When the world’s best sailors set sail at the Tokyo Olympics, many of them will be wearing clothes made by small Australian startup Zhik.
Zhik manufactures high tech boots, wetsuits, gloves and harnesses for sailing and has been appointed official supplier of sailing equipment to the Australian Olympic team. It is also providing the kit to three other countries during next month’s sporting event.
The startup was founded by Brian Conolly after selling his tech company Lake Technology to Dolby in 2004.
“I swore to myself that I would try to do something different than what wasn’t high tech, but I actually failed because you can’t take a geek out of a nerd,” he said. Mr Conolly said.
An avid sailor, Mr. Conolly became frustrated with the gear sailors wore and felt there was an opportunity to do a better job.
âThere was a lot of bad gear worn on the boats,â he said. âSailors borrowed boots from the diving world and wore wet suits from the surf world. “
After chatting with champion sailors, Mr. Conolly redesigned clothing and gear, using Velcro to combat slippery harnesses and developing a fabric four times more waterproof and durable than Gore-tex.
âYou have to be comfortable in so many different environments,â he said. âIt’s crazy because they sail in extreme cold, they sail in extremely hot weather, there is cold water and there is hot water. It’s obviously very wet and they bump around the boat and injure themselves so they need abrasion resistance.
Zhik has supplied kits to the winners of the Volvo Ocean Races from Sydney to Hobart and to Olympic sailing teams from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark. The startup has doubled its workforce to nearly 40 with offices in Sydney, the United States and the Netherlands and generated more than $ 10 million last year.