At a time when Internet diving forums seem to be full of discussions about wings with stainless-steel backplates, one could be forgiven for thinking that the day of the conventional BC was over. A quick view of the aft decks of almost any dive boat will tell you that nothing is further from the truth. For most divers, the BC is still the most popular way to manage buoyancy control. That said, many divers look anything but sleek in the water. They often seem to be swimming within their kit rather than being part of it. That's because few BCs are designed as garments so much as functional pieces of equipment. The products of Italian diving-equipment manufacturer Cressi-sub fit well. I have long been a fan of most of its BCs, because they seem to become part of me when I'm diving. The new S111R is no exception. It has a harness that is separate from its buoyancy cell, which forms a sort of inverted T shape. This means that you can strap it on and, no matter to what degree the thing is inflated, it still clings nicely to you and never squeezes.
Toggle and stud The S111R is a modification of the original S111, itself a development of Mr Cressi's designs that have evolved from the original and highly thought-of S102. If you look at the Test archive on www.divernet.com, you will see that I had a very successful experience with the S111. I expected no less from its successor. The S111R has the same delightfully effective integrated-weight pockets, held closed by Velcro plus a toggle and stud system. Any danger of inadvertently dropping your lead has been neatly circumnavigated by rotating the pockets through 90Â?, so that there is normally no weight on the fastenings. You simply lift the weights out vertically when you need to get rid of them, and this should be more often when handing them up to a boat-cox'n than in any emergency procedure. Restowing the weights needs no particular skill, either. Inserting weights into the ditchable pouches is a doddle, too. The pouches are simply bags held closed by zips. As I get older and wiser, personal comfort and the avoidance of backache has become something of a priority. With that in mind, I do prefer integrated weights to the old-fashioned weightbelt. Even so, with compensating buoyancy up near my shoulders and weights low near my waist, I can find myself bent uncomfortably, with resulting ooohs! and aahhs! later. Incidentally, it's the only way I have ever been bent! Positioning some of my weight up closer to that pocket of air has proved important, and that's where trim-weights come in. The S111R has redesigned trim-weight pockets. There are four, each held closed by a pinch-clip, and they effectively give you a complete strategy for avoiding backache, whether using a steel or an aluminium cylinder. The camband has a choice of positions, too. No longer do you need to strap an aluminium cylinder precariously close to its curved top just to get its positive buoyancy (when nearing empty) down towards your hips. Don't imagine that the S111R is a little travelling jacket with a minimum of lift. Fully inflated, the back part concertinas out as the underarm part inflates, giving masses of buoyancy for use at the surface. The entire inflated cell is useful, too, because it's all below the shoulders, and this makes dumping air on ascent simple. One dump-valve is at the top of the corrugated hose, the other at the shoulder and operated by a cord and toggle that locates by your right lower rib. Both are positioned at the highest point when the diver is inclined towards the surface - at the top of the shoulders. Most technical-wing manufacturers should take note. Massive amounts of total buoyancy count for nothing if you can't dump all the air easily when you need to do do. Maximum lift is meaningless if lots of it simply contributes to providing an ineffective head-cushion once you're at the surface and it is out of the water. Lift is about displacing water, and if it's not in the water, it won't give lift. The lift of this BC is where it needs to be - beneath the surface.
Speeding attack-craft If you start your dive by jumping from a helicopter or from a speeding attack-craft, the 500 denier Cordura material used for this BC may not be strong enough for you. On the other hand, if your idea of military service involves poppies and the Cenotaph, the S111R will certainly be resilient enough to survive any use to which you might put it. Having been away in the past with a technical diving wing that had no stowage space at all, I appreciated that the S111R had two quite useful zipped pockets - big enough, for example, for a reef-hook and a rather large Personal Locator Beacon. You will also find one small and six large stainless-steel D-rings. You'll derive no Internet diving chat-line credibility by using one of these BCs, but single-tank users will enjoy their diving and cease to give buoyancy-control a second thought. Isn't that what diving's meant to be about? The Cressi-sub S111R costs £370.
Cressi-sub UK 01484 310130, www.cressi-sub.net
There are four trim-weight pockets at the rear.
The weights can be inserted vertically into the forward pockets while standing upright.
+ Excellent conventional-style BC for single-tank users. + Efficient weights system + Well-distributed buoyancy