| We took the Sherwood Accord
to the Red Sea to be put through its paces by our volunteer team of
test divers. Here is their verdict on this BCD, which is ideal for
travel but packs enough lift for most divers.
The Sherwood Accord is an ADV styled jacket, meaning that it has
breakaway shoulder straps. It provides medium to high lift and has
a soft backpack design. It is a single bag jacket, constructed from
420-denier nylon for abrasion and puncture resistance, backed by
urethane to make it airproof.
Our Red Sea test team of four divers used the jackets extensively.
With most divers making three or more dives per day, there was lots
of time to assess the Accords. All of our Accord users wore 5-7mm
wetsuits and dived to a maximum depth of around 40m. Throughout
the week the Accords were left rigged on bottle racks on the open
aft-deck. Most dives were made from the RIB, so divers wore their
sets to the dive site and would then spend several minutes waiting
to be picked up at the surface after the dive. The Accords would
then be pulled into the inflatable, piled high and manhandled aboard
the Coral Queen. This puts into perspective the real-world grilling
the BCs got from our consumers. We tested each attribute of the
Accord, and graded it Excellent, Good, Adequate or Poor accordingly.
Sherwood provide an A5 25-page instruction booklet with the Accord.
As usual, there's a preamble of anti-litigation notices explaining
that a BCD is not a lifejacket, and so on. Assembling the jacket
for use is then covered. This is very straightforward as with most
firmly recreational BCDs. The test team members marked the graded
the instructions with one Adequate and two Goods. The fourth team
member didn't read his instructions.
The Accord requires minimal preparation to dive. The direct feed
is a standard 3/8th thread and screws straight into most regulator
first stages without adapters. The jacket attaches to a single tank
using two conventional bands. There's also a height-adjustment strap
to help ensure that your the BCD sits at the correct level when
you switch cylinders. Pre-dive preparation earned three Goods and
A BCD needs to be comfortable out of water as well as in. A poorly
designed or badly-sized jacket can hurt shoulders and dig into spines
if a diver has to wait around while fully kitted-up. The Accord
is padded along the spine and underneath the shoulder panels to
avoid this. Although the fact we were on a liveaboard meant we couldn't
walk-test the BCDs to simulate shore diving, our team stood around
in the Accords and wore them in the RIB on the way to the dive sites.
The Accord received one Adequate, two Goods and an Excellent.
Interestingly the lowest score was provided by a highly experienced
male diver who was suffering from a bad back and the highest by
a female diver who is less experienced and normally uses rental
equipment. This was a surprise, as the Accord is not specifically
designed for women, so we expected our female testers to mark it
down in this important category.
A BCD has three main uses: to provide a harness for the scuba set;
to provide buoyancy at the surface; and to provide lift and proper
trim while underwater to offset the weight of the diver's equipment
and air. We devoted much of our testing to assessing these last
two points. The Accord provides approximately 12lb of lift in the
extra small size to 35lb in the extra large.
Rated lift is not the whole story on flotation. We think it is
probably more important to determine how high above the water a
diver's head will be will be when the jacket is inflated. Keeping
the face clear of the water, especially in a chop, makes breathing
easier if you are out of air and don't have a snorkel. Additionally,
a diver who floats high in the water can see further and is more
visible to others. All of our test team were properly weighted and
were using correctly sized jackets when we measured the distance
from the waterline to their lower lip with their Accords inflated
as fully as was comfortable. Most BCDs squeeze a diver when fully
blown up and can restrict breathing. The Accord minimises this by
using an elasticated cummerbund and chest closure that lets the
bag inflate away from the diver's body. Distances were 13cm (5 in)
to 19cm (7in) across the group. Testing was conducted using a single
alloy 2400l/80cft tank.
Our team, who typically spent a couple of minutes on the surface
with their Accords inflated while awaiting pick-up, were also asked
to assess stability. Ideally, a jacket will keep a diver upright
without forcing him to expend energy fighting a tendency to pitch
forwards or backwards. Our team's overall scores for surface flotation
were one Poor, one Adequate and two Goods. It is important to realise
that correctly positioning the scuba tank and weights has a huge
influence on a diver's balance, affecting trim both underwater and
at the surface. Scores may reflect whether all the team were aware