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Musto's no-compromise approach to Flexlite Alumin wetsuits

by Mark Jardine 21 Aug 2018 11:00 UTC
British Sailing Team - Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images

We spoke to Shane Rhone, the Sailing Design Manager at Musto, about their wetsuit range, from their entry-level garments to the top-of-the-range Flexlite Alumin items. Their versatility and modular nature covers possibly every activity you may be doing on the water.

Flexlite Alumin doesn't look like a standard wetsuit. The thickness, the look, the feel and the design are far removed from what we're used to in sailing.

Firstly, Shane explained how they've managed to make a wetsuit which is so thin yet still provides the warmth needed in colder temperatures.

"We have an exclusive technology - we're the only sailing brand in the world to have Flexlite Alumin. Compared to a standard neoprene three-layer product, (a sheet of neoprene is bonded between two fabrics, the outer fabric must be durable and robust, the inner fabric must have different insulating properties depending on end use), Alumin is the fourth layer which sits between the neoprene and the inner fabric. What that does is regulate body temperature, keeping you warmer for a lot longer. This means the product is 2.5mm thick, and the warmth benefit is the equivalent of wearing a 4mm to 4.5mm standard wetsuit.

"Flexlite Alumin is a premium grade neoprene which has been paired with an exceptionally high performance thermal backer which also has quick drying functionality, so you have the warmth, combined with the benefits of a much lighter, supple wetsuit, which in an active sport such as sailing is a hugely appreciated."

Musto are the Official Clothing Supplier to the British Sailing Team and the feedback has been superb from the sailors as they train and race in a variety of conditions around the world:

"We have a fantastic quote from one of the sailors who said we were, 'Setting a new standard in Dinghy Racing'. After all the work we've put in, getting this feedback was incredible. Nobody on the water wants to feel cold, so we produced a product which was lighter to maximise their activity and comfort, ultimately, that's why they love it."

Many of the modern boats are extremely physical, and some of the bigger boats such as the GC32 foiling catamarans see all the crew now in wetsuits or similar kit. Nick Houchin, International Marketing Manager for Sailing, explains how Musto are now working with these classes as well:

"We're working with Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar team who sail on the M32s and he's a big fan of this collection. Richard Mason races on the GC32s actively on Team Malizia and he's actively championing this range to his fellow professional sailors."

This progression in wetsuit technology isn't just the preserve of top-end sailors. One of the barriers to participation in sailing has been the discomfort of climbing into a thick and unwieldy wetsuit. These new Musto wetsuits are comfortable, thin and don't restrict your movement, helping those new to the sport feel more in their element.

"Some products such as wetsuits have a stigma, because 'that's how they've always been'. When technologies and fabrications move on, advances are made – as soon as you step into a new Musto wetsuit you feel the difference," said Shane.

Many sailors are now living an active watersports lifestyle and expect their clothing to work across stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, kiteboarding and sailing, and the Flexlite Alumin has the 'look' of a lifestyle product.

"This is no accident!" laughs Shane. "When we looked at fabrications and face fabrics we wanted to make this clearly a different product. We think aesthetically this looks awesome with its flecked face for crossover appeal."

Freedom of movement is key across the entire Musto wetsuit range and the shape developed for the pinnacle Flexlite Alumin kit is maintained throughout, all the way to the entry-level wetsuits.

"We took a sailor out with us to the factory and proceeded to draw lines all over him in every position he could be, just to make sure there were no seams in stress areas. We've used this design throughout our range, so our entry-level products benefit from the work we've done with the British Sailing Team and other top sailors. The only difference is the grade of material - as your demands increase you can move up the range," Shane explained.

This means that once you have your Musto wetsuit, you can move up the range knowing that the design will work for you and what to expect.

Around the wetsuit range are several accessory items, such as ThermoLIFT which allows layering in any temperature as Shane describes:

"We wanted the wetsuit range to be as versatile as possible, and combined with ThermoHOT, ThermoCOOL and ThermoLIFT people can use the wetsuits in any conditions; ThermoHOT is for when it's going to be very cold – our 4mm neoprene products, ThermoCOOL is our 1.5mm neoprene product for sailing in hot conditions, and ThermoLIFT is our non-neoprene product. You can have your base wetsuit and then dress up or down depending on the conditions."

As the sport of sailing gets faster, the potential for injury increases, and Musto have addressed that with D3O impact protection pads, D30 is used across many disciplines including motorsport as they offer maximum protection. The Musto foiling range wetsuits have pockets in strategic positions for these D30 pads.

"D3O is military-grade impact protection and is in the majority of motorcycle jackets, so we have partnered with the world-leader in impact protection. The development process on this has been very long, working with America's Cup teams, and required a huge number of changes to get it just right. We have spine, hip, shoulder, elbow, forearm, knee and shin protection. We have a very simple pocket system and you easily slide in the D3O protection pads that you need.

"You can buy the D3O pads as a pack or separately, depending on what type of sailing you're doing," explains Nick, "You might find that your shins are more at risk; the Nacra sailors in particular wear them around their knees and shins. The D3O provides that protection by almost solidifying on impact, but when in normal use it's soft, supple and lightweight – the sailors forget they're wearing the pads."

Finally, Musto have also innovated on the reinforcing areas as Shane explains, "We were already using a great reinforcing, but the top-level Olympic sailors showed us that there was room for improvement, so we went back to the drawing board. We upgraded the foiling and Flexlite Alumin ranges with a Kevlar weave reinforced neoprene on the seat, knees and shins."

Musto have returned to their roots and Nick is rightly proud of the brand's heritage, "When Keith Musto won an Olympic silver medal in 1964 he left the games happy, but realised he potentially could have won gold if he had better kit to wear. Ever since then Musto has been driven by innovation and no compromise is made in order to help sailors perform at their best."

All-in-all the Musto wetsuit range works across the temperature range, a range of watersports and can incorporate impact protection – versatile indeed.

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