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. Nothing 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. The number of manufacturers offering such a top as part of their current line up is quite small. So after much searching and considering the few alternatives Immersion Research came to my rescue with the Arch Rival.

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In UK IR are 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 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.

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The Arch Rival seen here has the Gul grey three way colour combination that I think word 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.

Photo: Louise Mansion
Paddler: Mark Mulrain

The material feels pretty tough, tougher than my IR comp top that is actually still going strong. Throughout the top IR have used breathable fabrics which really does come into it’s own on warmer days. In fact the kind of days that you’d 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.

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Stitches are straight and precise and the taping is glued solidly to the top. 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.

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The neck and biceps cuffs are snug but comfortable latex gaskets with additional close fitting yet comfortable neoprene gaskets. The outer neck seal has the Immersion Research name in black on black which is a nice touch. I wear a size 16 collar shirt and have found the medium latex gasket fitted to the large Arch Rival to be perfect. No trimming of the seal required. However the over neoprene gasket is quite loose around my neck. It doesn’t impact upon the functionality of the latex seal but I could quite happily have it made tighter by a couple of CMs.

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They offer great performance even when playboating. I did find that water had found its way down my neck, just enough to make my thermal damp. 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 petty good given the vulnerability of the seals. IR has totally redesigned the outer arm gaskets for 2014 as some earlier models had pretty tight outer seals. I find the gaskets to be spot on. The length of the arms in the jacket means that the seal sit just above the elbow. This is the ideal position as flexing in muscles caused by paddling won’t create gaps between the seal/body that could allow water in.

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The latex gaskets seem to be of a pretty good quality and are glued solidly in place. However on the top I have the excess glue around the latex seals looks pretty messy and a little rushed. This is a real shame but it is purely cosmetic and did not impact upon the performance of the top.

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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. The inner seals have plenty of rubber coating to help keep them both in position. During my summer play boating sessions this year there hasn’t been a hint of the Arch Rival moving. Given the testing conditions I see little danger of the top riding up.

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As we move towards the end of the summer I plan to continue using the Arch Rival until it becomes too cold. It’s a great top that does it job well – I love it.