We spotted a lot of our favourite brands out on the water, with popular choices being Musto, Gill and Gul. However, after chatting to the sailors onshore, it became apparent that the clear winner is Zhik. The performance sailing brand was consistently praised for its high-quality kit, providing a better fit and superior comfort. An example of this is the Microfleece V 1mm Neoprene Long Sleeve Top. With super stretch panelling, enhanced shoulder stretch and 3D body-mapped fit, it’s easy to see why it’s a favourite – alongside being comfortable and flexible, the close fit helps to reduce windage when up on the foils.
Catching up with Kyle Stoneham, who has been organising this year’s event on top of training to race in it, a game changer has been the improvements to impact protection. Anyone who’s ever been flung into a shroud will be familiar with the killer bruises they can leave, and as sailing technology improves and boats get even faster, the risk of injury is increasing. If you watch a few minutes of the footage from yesterday’s racing, you’ll see the speeds these sailors are travelling and how spectacular the pitchpoles and catapults are. The same risks are present in a range of performance classes, such as skiffs and other trapezing boats.
To protect against this, Kyle recommends using the Musto D30 Impact Technology, which is essentially gel padding that will flex with your body’s movements but will harden on impact, to provide the protection when you need it. The Musto Foiling Sunblock Impact Long John and the Foiling Sunblock Impact Top have pockets in strategic places, such as the hips, shins and over your kidneys, where you can insert the D30 Recoil Pads to reduce the risk of injury.
Similar technology has been used by Gul in their Code Zero Elite Impact Wetsuit, which uses biokinetic inserts with the most advanced technology for superior impact protection and minimal interference. Zhik has produced their Kollition Pants as well, which has pockets on the hips, knees and shins. The pads come included with the pants, and you can opt to wear them on their own or over a wetsuit for added protection in the colder months.
As well as the protection from injury, a key feature for wetsuits or long johns stressed by the Moth sailors was the grip, particularly on the seat. Stuart Bithell, who’ll be joining Dylan Fletcher in the 49er for the Tokyo Olympics next year, says his Musto skiff suit has the best grip out of any of the suits he’s tried, which is essential for staying put in tricky conditions – you’ll spot in the video footage a few sailors sliding straight off their boats. He admitted in winter it can be necessary to sacrifice the grip for a warmer wetsuit, though. You'll can shop Musto wetsuits here.
Of course, the other place where grip is essential is on your hands. A good pair of gloves will be useful for sailors at all levels, from dinghies to yacht sailing, for protection as well as grip. Interestingly, Bithell much prefers the cheaper style of gloves that are designed to be worn and replaced regularly. Though they don’t last long, he praised the grip as being far superior to pricier options. Gill and Crewsaver both offer this style of glove at a very reasonable price – Crewsaver offer a 5-pack of the Response Grip Glove for the savvy shopper, and the Gill Grip Glove can be customised by cutting them to size if you prefer a short finger glove.
For the upper body, though neoprene is favoured for cooler temperatures, a popular choice is to wear a rash vest over the top of the buoyancy aid, as this reduces windage as well as preventing your buoyancy aid getting snagged on any boat parts. Long sleeves were popular, as they provide a little protection from the windchill without increasing the windage of the sailor, as a spray top would. Bithell pointed out though that, as a crew, he prefers shorter sleeves, as this keeps the forearms free.
Yesterday, more than a few of the racers admitted that it was more like survival sailing than racing at times, and they were pushing their kit to the absolute limits. After such a wild start, it’ll be exciting to see how the rest of the racing plays out over the next few days at the Nationals, then the Worlds, then the Olympics for a couple of them…
All photos by Mark Jardine / IMCA UK
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