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Zhik - Gear for the sharp end of winter keel boat racing

by Ben Gladwell on 9 May 2013
Ben Gladwell, bowman V5 - 2013 Auckland Cup, Day 3. The transition from summer to winter racing needs some very high quality sailing gear © Richard Gladwell www.richardgladwell.com

Since its inception in 2003, Zhik has developed and expanded to be one of the preeminent brands in on-the-water sailing apparel.

Sailing journalist, Ben Gladwell (NZL), as well as being forward hand on an 18fter, is also regular foredeck crew aboard top TP52, V5, sailing out of Auckland, New Zealand. Their notable wins in 2012 included first monohull in the tempestuous Auckland Noumea race, and again in the 2012 Coastal Classic.

With the Short Handed Series coming up in Auckland and the Fiji Race just a few weeks away, maybe it is time to think about your sailing gear. Ben has been using Zhik gear on both the 18fter and the TP52. Here's what he looks for to stay as dry and warm as possible, while still being able to work in some very awkward situations.

The bow of a TP 52 is hardly the driest place on earth, so unless you like spending your day sailing around in soaking shorts and a t-shirt, having some decent kit is really important, especially heading into winter.

Zhik’s ISOTAK range of wet weather gear is ideal for keelboat racing, regardless of your position on the boat. If you are at the wet end, the REZISEAL smock, is pretty hard to go past. Like the rest of the ISOTAK range, it is made from the latest monolithic membrane, with immunity to salt degradation and ultru-durable pads on high stress areas. The ISOTAK material is lightweight and means that movements don’t feel cumbersome or restricted.

What makes the REZISEAL smock a standout for me is the seals themselves. Instead of being latex, like the seals used by other brands, these are much more resilient to UV, so the smock doesn’t need to be sent off to have the seals replaced because they have started to perish.

Another great feature of this smock is the large chest pocket, which closes with Velcro. Pockets such as these are normally found on much bulkier 'ocean' grade smocks but are perfect for inshore sailing as well. They are easy to access in a hurry with one hand (instead of trying to stuff a hand through a small opening in a zip somewhere) and give you enough room to hold multiple sail-ties, lashings or what ever else you might need to get your hands on in a rush.

For both inshore racing and offshore the ISOTAK salopettes are a great option. They provide more coverage area than standard overalls, so can be worn without a jacket if the conditions don’t mean that you are threatened by a wave trying to dive down the back of your neck. Once again, they are light and moving around doesn’t feel at all restricted.

As it gets colder, thermals and mid layers become more crucial. Zhik has some top kit to wear underneath your foul weather gear when it gets chilly. Their HYDROMERINO thermals are made from super fine merino wool, which has natural odour reducing properties and automatically wicks away moisture from your skin.

So even if you start sweating, you’ll stay comfortable and people wont mind sitting next to you. The big feature with the thermals is the extra length in the body section of the top. This means that even when you bend over, you wont get that frustrating little patch of cold lower back or midriff skin – which is so difficult to cover up without stripping off all your other gear.

For wearing on top of the thermals, Zhik has the ZFLEECE midlayer. This is cut specifically to be worn as a midlayer beneath the ISOTAK jacket or smock, so it fits perfectly with the collar lining up with that of the top layer jackets.

Two great features are the full-length zip, which makes getting into and out of the fleece nice and easy, and the extra length in the sleeves, which ensures that it doesn’t ride up when extending your arms.

When it comes to sailing gear, aesthetics are just as important as functionality. And Zhik’s range of ZKG footear ticks both boxes. Their street-shoe-style sailing shoes are available in a range of fashionable colours and are integrated with high performance materials to make the the ideal show for stepping from the boat into the bar.

The upper section is constructed from neoprene, so is light and keeps your feet warm even when wet and the perforations allow for drainage and rapid drying. The grippy sole is very supple, making the shoes comfortable and easy to wear for an entire day on the water.



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