When Star class world champions Iain Percy and Andrew 'Bart' Simpson wanted the very best performance dinghy boots available, they turned to Clarks
With only a month until the Olympics, you’d expect two of Britain’s hottest Gold prospects to be feeling the pressure. Yet when Yachting Monthly catch up with Olympic medallists and Star class world champs Iain Percy and Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson they seem as cool on land as when picking off opponents on the racecourse.
Behind their quiet confidence are years of preparation on every detail of what they do on the water, and for the last two that has meant work with Clarks Sport to develop the perfect performance dinghy boot. Footwear is often an after-thought onboard, but when Percy was forced to retire from last year’s Star Europeans with a badly swollen foot, it was proof that footwear can make a huge difference to on board performance.
Although Clarks is not a name immediately associated with sailing, the firm’s reputation for craftsmanship convinced Percy and Simpson it was more than up to the job. “Comfort and grip were the two things we highlighted to the designers; for safety and for getting around a boat when it’s heeled at 30-odd degrees,” Percy says. At each stage of development, the sailors provided feedback of the boot’s performance on different surfaces and boats.
Percy says: “What was really interesting for me was to see that Clarks develop a shoe in the same way that we develop a boat. They have the same attention to detail, the same testing process: lots of versions, then trialling, feedback and the next development.”
The upshot of hundreds of days of testing is the custom-made Orson Gold dinghy boot – “a huge difference” on the water, says Simpson.
Not that the champion British team are the only ones to benefit. The same innovations that created the Orson Gold are built into Clarks Sport’s range of performance sailing shoes. As smart on the water as in the yacht club bar, the Orson Lace deckshoe, Outdrive Drift deck trainer and women’s Jetsam Drift trainer deliver grip and stability in all conditions by using the same abrasion-resistant rubber sole honed by Simpson, while their Atsu footbed, which massages the feet, provides the comfort demanded by Percy.
Simpson also highlights the aquaDX system that drains water quickly through concealed channels in the heel: “The big issue we face with footwear is that it gathers water and becomes heavy and cumbersome. With this technology I always feel confident.”
Like the dinghy boot, all shoes have a toe-protector, even in sandal-form as the Outdrive Cove and Jetsam Cove – far safer than flipflops for summer sailing. The Star champions put the lightweight quick- drying Outdrive Drift through its paces in last year’s Round the Island regatta. “Everyone on our TP52 Team Origin was wearing them, from the bowman on the foredeck to the mainsheet man and trimmers, so we gave these big-boat ranges a pretty thorough test,” Percy says. “The great news was that Clarks were first across the line with their first ever race.”
With Clarks’ sailing shoes proving themselves race-winners, it’s now up to Percy and Simpson to follow suit this summer. Indeed, Clarks have launched a patriotic red, white and blue Orson Lace and Outdrive Drift. No pressure, lads.
For more information about the Clarks performance sailing collection go to www.clarks.co.uk/sailing