By Phil Carr (www.unsponsored.co.uk)
I have owned the Immersion Research (IR) Short Sleeve Comp top for years. It only sees the light of day when it warms up here in the UK. The cag is a short-sleeved version of the Comp top and shares all of its features with the exception of the obvious (long sleeves and latex cuff seals). After years of loyal service I fancied a changed. There wasn’t anything wrong with the Comp, just wanted something new.
Now as it turns out, the search for a high specification short sleeved dry or semi-dry top is actually quite a hard one with the number of manufacturers offering such a top, as part of their current line up being quite small. So after much searching and considering the few alternatives, Immersion Research came to my rescue with the Arch Rival.
In the UK, IR is sold exclusively online so the order was placed with IR’s UK rep Mark Mulrain. The top arrived within a matter of days, the seals were trimmed and the top was packed away for the next spell of warm weather. I didn’t have to wait that long to try the top out. We have been blessed with warm weather, surf and the odd downpour of rain that has kept a number of local summer runs topped up over the last few weeks.
The Arch Rival seen here has the Gul three-way colour combination that I think works really well. The red stitching, logo and tabs on the Velcro adjustments help make the top look a little special – it’s a nice touch that works well.
The material feels pretty tough, tougher than my IR Comp top that is actually still going strong. Throughout, IR has used breathable fabrics, which really does come into its own on warmer days, the kind of days that you would want to wear a short sleeve dry top. In addition to the bomber fabric, both the stitching and taping used within the Arch Rival looks pretty good. Stitches are straight and precise and the taping is glued solidly to the top and everything looks like it will stand the test of time. In the event that something does fail, IR has a superb customer service and warranty policy.
The neck and biceps cuffs are snug with comfortable close fitting neoprene gaskets. The outer neck seal has the Immersion Research name in black on black, which is a nice touch. They offer great performance even when playboating but I did find some water found its way down my neck, just enough to make my thermal damp. However, this is something I experience with all of my dry tops/suits. To date I have never had any water find its way through the arm seals, which is pretty good given their vulnerability. IR has totally redesigned the outer arm gaskets for 2014 as some earlier models had tight outer seals.
The latex gaskets seem to be of a pretty good quality and glued solidly in place. However, on the top there is excess glue around the latex seals that looks pretty messy and a little rushed. This is a real shame but it is purely cosmetic, can’t be seen from the outside and did not impact upon the performance of the top.
The cut of the Arch Rival is great. It fits me well without excess material, yet allows for a full range of movement without any restriction. The double waist seal with a Velcro adjustable outer waist seal married nicely to my IR deck – nice and snug with no water finding its way in. Despite being quite narrow, the outer neoprene seal has plenty of silicone strips to help keep it in position. The inner tunnel is elasticated at the bottom and again has silicone in place to help keep it in place. During my summer play boating sessions this year there hasn’t been a hint of the Arch Rival moving and given the testing conditions I see little danger of the top riding up.
As we move towards the end of the summer I plan to continue using the Arch Rival until it becomes too cold. In summary, it’s a great top that does it job well.