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Musto Focuses On How Warmth And Comfort Affect Performance With All-New HPX Collection

Credit: Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing / The Ocean Race

As the teams competing in The Ocean Race 2022-23 move out of the cold waters of the Southern Ocean and head into the balmier climes of the South Atlantic, #TeamMusto competitors 11th Hour Racing Team have reflected on how the cold affects the performance of sailors, both physiologically and psychologically.

Extreme cold, and at worse, hypothermia, has a huge effect on the body and impacts the ability to stay safe, and be competitive, at sea,” said  Paul Wilson, Team Physiotherapist, 11th Hour Racing Team.

A dramatic drop in core- temperature diverts warm blood to the body’s core and makes moving, communicating, and coordination harder, all key skills required for operating as a team in a race situation.

Sailors on a boat that might be behaving like a ‘bucking broncho’ on the waves are more likely to get injured if their muscles are cold, and recovery is then slower and more problematic.

Manual dexterity diminishes, making operating around the boat more difficult, and once cold it is much harder to warm up on a racing IMOCA with no heaters.

And it isn’t just physical performance that is affected, as Anje-Marijcke Van Boxtel, Team Coach, 11th Hour Racing Team explains, “The nature of a long offshore race is that even the best-prepared crew will experience tough physical and mental conditions.

Extreme cold, when endured for a prolonged period, has been shown to affect the working of the neo-cortex [the outer layer of the brain which regulates thinking processes and impedes impulsive behaviour].

When it is put under stress by low body temperature, its functions reduce, alertness reduces, and impulsive behaviour increases.  Less time is taken to make informed decisions and so riskier decisions are often reached. 

On a racing yacht where the surroundings are ever-changing and complex situations arise suddenly, it is vital that sailors make very smart and safe decisions, which is a challenging balance, constantly monitoring and adapting to unexpected changes or uncertainty. Keeping warm keeps you comfortable, and in the Southern Ocean, that’s a luxury!” she concluded.

The design team at Musto took all this into consideration over the three years of intensive research, innovation, and development of the new HPX Collection.

Feedback from #TeamMusto ambassadors was a vital part of the process with 11th Hour Racing Team and fellow ambassadors, Sam Davies and Jérémie Beyou testing and reviewing the kit.

The fabrics were also put through their paces over 40,000 nautical miles by professional Clipper Race Skippers on the previous edition of the race.

Lucy Davies, Musto Sailing Designer, said, “We went to great lengths to ensure all layers of the HPX system work seamlessly together to ensure end-user comfort. We put a lot of emphasis on the breathability of fabrics, especially within the insulated middle layers, to ensure vapour can move freely between layers and isn’t trapped inside.

This can create internal dampness, which in a cold environment causes additional cooling and feels very uncomfortable. Adding in gloves and socks keeps extremities warm and dry and the ambassador feedback showed they really helped sailors performing manual tasks where dexterity was required.

And the results speak for themselves, as Charlie Enright, Skipper of the 11th Hour Racing Team, commented: “We have been really impressed with the flexibility that the HPX system offers. We are fastidious about keeping our body temperature regulated as it is so hard to warm up onboard if you get cold.

When we are inside,  the base and mid layers are really comfortable and warm to work and sleep in. We all have our favourite pieces and live in the combination that works best for us.

On deck, the smocks and trousers keep us dry while being easy to manoeuvre around in, which means we can focus all our energies on the racing.

The work we have done with Musto has paid off; the kit has performed in the hardest test and the thought of wearing anything inferior…. I don’t even want to think about it!

See Charlie Enright and 11th Hour Racing Team co-founder, Mark Towill,  talk Musto HPX and sailing The Ocean Race2022-23 here.