DRY ARGUMENT: With a new set of decent wet weather gear costing around $2,500, Scott Alle offers some advice to carefully consider the wide range of choices available.
Safety is both an individual and boat management responsibility. Very few racing programs supply a full set of wet weather gear, so it's usually up to you to work out what best matches your needs.
I can speak from some experience here. First night out in the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart I was in first position on the rail of a Sydney 38 and my gear couldn't take the battering. In fact, at one stage I was sure a wetsuit would have been a better option as I seemed to be underwater half of the time.
The latest generation of breathable and flexible offshore jackets, overalls and trousers are a quantum advance of what used to be top-of-the line. Remember Line 7 from the late 8o's. These days the products are rugged, waterproof, quick drying and breathe to draw perspiration away from your body.
Each brand has its own patented fabric technology; Gore-Tex for Musto, Isotak for Zhik, 5-Dot for Gill, Helly Tech for Helly Hansen, while Henri Lloyd also uses GoreTex with Slide Glide tweaks. In the past I've owned Musto HPX and was grateful for every cent I invested in it. Currently, I've got a set of Zhik Isotak Ocean and it represents the very best utilisation of technology to keep the sneaky, mercurial ocean in its place.
* You will be putting on at least two, or possibly three layers of thermals underneath, so make sure you try on whatever you buy so you can move easily and complete any tasks--especially true for the fraternity of the bow and grinders
* The placement and types of pockets, the zips, is important--you need your hands to be free. How easy is it to get into the trousers especially and do up the velco straps--that can take precious minutes when you need to be up on deck
* Work out what's best for you--don't get coastal when what you really need is offshore --you will regret it later
Here's the latest ensembles to hopefully to make your time out water more enjoyable.
Musto has just launched its the new BR? Offshore range, renown for its durability and comfort, with a series of additions allowing for added comfort, visibility and protection as the nre-hose gets turned-up.
The BR2 Offshore Jacket continues to improve on a trusted design with double cuffs, an adjustable hem and double storm flap including zip drainage channels. The rollaway fluorescent hood keeps the wearer protected whilst adding further flare to the slick new design. Comfort remains paramount, as with all Musto products, and the new BR? jacket includes articulated sleeves for freedom of movement, while the fleece-lined collar and fleece lined pockets add further warmth. Add in safety features such as prismatic reflectors for low light visibility.
The BR2 Offshore Trouser is breathable and durably waterproof, and ensures you remain warm and dry whilst able to move freely thanks to articulated seat and knee constructions. The hi-ht trousers are designed with wear resistant seat and knee patches and the water resistant pockets also ensure personal items remain safe and dry. Available in both men and women's sizes, in new colour schemes for 2017.
As mentioned I've had HPX kit before and it withstood a succession of Hobart encounters.
The unisex HPX GORE-TEX[R] Ocean Jacket provides waterproof and windproof protection, as well as enhanced durability and breathability through the 3-layer GORE-TEX[R] Pro fabric with its Ocean Technology[R] membrane and Gore[TM] Micro Grid Backer Technology
Stretch GORE-TEX[R] panels across the upper back and arms give you the freedom of movement for all jobs. Neoprene inner cuffs with adjustable outer cuffs claim to give you near drysuit protection. The abrasion-resistant CORDURA[R] on the seat adds durability and the photoluminescent reflectors help keep you visible at night moving around. musto.com.au
Zhik is proud of the lengths it goes to in its product development--and I can testify it pays off. Its design team distills extensive feedback from the world's top sailors to engineer superior waterproof durability and resistance while maintaining breathability in a multi-layered approach, from robust outer shells to feather-light base-layers.
Zhik quotes a 2016 independent Australia study showing that based on accelerated wea testing, its Isotak[R] fabrics were four times more waterproof durable than a leading competitor. It says that's the reason two of the five 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race teams have opted to undertake the gruelling endurance test wearing its gear.
It requested the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) pioneer a waterproof durability testing method specifically designed to simulate accelerated wear and tear in wet conditions, when the waterproof membrane is most vulnerable. The method involved placing waterproof textiles in an accelerated wear device that simulates impact and abrasion in wet conditions to determine waterproofness after defined intervals of accelerated wear. Zhik says results showed its Isotak product out-performed the industry benchmark by at least 4:1.
Prior to developing its Isotak range, Zhik listened to sailors explain how common shortfalls left them wet and wondering how their new gear could keep leaking and failing. The realisation that gear rubs on the deck while a sailor's on the rail, and takes a pounding at the knees and elbows informs new design parameters. Their designers also know that wet weather gear is commonly scrunched up in a bag if it's not taking punishment against cleats and stanchions, wave after wave, hour after hour.
In the tougher Isotak Ocean foul weather range, every material, construction process and feature has been selected to provide the toughest, lightest most durably waterproof ocean kit available. Isotak Ocean is a multi-layer highly breathable composite membrane fabric featuring 3 layer-seam sealed shell, a quick stow PDF compatible hood, ocean collar and ergonomie face shield, reflectors and YKK zippers and fast diying Hydrobase. zhik.com
Gill have overhauled their OSi range and potentially raised the bar with a 4-layer fabric which boasts a completely new outer shell. The result is what the brand says is the most durable waterproof garment its ever released.
The OS1 Jacket and Trousers are available in sizes for both men and women. The garments are made using the company's most durable 5-Dot high performance fabric, which is made up of an impressive four layers. The weight across the range has been reduced by 10 per cent for greater softness and flexibility, yet Gill says resistance to surface wear has increased by 15 per cent.
Director of Product Design, Matt Clark, said comfort has also been a major focus.
"The OS1 is our ultimate offshore sailing defence, and what we've done with this new generation is made extreme protection exceptionally comfortable to wear. Of all our enhancements, we're really proud of the fabric innovations. This really means something when you're making an ocean crossing. Rather than make a compromise, we've dialled up both comfort and durability." gillmarine.com
Henri Lloyd are the official suppliers to the Clipper Round the World Race so have had plenty of sea miles to hone the best combination of performance and comfort.
Henri Lloyd says its Elite Offshore Jacket and Hiftts are 3o per cent lighter and 30 per cent more breathable than best in class predecessors, dervived from technology with three years proven performance in the market.
The range's Slide glide technology reduces interlayer binding when used with the award winning Elite Therm mid layer garments. Features include the Optivision hood system allowing excellent peripheral vision, quick drying rentex mesh inner collar lining, fast draining outer pockets including lower dual cargo hand warmers.
Added protection from extreme weather ingress includes hook and loop external wrist adjusters, double storm flap with drainage channel, differential hem with shock cord adjustment. Safety features include fast draining EPIRB/knife pocket at left sleeve, buoyancy loops, reflective trim detail across upper body panel and sleeves, premoulded Photoluminescent reflective patches at shoulder, storm flap, cuffs and hood.
The jacket is configured for ease of movement and contoured to reduce windage.
These overalls feature a double storm flap with drainage channel, chest handwarmer pockets, self-fabric shoulder straps, diverted critical reinforcement seams to reduce wear and 500D Cordura seat and knee reinforcement.
Bat wing waist and hook and loop external ankle adjusters allow the wearer to tailor the Hifits to a perfect individual &t.
They are unlined to speed up drying time, reduce weight and reduce interlayer binding. All garments have two way non-corrosive zips.
Helly Hansen's lighter weight HP Foil Jacket is more suited to inshore racing. It's made from the company's well proven 3 ply Helly Tech fabric with a very soft lining for extra comfort. The cut also allows easy movement. The mid height collar keeps the wind off your ears, without the bulk of heavier offshore jackets.
The HP foil pant is low-waisted, making kneeling or bending or scrambling across a deck much easier. The fabric is 2 ply with a mesh lining to mitigate some of that nasty chafing that can occur. It has a reinforced seat, and thoughtfully placed pockets.
Caption: ULTIMATE TEST
Armel Le Cleach gives Musto's HPX Smock and HPX Salopettes a rigorous work-out.
Caption: HANDS FREE
Gill's OS1 range gets the tick for good pocket placement.
Caption: COMFORT ZONE
Helly Hansen's HP Foil Jacket and Pants are lighter weight but offer increased flexibility
Caption: USER FRIENDLY
Henri Lloyd's Elite Offshore Jacket features a handy EPIRB/knife pocket on the left sleeve.