Performance Undergarments by Ibex

The Balance line of boxer shorts and sports bra incorporates Merino wool and spandex to achieve optimum comfort and odor-resistance. "Gear Up" from our May 7, 2008, /SW eNewsletter/

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Courtesy Ibex

It wasn't long after I started at Sailing World that I discovered the benefits of synthetic boxer shorts for sailing. While vastly superior to cotton boxers, the loose-fitting capilene shorts did leave me vulnerable to brief moments of extreme discomfort while maneuvering into a hiking position on the rail of a sailboat--the sort of discomfort that is unique to the male race, if you catch my drift.After one too many of those "I think I'm going to be sick" moments, which by the way, rarely do anything for your performance or that of the boat you're sailing on, I knew I had to make a change. So I started wearing spandex boxer briefs, or athletic undershorts sailing. They did a much better job of keeping everything in the proper place, though I did miss the breathability of the loose boxers; wet cotton or nylon just isn't that comfortable in the long run.Ibex's seamless Balance line is the next step in this evolution. I tested some of Ibex's base layer offerings last fall and gave them a very positive review. This time I tried the Short Boxer and the Runner Short--they also offer a brief. And since Ibex also offers a women's line of undergarments, I had a co-worker test a few of those.My favorite item was the Runner Short. I found its 9-inch inseam more comfortable than the 4.5-inch inseam of the Short Boxer. But both pairs impressed me with their remarkable comfort--whether wet or dry--durability, and an amazing ability to resist odor. I wore the Runner Short during the International Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas last month and it didn't carry the faintest smell after four days of hot, sweaty, and salty sailing.Elizabeth Wishe, a designer for Sailing World and Cruising World and an active J/24 sailor, had an equally positive review: "I tested out the Ibex Balance Sports Bra and Brief on a ski trip in Vermont," she said. "Sports bras that I've worn previously are laden with spandex, elastic, adjustable straps, and hooks. By the end of the day I would get a pink line around my shoulders and chest where the garment was too tight. The Ibex combo featured no hooks, straps, harsh elastic, or even seams. An eight-hour adventure skiing in gusty winds and powder left me feeling supported but not flattened or squished. Not once did I have to adjust a strap, or fidget with the top or bottom. I completely forgot about them, and at the end of the day I had no indents on my skin. After sweating all day, both items had no odor. These pieces are great for skiing and sailing; very comfortable and soft on my sensitive skin. For higher impact activites, however, I'd choose a more supportive top."The Balance line is made from a combination of 86-percent merino wool, 10-percent nylon, and 4-percent spandex. While they recommend gentle cleaning, I've run my through the dryer with no ill effects. As with any wool product, you do pay a premium for the natural fibers. The Runner Short costs $45, with the Boxer going for $39. The Sports Bra and Brief sell for $49 and $22.50, respectively. For more information, www.ibex.com