Zhik's new Ocean range put to the test on ANZ Auckland Fiji Race

Ben Gladwell in the full Zhik Ocean Kit aboard Pretty Fly III in the early morning of the Sydney Goldcoast race
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Sailing upwind for 800 miles in 20-40 knots of wind is a pretty good test for any wet weather gear.

Zhik’s Ocean range of kit, which included Isotak Ocean foul weather gear, Hydrobase base layers, and ZK seaboots, passed as though it was a day sail on the harbour.

The ANZ Sail Fiji race from Auckland to Denarau, Fiji, served up some miserable conditions. Below decks with bilge water flying, at times I was wetter in my bunk than I was on deck in my new kit.

Two of the Zhik testing team at work - Ben Gladwell on the bow of V5, and Blair Tuke down aft, alongside the helmsman- 2014 ANZ Fiji Race

Zhik’s Isotak Ocean range not only competes with, but far surpasses the waterproof durability of the leading names in wet weather clothing. The fabric is highly waterproof and breathable, while being four times more durable than equivalent Gore-tex fabrics.

Being waterproof is obviously pretty key for offshore gear, but comfort is just as important. The Ocean gear is extremely light and supple, making it easy to manoeuvre around the boat when fatigued. It is much better in this regard than other brands of gear I've worn.

Ben Gladwell in the full Zhik Ocean Kit aboard Pretty Fly III in the early morning of the Sydney Goldcoast race
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For your top half, Zhik offer a smock, with their Resizeal latex seals at the wrists and neck. This is ideal for high-performance yachts, or boats that see a lot of water over the deck – particularly for those crews who spend any time on the foredeck. The absence of zips and the tight seals mean that it is harder to get the smock on and off, but a minute of struggle is well worth hours of those annoying dribbles of water that crawl down the back of your neck or up your wrists. Zhik also makes a jacket for those who prefer the ease of a full length front-zipper and Velcro neck and wrist seals.

Personally, I prefer the smock for dryness, and it offers a large chest pocket for storing food, sail ties, cameras or whatever else you need quick to hand.

Nice features of the jacket and smock include a pocket on the shoulder, which is suitable for storing a personal EPIRB, should you find yourself swimming. It is clear that a lot of time has gone into the design of the shape of these products. The sleeves are nicely tapered so that there is no unnecessary room around the forearms and cuffs - you certainly don’t feel like a little kid wearing one of your parent’s shirts!

The collar is lined with Zhik's Hydrobase fabric which pulls water away from the skin allowing it to dry very quickly and making it comfortable against the skin, even when salty. It doesn't not tug at beard hairs, either. The collar/hood setup is well thought-out so that you can hide away from the elements, and there is a well-placed piece of Velcro for quick-stowage of the hood.

Zhik’s new ZK Boots
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The trousers have benefited from the same design time and have a nice long zip, which makes using the loo an easy process, even when wearing a climbing harness. The trousers are comfortable and feature two large thigh-pockets. Having two pockets might not sound like a huge deal, but it is nice to be able to dedicate one to sailing-bits and the other to personal items like a camera.

As a base layer, the Hydrobase is without peer. I have yet to wear something that combines warmth, comfort, and quickness of drying in such a way. They stayed comfortable and dried rapidly, after the odd occasion that I copped a splash without wearing anything waterproof. The fabric is very stretchy and hugs the skin pleasantly to keep you even warmer.

Usually, sea boots are clumpy and difficult to walk around in and cost a fortune. Zhik has changed this with their new ZK seaboot. They have incorporated the ultra-grippy sole from the ZKG deck shoes into a sealed waterproof neoprene boot that is light, supple and comfortable.

No longer do you feel like you are wearing steel-toed workman’s boots while trying to work on a sloping deck. Zhik's Hydromerino inner lining combines merino and quick-drying polyester fibres to provide natural odour control, moisture management and warmth. The upper and inner sole have been specifically developed to provide maximum support, whilst maintaining flexibility and dexterity. The boot provides ultimate grip and protection, and at AU$300 / NZ$369 they are great value.

When sailing in the tropics, I did notice that it was worth changing socks every couple of days to reduce the effect of feet sweating.

All factors considered Zhik's Ocean range is a very impressive set of gear that will become the new offshore standard.

Ben Gladwell is one of Zhik's testing team, they wear the Zhik supplied gear in major events, then return it to Zhik for further Analysis and report on their experience with the kit to Zhik's product development and design team.

Gladwell sailed the ANZ Auckland Fiji Race on the TP52 V5, which was the second monohull home, and first of the very competitive 50fter fleet. He also recently sailed in the Sydney - Gold Coast race aboard the Cookson 50 - Pretty Fly III.

On both boats he was bowman - the wettest position on the boat.

Another Zhik testing team member, Peter Burling - aboard Wired - 2014 ANZ Fiji Race