Dinghy sailors in Australia have known about the high performance dinghy gear from a company named Zhik (rhymes with spike) for a while. Their counterparts in Europe found out about Zhik last year. Now Zhik gear is available in the United States through Annapolis Performance Sailing (www.apsltd.com), and if customer loyalty and marketing enthusiasm are any kind of indicator, it’ll probably do well.
“We’re trying to go about things differently,” says Brian Connoly, founder of Zhik. “We like to go to the boat park, get to know the athletes and their gear problems, and solve them with modern materials.” One of Zhik’s more interesting products is the ZhikGrip Hiking System, which has textured rubber on the underside of padded hiking straps and on the top of the ZhikGrip boots. When the sailor starts hiking, the two textured surfaces mesh together. That feature, combined with ankle straps adds significant foot support, and, says Connolly, allows dinghy sailors to hike harder and longer, and puts them more in touch with the boat.
“We think about the points where you’re in contact with the boat,” says Connolly. “We want sailors to feel the dynamics so they can sail faster because the boat is an extension of their body.” Zhik makes the boot/strap combination for many one-designs, including the 420, Laser, and Finn classes.
For now, Zhik builds gear strictly for dinghy racers, including wetsuits, hiking pants, gloves, and microfleece gear. If the expansion to the U.S. and European markets takes off, Connolly says we can expect to see Zhik expand into big-boat gear as well.