We first met James Locke, Founder of the British triathlon brand Zone3 in a chilly lake training session with GB triathlete Richard Stannard in 2006 and remember watching in awe as this elite triathlete cruised almost effortlessly across the lake. Clearly this was the sign of things to come because a year later James put his swimming and elite racing experience into designing his own range of wetsuits. Zone3 has now established itself as a leading British brand, sold in 15 countries around the world and with the addition of new sensory catch panels for the 2013 Zone3 Vanquish we wanted to try it out…
On the aesthetic front the Vanquish is an undeniably attractive ‘race-looking’ wetsuit with the Zone3 logo across the chest, gold stripes down either side of the body, graphite neoprene on the arms with gold and bronze tones, and the gold Vanquish logo on the back running down along the zip. The distinctive looking red Pro Speed Cuffs on the arms (which are now combined with the 3D water catch panel) and the legs, which are designed for rapid removal (due to a unique silicon coating) add to the overall stylish design.
Zone3 wetsuits have a reputation for being comfortable to wear and this one was no exception; quick and easy to put on and requiring minimal adjustment of the wetsuit to get a very comfortable fit. We often find with a new wetsuit that we have to work hard to adjust it to get it to fit properly, especially over the shoulders. Being 5ft 9 and 73kg we went for a men’s medium tall (MT) size (which we find we tend to be in most wetsuits). But, as always try before you buy, especially with wetsuits.
The suit features an ultra thin one-piece shoulder panel stretching from elbow to elbow, leg panels made from Yamamoto Aerodome fabric (which is 30% more buoyant than conventional neoprene), torso speed channels for improved water flow (Zone3 say the chest channels divert water flow and direct more water on to the legs to increase natural buoyancy and to give a boost with each leg kick). A v-shaped neck design with built-in moulding keeps the suit in position at the sides but allows a lower and more comfortable ‘t-shirt’ fit on the front, keeping the suit away from the Adam’s apple. It comes with a handy, compact, roll bag too – an excellent touch.
There’s nothing worse than a wetsuit that restricts movement around the shoulders, but as soon as we got into the water our shoulders were able to move freely in the Vanquish. Cruising along the wetsuit fitted like a glove, our swimming position felt streamlined and the buoyancy of the suit was just about right for our ‘middle-pack’ age-grouper standard of swimming.
Having previously swam in wetsuits with forearm catch panels of different designs (such as the Concave Water Entrapment Zone catch panel strips on the 2XU V:1 wetsuit), which we found definitely gives us a stronger forearm catch and as a result a feeling of greater speed, we were interested to experience the Vanquish’s new Sensory catch panel where Aeroforce fabric is used on the forearms to give what Zone3 say is ‘an improved feeling and catch in the water.’ Rather than a traditional rubber fabric, the Vanquish catch panel uses a double layer of high performance, water repellent lycra fabric – Zone3 claim that this firstly reduces arm fatigue (as there is not as much buoyancy resistance during the catch phases of the stroke) but also allows the swimmer to improve their efficiency in the water. Initially it felt strange swimming with this fabric on the forearms but after a few hundred meters or so we got used to the sensation and found that it gave us a good sensory feel of the water and as a result seemed to help with the overall efficiency of our stroke.
As many triathletes will know, there’s nothing worse than struggling to get your wetsuit off, especially if you’ve forgotten to put something like BodyGlide on to help. Mocking transition at the side of the lake we quickly pulled the upwards break-away zip to get out of the suit and found that the Vanquish was one of the quickest and easiest wetsuits to get off. We found that the Pro Speed Cuffs really did help to get out of the suit quickly – and what’s more, we had no ‘love-bite’ looking chaffing neck sores after our swim.
Speaking to Zone3’s Founder James Locke about the 2013 Vanquish, he told us: ‘We’re all very pleased with the feedback on the 2013 Vanquish. The new sensory catch panels makes the suit feel even more natural through the water and when combined with our unique one piece shoulder panel design, we hope that it will feel like you’re not even wearing a wetsuit’.
We think that the Vanquish is a great looking, quality-performance wetsuit, which we greatly enjoyed testing – not least because of its comfort, flexibility in the shoulders, and buoyancy. We definitely found it fast to get off for transition and also like the attention to detail and finishing touches such as the Wetsuit care tips written inside the suit.
Zone3 say that Ironman distance athletes like the Vanquish for its extreme comfort and flexibility around the shoulders and Sprint/Olympic distance athletes for its speed and buoyancy. At an RRP of £395 the 2013 Vanquish compares well to other sub £500 wetsuits on the market and, in our opinion, has already become something of a classic.
For more information on the Zone3 Vanquish, visit racezone3.com