The Birth of Musto
Training with such determination for the Olympics had caused Keith to notice that the conditions for real sailing success had to be created, right down to kit-level. “We sailed in Guernsey sweaters and old flannel trousers for years,” Keith said about sailing gear at the time. “You got wet and you accepted it. But as we progressed up the ladder in terms of competition, we realised this was a problem that needed to be solved.” After approaching one or two manufacturers, he became quickly aware that the need for performance clothing was there, but wasn’t something that was being taken seriously by the industry as a whole. Keith took the time to learn what sailors needed from their kit. They wanted garments that would keep them warm and comfortable; layers that didn’t get cold and heavy; kit that allowed them the freedom to move. Keith’s innovation didn’t stop at recognising that the quality and features of the fabrics used to create sailing clothing would have to be overhauled, he created an entire system: the three-layer system.
When he asked Conny van Rietschoten, the only person to win the Whitbread Round the World Race (now Volvo Ocean Race) twice, what he wanted from his clothing, the sailor had replied definitively: “I want to sit on a cold, wet deck in freezing temperatures and remain warm and dry for a month.” Musto was, and remains, meticulous about its research, design and testing. The result was a revolutionary system that comprised of a wicking base, an insulating mid-layer and a weatherproof outer-layer. This incredible left-field thinking ensured that Grant Dalton, Conny’s teammate and future winning skipper of the Volvo Ocean Race 1993-94, could help his team win their next race in complete comfort with noticeably enhanced performance. Keith knew integrity; an honest evolution and a bold approach to innovation, would result in a brand to trust. Grant Dalton recognised the importance of this: “Musto started the revolution and it’s been a continuous process of evolution ever since”.
Pete Goss, winner of the Legion d’Honneur for rescuing a fellow competitor in the 1996-97 Vendee Globe Race, comments, “Racing across the channel, I’d get a bin bag and cut a hole for my neck and my arms… I can remember wearing the first HPX suit down into the Southern Ocean and thinking it was miraculous. And the detail… I couldn’t believe it when Keith would ask me whether he should put a zip a couple of millimetres to the left or right… It really is a quest for perfection.”
And it didn’t stop at sailing. Keith quickly realised that sailing fabric technology could be applied to other sports when he was the only dry spectator watching his daughter ride – he was in his Musto sailing kit. The fusion of performance fabrics with the timeless traditions and styles of equestrian and shooting has resulted in award-winning pieces and collections stamped with Royal Warrants, making them garments truly fit for the queen.
The brand that created and spread the news of a game-changing new 3-layer system throughout the sailing world. One of the very first companies to use GORE-TEX® and taped seams in the construction of its award-winning products. Ellen Macarthur’s first sponsor, helping her to become a solo transatlantic and solo, round the world record breaker. The creator of a dry suit that would increase the survival time of a sailor in the coldest waters from 15 minutes to two hours. All of this and more besides is a fine example of one man’s passion to discover the inside edge and inspire others to do the same. A story that shows how much can be achieved from of a game changing attitude, of helping others catch victory when it all but escapes you. And how true evolution can only ever be achieved through disrupting the accepted.