of the backpack ensures that it doesn't lower the wearers swimming body position and affect their swimming mechanics.

The material of the slimline body section is manufactured from a hydrophobic material with raised dimples which entrap water bubbles mimicking shark skin. The hydrophobic material does not take on water or become water logged. An example of such a material is marketed under the MELCO(RTM) name. The material of the harness assembly comprises a non-slip anti chaff material allowing the device 1 to be worn over long swimming distances without the risk of friction burns.

The central connection 6 comprises a slimline hook fit closure means for engaging with the straps. The central connection 6 is slimline to minimise any drag. The outer face of the central connection 6 is covered with hydrophobic material which entraps air bubbles reducing drag and fitting seamlessly with the body. The back of the central connector is covered with an anti-chaff material to eliminate rubbing.

The backpack and the straps may comprise a high visibility luminous material to increase the visibility in the water.

In use when the wearer of the water safety device of the present requires buoyancy assistance the wearer pulls on the handle 16 at the end of the pull cord IB extending from the central opening 18 on the backpack to quickly and safely activate the air bladder 12. Pulling the pull cord 13 triggers the compressed air canister causing the air bladder 12 to rapidly inflate and burst through the opening 18. The quick release fastener on opening 18 quickly releases the contents of the body section 2. As the backpack is positioned on a swimmers back the air bladder does not get in the way of the swimmer as it inflates. The lanyard 14 ensures that the inflated bladder 12 does not float away but is kept secured to the backpack assembly and the wearer. The wearer can bring the elongate inflated bladder 12 around to the front of their torso and rest on the inflated bladder 12. The holding or "buddy" cord 15 allows the air bladder to be used independently by others swimmers who need assistance or be used to tow another swimmer.

Once used the CO2 cannister is replaced and the air bladder is simply re-folded and the contents of the body section re-packaged within the back pack for future use.

The water safety device 1 of the present invention is almost imperceptible to the wearer when worn. It allows the wearer to be visible at all times. As it is in the form of a backpack and not attached around a limb or the waist of the wearer it does not interfere with the wearer's athletic ability when swimming or during any other water based activity.

The invention is not limited to the embodiment hereinbefore described, with reference to the accompanying drawings, which may be varied in construction and detail.