In June, the sailors on Oracle Team USA are set to defend their title in the prestigious America’s Cup races — and they’ll do it with help from footwear partner Sperry.
The brand has spent the last year-and-a-half collaborating with the Oracle and SoftBank Japan teams to develop the ultimate performance boat shoe.
According to Sperry’s senior global product manager, Cristina Faris, there were three main requirements: The shoes had to be lightweight, have serious traction and be highly durable.
“The guys basically were wearing running sneakers on the boats,” Faris explained. “When they would run across the net [on the boat], the bottoms of the running shoes were getting ripped off. So we needed to make something durable with a strong grip. And air and water [had to] move through so the shoes don’t get waterlogged.”
The result of all that R&D was the Sperry 7 Seas performance collection for men and women, which launches for spring ’17. Consumers will be able to get their hands on the shoes in March. But the racing teams have their own high-tech styles, the Sperry 7 Seas Pro, that they’ll be wearing in competition.
Like the consumer version, the teams’ shoes have a cushioned insole, grippy outsole and multiple drainage points. But that’s just the beginning: The high-top prototype for SoftBank Japan, for instance, features flexible rubber side supports and a Velcro strap to keep the laces secure. And for a little something extra, the sailor’s name is printed on the heel panel with an un-missable Sperry logo on the side.
Sperry’s special performance boot for members of SoftBank Japan’s America’s Cup sailing team.
Oracle Team USA member Cooper Dressler told FN that reliable shoes are essential. “With footwear, you need to not ever need to think about it,” he said. “People don’t really think of footwear as equipment, but for us, it’s a vital part of our sailing kit. The traction, support and being able to keep your feet cool and dry is really important.”
Looking ahead to the final competition in Bermuda, Oracle team member Kinley Fowler said his crew is working hard to be ready. “We’re in no way finished with our development, but we’re feeling pretty confident at the moment with where we’re at and the direction we’re going,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep the ball rolling and peak at the right time.”
Fowler added that being the defending champions does bring extra pressure, but the Oracle team is relatively unfazed. “We’ve got some really amazing and experienced people on our team who have seen all of this before many times,” he said. “Within our team, we’re not boiling over with the pressure but happy for it to get even more intense in the spring.”