Sailor Max Hatfull invents a talking compass

Max Hatfull with headteacher Jonathan Maddox
Max Hatfull with headteacher Jonathan Maddox
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A PARTIALLY-SIGHTED schoolboy has invented a talking compass to help him sail.

Max Hatfull, 16, of Hill Farm, Castle Bytham, has a passion for sailing, despite having been blind in his right eye and partially sighted in his left since birth.

The Bourne Grammar School pupil wanted a programmable compass that made sounds to help him navigate while out at sea, but couldn’t find one for sale so decided to make his own.

Max said: “I thought it wouldn’t be too tricky to make one. It turned out to be harder than I first thought because there are so many different bits you can change. Getting it just right is really tough.”

Max used his knowledge of electrical engineering and some help from his dad Frank to make the MaxPAC.

The small orange box features hi-tech computer chips and is able to immediately tell sailors if they are on the right course or not.

Max added: “When you are going out to sea there is no land to line anything up with so it is easy to veer off course.”

“The initial product took about a week to make but we have been changing bits for six months.”

The first MaxPAC beeped to let sailors know if they were going off course, but after a successful trial run the beeping model was upgraded to a talking version.

About a dozen MaxPACS have been sold so far, including a custom-made box for a blind American man who fishes in a kayak.

Max has been sailing since he was young and last year won the UK National Blind Sailing Championships in Suffolk Yacht Harbour.

He was the youngest competitor but managed to beat competition from blind and partially sighted sailors from across the UK.

Frank, who also sails, says inventing the compass has helped Max a lot.

He said: “The whole thing is great for Max. The technology aspect, turning that into design and build and then actually getting into a marketable format.

“He’s learned a lot about customer relations and running a small business. It’s a fabulous project.”

Max is currently studying maths, further maths, physics and chemistry at AS Level and hopes to go to the University of Cambridge.

Bourne Grammar School headteacher Jonathon Maddox said: “He’s a bright, motivated lad, he works very hard, has made excellent progress and achieved very, very good GCSEs. We are not entirely surprised but are delighted with his invention.”

To find out more about the MaxPAC or make an order, visit www.blindsailing.net/AudioCompass.htm.