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Keeping it cool for the Tokyo Games - what are the sailors wearing?

by Liz Rushall 21 Jul 2021 13:00 PDT
Zhik XWR Pro tops, as worn by Tess Lloyd and Jaime Ryan © Beau Outteridge

Wearing the right technical sailing gear for managing heat has never been so important.

For the sailors competing at Enoshima Bay for the Tokyo Olympic sailing regatta, it is the culmination of many years of training and World Class regattas. Months of boat prep, rig testing, fitness and race prep all coming to a head at the big event.

How to keep a cool head and stay cool afloat in extremely hot and humid conditions?

To the extent that the Tokyo event will be an environment where you are always hot and sweaty, some athletes have taken to wearing ice jackets to keep cool. Add to that exceptionally warm sea temperatures, the potential for overcast and rainy days whilst still staying hot and you can see why some sailors are doing their fitness training in the equivalent of a green house.

The sailors 'Go To' lightweight skiff suits

Australian brand Zhik specialises in performance gear for all extremes - from the foulest of weather to the warmest, where heat and moisture management are critically important. Given the conditions for competing at the Games, two high performing nations have selected Zhik's lightest of wetsuits.

Sailors in the New Zealand Sailing Team and Australian Sailing Team are unanimous in their love of the Zhik Microfleece skiff suit. This 1mm wetsuit is made with a 4-way-super stretch neoprene for high manoeuvrability and a thin, fast drying Hydrobase inner fleece liner which wicks moisture and is soft and comfortable against the skin for endurance wear.

Multiple 470 World Champion, Matt Belcher explains, "The Zhik Microfleece Skiff Suit is my 'Go To' wetsuit. Being in Australia where it's warm temperatures, you can wear that day-in, day-out, 7 days a week. It's super comfortable - I can be in it for 5 or 6 hours and it still feels comfortable. For me it is such a cool piece of kit."

Microfleece Skiff Suits are designed with 3D body mapped panels to create the most comfortable fit possible. With uber abrasion resistant ZhiktexTM II fabric on the knees and seat for great durability, Ziband silicone leg seals to prevent water ingress, Zhik's patented waterproof loo-rip access (men's suits) and even a discreet side pocket, it's a great all-round suit.

"I love the Zhik Microfleece", comments Australia's Foiling Nacra 17 representative Lisa Darmanin, "just because it's so comfortable to wear and you can wear it pretty much across all the ranges."

Yet all the sailors recognise that dressing for the Tokyo conditions requires for a choice of even lighter wetsuits in their kit bags.

Zhik's Hybrid Skiff Suit and Pants (leggings) are designed for sailors to stay competitive in high temperatures. Made with a super stretchy and breathable Spandex they have additional Spandex mesh panels strategically located for added comfort.

Extremely lightweight, with UPF 50+ treatment to keep the sun off, the Hybrid range also uses Zhiktex II fabric to reinforce the knees and seat area. As with the Microfleece suits, they are constructed with the same 3D body mapped fit and high stretch, non-itch flatlock seams.

Lisa Darmanin adds, "Tokyo is going to be very warm, so I've got a lot of Zhik Spandex tops and some Hybrid wetsuits packed too."

The lightest of suits ordered up by the Sailing Teams is the Zhik Avlare® Skiff Suit. Avlare is an extremely water repellent fabric originally developed for the Zhik Teams competing at the Rio Games in 2016.

Now available as a Skiff Suit using the same design and construction as all Zhik's wetsuits, it is one quarter of the weight of wet Spandex, making it a super lightweight gear choice.

The fabric is so highly water repellent that water just beads up and rolls off. For extreme hot and humid conditions where you simply need to stay cool, these suits offer the sailors a great alternative. The fabric is highly breathable, yet highly windproof reducing any chance of wind and water chill, along with also offering UPF 50+ sun protection.

Australia's 49er FX representative, Jaime Ryan says, "In my Tokyo kit bag, it's going to be really hot over there, so I'll be wearing Zhik's lightest wetsuits on the water, and on shore I use the Zhik UVActive tops to keep the sun off as well."

UV sun protection tops

To protect their upper body when the breeze is up the Teams have chosen the XWR Pro Tops. Another highly technical, water shedding fabric, made from a super lightweight, very high stretch polyester, the XWR Pro Tops have a low windage cut and offer excellent cover up from spray and sun. It's durable water repellent properties prevents water droplets getting absorbed so spray simply sheds off the fabric and the UPF 50+ fabric protects your skin too.

Zhik's range of Spandex Tops are another 'Go To' item for many of the Olympians for hot weather sailing when you just don't mind getting wet.

One of Zhik's signature ranges, these popular lightweight tops are available in long sleeve and short sleeve tops with neck protection in men's and women's sizes and as a unisex vest top.

Made with a lightweight, durable, silky smooth and stretchy Spandex fabric, the tops are highly breathable and also have UPF 50+ protection from harmful UV rays, soft flatlock stitching that doesn't itch with prolonged wear in salt water. Another favourite of Lisa Damanin who says, "I love the Spandex tops as well and am testing some Eco friendly ones. It's really cool Zhik are trying to do more Eco-friendly equipment."

R&D at the Games

As the Official Apparel Supplier to the Australian Olympic Team and long-term partner of the NZL Sailing Team, inevitably there are other high performance products being developed for specific sailors and classes. Laser sailor, Matt Wearn is trialling an evolution of the Microfleece Hikers. These incorporate breathable neoprene panels for temperature management in Tokyo as well as compression bands to support hiking hard and reduce muscle fatigue.

The next iteration of Zhik's Kollition impact protection range is also being trialled using a new cut-proof technology. This development range uses specialist yarns from a leading fabric mill to create a unique composite material that combines cut-resistance, thermal regulation and body protection. Zhik are working closely with local Universities and the Olympic athletes in this first step in a long-term project to create the most versatile and safest sailing gear on the market.

"...keep your head when all about you are losing theirs..."

To top it off and ensure they keep a cool head during the regatta Jaime and Lisa also have their favourite head gear. Jaime opts for the Zhik Visor for racing.

"I cannot live without the Zhik Visor on a race day. It keeps the water out of my eyes, the sun out of my eyes and I can't function without it!"

Whilst one of Lisa's favourites is for between races and on shore. "My final Zhik thing I love is the big Broad Brim Hat - because I spend so many hours doing boat work having good head protection is key." #MadeForWater

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