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Boffins aim to warm watersports enthusiasts

Armpit thermometers reveal wind chill hardship

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Government-boffins-for-hire at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have claimed a breakthrough in wetsuit design that will enable watersports enthusiasts to frolic in Britain's frigid seas for longer.

Working with pro-windsurfer Chris "Muzza" Murray and manufacturer Spartan, NPL scientists made detailed temperature measurements to assess how materials perform in practice, off Clacton in Essex.

The team used armpit sensors and thermal imaging to reveal that the surface finish of neoprene suits was vital to their thermal performance. Hitherto Spartan had been relying on lab tests that were unable to reliably measure real-world wind chill.

The insight is already reaping rewards. "It has saved us producing whole ranges of suits that would be next to useless for the colder northern European countries we sell to, saving us at least £100,000," said Spartan's Mark Minter.

Meanwhile NPL's Richard Dudley predicted toasty watersports ahead. "Improved materials and construction will mean they can spend more time in the water, and enjoy their sport of choice in much colder conditions than they are currently comfortable doing," he said.

NPL's other claims to fame include testing Barnes-Wallace's bouncing bomb, and major advances in early packet-switched networking. ®

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