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Musto wetsuits and D3O Impact Protection Pads prove their worth in the Nacra 17

by Mark Jardine, 1 Oct 2018 12:00 BST
British Sailing Team's John Gimson & Anna Burnet in Palma © Lloyd Images / RYA spoke to British Sailing Team Olympic Nacra 17 sailors during World Cup Series Enoshima: John Gimson, Anna Burnet and Ben Saxton. Unfortunately, Ben's crew Nikki Bonniface was unavailable with a shoulder injury.

Mark Jardine: John, what has the move into the Nacra 17 been like for you?

John Gimson: We had anticipated we'd have a full foiling boat, so we spent a lot of the time we were in Bermuda with Artemis sailing Nacra 20s and other full foiling platforms. When we got the Nacra 17 it wasn't quite the reality; it does foil downwind, and it can foil upwind, but only in a very low mode, and it ventilates easily [foils lose lift]. It's a much more challenging boat to sail than what we first thought it would be.

Mark: When I spoke with Ben Saxton at the RYA Dinghy Show, he said how upwind, if you decide to foil, you'll find yourself on a reach before long! How do you find the right modes?

John: I think a lot of it now, in mine and Anna's eyes, is that we've got an upwind foiling mode, but you're only going to use it if you want to bank something. We know we are quite vulnerable if we do use that mode. You pick the times when to do it, when you can see a definite gain, rather than just going off into oblivion.

Mark: That's exactly how Ben described it: "going off into oblivion". Anna, can you tell me what the loads are like in the Nacra 17?

Anna Burnet: There are pretty high loads on the mainsheet. Particularly downwind when you're foiling. It is hard work, although I wouldn't say it was much more than the old 17 before it was foiling.

Mark: So how do you split the roles on the boat, when you're sailing with John?

Anna: Well...

John: In a nutshell: Anna does everything!

Anna: It depends on the conditions and how much each of us have got on. Say it's not so windy and I'm sitting in the boat and it's not very physical, that gives me more opportunity to look out, whilst John is more 'head in' trying to keep us going fast. That switches around as the wind increases as I'm moving around a lot to stop us ventilating the foils. It changes all the time.

Mark: It's not a stable boat, and it's tricky keeping it in the mode you want. How are you finding keeping it in that groove and moving?

Anna: In flat water it's reasonably easy, and you can keep on top of it with body movement and small sheet adjustments. A lot of it comes down to working well together, knowing what each other are doing. Don't upset the flow! One of you may make a movement and need the other to phase in. We're dialled in enough now that we're pretty locked together. In waves it is a whole different ball game.

Mark: But at Enoshima you've got a venue with a lot of waves! Ben, how do you deal with that?

Ben Saxton: That's one of the things we've got to learn. The waves seem steeper than average out here and on the flat days there is enough underlying swell to catch you out. It's a good, tricky place to sail.

Mark: Apart from the waves, what are your impressions of the venue as a whole?

Ben: I think it's good as there is a mix of conditions; that's my first impression. The locals are great. It's nice to be somewhere organised, tidy and clean. You also have the politest culture of people too - it's lovely.

Mark: The Nacra 17 was already a bruising boat before it was a foiler. As you well know, it can really catch you out at times. How important is the impact protection in the kit you're wearing now?

Ben: Risking injury can have two major influences on a campaign. One, it can take out big blocks of training, and then it can hurt you during a regatta too. It is a class rule that we always wear helmets, even training, but we're wearing body armour too: some of us on our upper body, and a lot on the lower body. The boat is accelerating and stopping so quickly, it's really easy to smash something with your shin or knee because you've accidentally lost your footing. If you've got the foils coming at you it is nice to have a bit of padding.

Mark: I was talking recently to the team at Musto about the D3O pads and the pockets throughout the wetsuits, so you can decide where you want the impact protection. How useful is that feature?

Ben: Every time I go sailing Nikki and I are wearing the D3O impact protection pads; it has become part of what we do. Just like you don't ride a bike without a helmet, you don't go sailing without the D3O.

John: The kit has been really good out of the bag. We did chat a little about where we wanted the padding. Since you can choose where to add the pads, you don't have to wear any on a light wind days.

Mark: Did you find there were certain areas, certain pads, that were constantly saving the day on the bruising?

Anna: I don't ever go sailing without shin and knee pads now. In December I went out without pads and I ended up with my knee having seven stitches. Lesson learned. If I had used the D3O that day, my knee would have been fine. Definitely for me the shins and knees are the worst areas that take a beating. If you come off the foils, you go flying forwards and you end up going over the hull and into the dolphin striker.

Mark: How much does it differ sailing in smaller fleets, compared to the big fleets at Aarhus for the Worlds?

John: At Aarhus, the first half is qualifying, and you're just trying to get through in reasonable shape. The fleet is mixed up, but the cream rises to the top. You need to make sure you've not put yourself out of contention. Here you are straight into Gold fleet.

Ben: Here it is like a week of racing, whereas the Worlds was a week of qualifying, and then it's the weekend, and "go!".

Mark: Many thanks for all of your time. We wish Nikki a swift recovery from her injury.

Find out more about the Musto's wetsuit range at and the British Sailing Team at

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