Behind the scenes at Musto Australasia

Musto is known to be one of the biggest brands in the world for offshore racing gear. They are one of just two sailing brands that use Gore-Tex and are extremely competitive around the world. David Oliver, CEO Musto Australasia was on the pursuit for wet weather gear after his gear failed in a tough Sydney Hobart Race. Now he is part of the Musto International Design Team. We spoke to Oliver about Musto and their success in the marketplace.

Musto is one of the premium ocean racing brands, what sets you apart from the rest?

Engineering. Keith Musto is an engineer so when he set out to build a product they were made to solve a problem not just to look good or generate income for the company. When Musto make something they make it properly. Musto products help protect our customers from the most extreme sailing conditions and they have come to rely on this. One thing is for certain, our sailors are constantly keeping up-to-date with our technical innovation and product developments, leaving Musto’s credibility second to none.

Musto does all the merchandise for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, How much clothing do you sell during that time? And what is the most popular item?

December is the busiest month for Musto. We are very proud to be the official clothing partner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Our on site concept store at the CYCA is busy and our secret is that we select a large range of lifestyle apparel and accessories for men, women and children, we don’t just sell polo shirts and caps. We even have even designed a new mascot for this years race and will be selling this on site and online.

What do you find most sailors buy last minute before an ocean race?

Gore-Tex Sea Boots. A lot of people see these as luxuries until they increase their sea miles close to the event. Gore-Tex boots mean you won’t get cold feet end of story, so in the last week the luxury becomes the necessity. People often look at rubber or worse still neoprene boots which are a bit faddish at the moment but in the end after a couple of cold wet days on the water keeping warm becomes an attractive option.

What is the most important item in someone's gear bag for an ocean race?

A proper mid layer that is designed for your role on the boat. A lot of people think a mid-layer is just a one trick item but we make four different ones in different weights and fabrics. Such as our four-way stretch active mid layer which is thinner and lighter weight making it ideal for bowman or guys on the pumps.

What is your most popular product here in Australia

Our Evolution long sleeve polo. It is super popular as it is a technical cotton so it protects and breathes properly but looks and feels like cotton.

The Volvo Ocean Race has just announced their start date and the Vendée Globe has begun, what sort of gear are these sailors using?

They are pretty much all wearing HPX. At the speeds these boats go, you need a stiff enough fabric to keep the fabric off your skin and keep a warm layer but it has to breathe. The hardest thing is getting the balance right. Keeping the water out is one part but moving moisture off your body is an even harder thing. All brands approach this differently and most don’t have the technology to be able to do both. HPX works because it breathes. The funny thing at the moment is at the other end of the scale one brand is claiming at the moment to be 4x more waterproof than HPX but in offshore gear this is pointless as if it doesn’t breathe properly then what is the point. Wearing a plastic bag will keep water out but you would be soaked in sweat.

How does their feedback impact your R&D?

These races are our R&D. We trial new designs and new fabrics and get them hammered by the best guys around. This race edition we are looking at moisture vapor resistance of fabrics in particular.

How long does it take for a small change to get from the drawing board to the market place?

Every two years there is a full overhaul of each sailing range. 2017 will see a full relaunch of MPX.

We are trialing new fabrics and designs at the moment. We have an extensive R&D lab which can make a set of gear in house and have it out testing on the water pretty well same day.

This is done exhaustively and then it gets given to Gore to test. They will simulate years of wear and then put the gear through the rain room where they basically shoot water at it from all directions.

If it passes we can go to production and apply the guaranteed to keep you dry promise. If there are any leaks it is back to the drawing room. This year’s relaunch of HPX saw 17 tweaks to the jacket alone. One of our secrets to success is that we have the volume to be able to continually innovate. The offshore market is so small that many companies flog the same products for years and just can’t get critical mass to be able to bring on new refinements.

Musto does both sailing and horse riding apparel, is there any cross over between the two sports as far as technical clothing is concerned?

Absolutely. Keith Musto’s daughter rides so Keith spent a lot of time standing in wet paddocks and realised horse riding needs protection from the elements as well.

Just like in sailing breathability is the key word in riding as well so the development of key fabrics and designs closely mirrors what we do on the water.

What exciting things can we look forward to in the next 12 months?

The next exciting move from Musto will be into the dinghy market. We have always had a small range of dinghy products but watching what is happening in the market we have identified some real holes. We have put a lot of company resources into not only designing new innovative products but looking at the way things are made. There are some great looking products and designs in the market place but most of these are poorly engineered and overpriced. Our aim will be to bring our engineering skills to the table and fill a much needed void.

Because Australia has such a strong off the beach culture we have been heavily involved in this project and it has been a lot of fun.

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