Sophie Ciszek and the Unpredictability of the Volvo Ocean Race
Imagine the unforeseen challenges that come throughout a year of nearly non-stop sailing across the world’s harshest oceans in one of the most cut-throat and competitive races of all time. Broken masts, massive waves, and extreme temperatures are only the tip of the iceberg.
For Sophie Ciszek, professional sailor aboard MAPFRE in the Volvo Ocean Race, these challenges were just par for the course in a competition she’s dreamed of winning since she was young. Sophie and her team had a spectacular performance in the last Volvo Ocean Race, and we were lucky enough to be there for much of the journey, adapting and improving her gear along the way.
Physically, you have to keep pushing through that, but mentally it’s tough. It’s cold, it’s freezing cold. It’s really uncomfortable. The conditions are just relentless.
Understanding the Sailors Behind the Volvo ocean racE
Sophie Ciszek has sailed on several of the most well-known boats in the world and made her biggest impression onboard Team SCA in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, her first of two VORs completed thus far. She is not only a world-renowned offshore sailor, but also an avid surfer. Growing up on the ocean in Australia, Sophie has a profound love of being on the water. A love of the water, a tough disposition, and a hard-working spirit are all prerequisites for a person to accomplish sailing around the world in such an extremely competetive race.
Sophie Ciszek has all these qualities and more. She joined Team MAPFRE in the Volvo Ocean Race in the 2017-18 race and her stellar performance contributed to the team’s nail-bitingly close second place finish.
What it Takes to Compete in The Volvo Ocean Race
Considered to be one of the most challenging mental and physical sporting events of all time, the Volvo Ocean Race isn’t for the faint of heart. As Ciszek puts it:
“The water can get down to two degreees, the wind strength is just crazy, the size of the waves is absolutely out of control, and in those kind of conditions, obviously someone did die, and that’s on your mind. Physically, you have to keep pushing through that, but mentally it’s tough. It’s cold, it’s freezing cold. It’s really uncomfortable. The conditions are just relentless. And there’s nothing you can really do about it, you just have to push through until you get to the finish line.”
Extreme Conditions, Extreme Gear. The Ægir OCEAN Smock Top
The physical demands of the Volvo Ocean Race require superior mental strength, but they also require the most innovative and protective gear. Ciszek worked in the foredeck position on the MAPFRE boat, a position that sees the toughest conditions the ocean can throw at you. Therefore, her gear needed to be super protective without weighing her down or restricting her movement.
To properly dress Sophie and her teammates, we began collaborating with the team on their kit months before the race. Then, throughout their entire journey, we worked to tweak and improve every piece.
One of the results of this collaboration is now launching in our Spring/Summer ’19 Ægir Collection: The Ægir Ocean Smock Top. Thanks to constant testing with Sophie and the MAPFRE team, the Ægir Smock Top evolved from the slightly bulkier and protective Ægir Ocean Dry top into a super lightweight and durable offshore piece . . . without compromising performance.
To create this lightweight top, we started by removing the latex seals on the outside collar and cuffs in the Ægir Ocean Dry Top. The waterproof barrier was then relentlessly tested to find the best quality and comfort possible. The reinforcements were scaled back, and the fabric was tested throughout the toughest offshore sailing in the world: The Southern Ocean. This smock top was designed to work together with the Ægir Ocean Jacket for tough, less active tasks onboard when the team wanted additional protection.
More Features on the Ægir Ocean Smock Top
The Ægir Ocean Smock Top is constructed with our specially developed, durable, and lightweight HellyTech™ Professional fabric. It’s constructed with minimal seams with the highest standard for seam sealing. The minimal design still has key elements such as Solas Reflectors, a neoprene inner seal at the waist, and a front storage pocket. The pocket is made in a quick draining mesh that reduces areas of double layer fabrics for better breathability.
It also features, for the first time, a hidden vent zipper. The zipper is located inside the front pocket, creating an effective way of dumping excessive heat. This feature was developed over years of collaboration with long time ambassador Thomas Coville. Plus, it’s a waterproof zipper: a mini version of the YKK Aquaseal – as found in the Ægir Ocean Dry Suit and the dry suit we make for coastguard use.
Our Ægir Offshore Collection has always been the result of collaboration with some of the world’s best sailors, and this latest addition is no exception. Because Sophie and her teammates could push our gear through such extreme conditions, we were able to take the Ægir Smock Top to the next level in performance.