Zhik R&D manager Tom Hussey says there’s no tougher a sport for testing the waterproofness and durability of modern technical clothing than offshore racing
In the past decade Zhik has listened carefully to the wants and needs of the world’s best smallboat sailors, with Zhik the gear of choice for many of the sailors at Rio 2016 including all the team members of three of the most successful nations: Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The gold and silver medallists in the dynamic 49er class – Pete Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) and Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) respectively – are among the better-known names who have been wearing Zhik for many years now.
Test fabrics are made into pockets that contain a control ‘test ball’. These fabric pockets are then placed in a rotating drum that simulates impacts against hard edges and also flat surfaces covered with non-slip grip. Test balls are shaped to simulate the parts of the body and other hard objects that impact a boat through the fabric
R&D manager Tom Hussey says, ‘When we started making neoprene garments back in the early days of the company, it was amazing what sailors were prepared to put up with. Or rather, they didn’t have much choice because most of the wetsuits available had been developed for surfers or athletes from other sports. For sailing they were pretty clunky, heavy and inflexible. Since then we’ve listened carefully to the world’s best and most demanding sailors to give them what they need, to create garments that are warmer, drier, lighter and more durable than what had previously been available.’
Recently Hussey and the team at Zhik have started to ask the same searching questions about offshore gear. ‘The goal was to produce the toughest, most durable kit that we could; it needed to outperform existing kit from rival brands. Read on.