Rio Olympics: Australian Sailing Team Will Wear 'Revolutionary' New Fabric

08/03/2016 3:29 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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True story. Not a hoax. Our Olympic sailors won't get wet at the Rio Olympics or any other place they wear their fancy new competition gear.

It's all thanks to a special new fabric called "Avlare". According to the blurb, the "hydrophobic" fabric "actually prevents them from getting wet, thereby significantly reducing their water weight and keeping them shielded them from the elements".

Gear that actually can't get wet. Wow. Sounds amazing. But does it really work?

At an event at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on Tuesday, this happened.

olympic sailors

OK, this stuff had better bloody work.

Afterwards, the two athletes looked like this.

olympic sailors

Woohoo! Now if they could only make hair in this fabric...

So yeah, you'd have to say it does work. The gear is made by Zhik (pronounced "Zike" as in "bike"). Zhik is to sailing wear what well known brands like Rip Curl are to the surfing industry. Its CEO Brian Conolly told The Huffington Post Australia that the company employs just under 50 people and took three years to bring the dream of completely "hydrophobic" gear to reality.

Mr Conolly was understandably tight-lipped about the technology associated with Avlare, which is a trade secret. But he did say he talked to a lot of experts and engaged several "fantastic research institutes in Australia".

"We like to rip apart problems from first principles and think about them all over again," Mr Conolly said of the Avlare project.

"Sometimes the hardest thing is knowing what the problem is even when it's in your face. We had a situation where we're all swimming in lycra and getting wet. Then someone said 'what if we didn't get wet'?"

Brian Conolly says Avlare gear could be available in stores for sailors and other water sports enthusiasts as soon as May or June this year. What we know for sure is that Olympians are pretty pleased about it.

"Sport is in the mind and when you feel like you have the best equipment, it gives you that psychological edge," said Olympic sailor Will Ryan at Tuesday's gear launch and team announcement event.

Ryan is now one of six athletes already confirmed in Australia's Rio sailing squad which could number as many as 14. Two other athletes named on Tuesday were Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, who will race in a really fast double-hulled class of boat called Nacra 17. Jason and Lisa are the two Avlare guinea pigs pictured above.

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Will Ryan (left) alongside Matthew Belcher, who won gold at London in the 470 class. Ryan is Belcher's new partner.

Australia won three gold medals and a silver medal in sailing at London 2012. You'd have to think the medal run won't dry up in Rio, even if our sailors' clothing does.

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