The clothing is improving with every competition. But it will never be quite up to the extreme conditions experienced during the Volvo Ocean Race.
”The clothing has improved a great deal”, says Gurra Krantz, a professional sailor with a total of four Volvo Ocean Races and Whitbread Round the World Races behind him.
”But no clothing can cope with the environment one hundred percent."
Compared with past competitions, the crews’ clothing is lighter, more flexible and better at keeping the water out.
In the past, oilskins were made from non-porous materials. The benefit was that they were hardwearing, the disadvantage that they got damp from the inside. The only way to get rid of perspiration and condensation was to open the garments and let air in.
Modern materials can breathe. The fabrics are waterproof, but can also wick away moisture through the pressure difference. Put simply, moisture disappears since the temperature inside a jacket is higher than the temperature outside.
When Gore-Tex was launched, it created a minor revolution. Garments made from Gore-Tex are more breathable than any other. They are made up of three layers, with the Gore-Tex fabric acting as a membrane in the middle. Aboard the VO70 boats, all oilskins are made from Gore-Tex.
The oilskins now come in several different models, each suitable for a specific purpose. At the same time, details such as hoods, zips and cuffs have been improved. A waterproof rubber collar at the neck and rubber cuffs at the wrists are innovations which keep sailors a bit dryer.
"The neck cuff, in particular, makes a big difference", says Gurra Krantz.
"But it still isn't enough. Sailors get wet, from the inside or out. It is a wet environment, less wet than before, but still wet."
The crews’ clothing uses the three-layer principle. Undergarments which wick away moisture are worn next to the body. These are always made from some kind of artificial fibre.
Layer number two should keep the wearer warm, but still wick away moisture. The fabric used depends on the weather. Usually, it some form of fleece material, light or heavy as required.
The third and outermost layer is the oilskins. There are several different varieties, adapted to the weather and where on the boat the crewman is working.
The foredeck crew usually wear smocks with waterproof neck collars to withstand the constant drenching of the sea breaking over the bow. The smock does not have a zip and is pulled on over the head. The helmsman, on the other hand, does not move around a lot and can wear a longer, zipped jacket.
In addition to these garments, every member of the crew has a Gore-Tex survival suit, Gore-Tex boots, underpants and socks. One pair of everything, apart from possibly socks.
Spare clothes are not a priority. They add extra weight and take up space.
"The only important thing is that the clothes are effective. To be neat, clean and dry is not important", says Gurra Krantz.
"The focus is on coping well in wet conditions. If you expect your socks to be dry and warm, you will feel let down if they are only warm".
Fore pictures and more information concerning the Volvo Ocean Race, please go to http://www.volvooceanrace.org/multimedia/
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