Lifestyle

Monday 28 July 2014

An umbrella that survives 100mph winds? What a brolly good idea!

The intrepid Deirdre Reynolds takes to the streets to try out a revolutionary new rain-stopper

There's good news, and there's bad news. The bad news is there's brolly weather on the way this weekend.

The good news is that you don't have to get carried away, thanks to a storm-proof umbrella which has just gone on sale here.

Otherwise known as a "stealth umbrella", the Dutch-designed Senz° promises to withstand 100kmh winds. And it seems there are plenty of Irish people willing to splash out €50 to avoid looking like Mary Poppins this winter.

"It was a rainy winter, and my umbrellas kept breaking in the wind," explained engineer Gerwin Hoogendoorn, who created Senz° after three of his brollies snapped in one week.

He added: "I got very frustrated about it, and decided to re-design the umbrella."

Like brolly-bashing Britney Spears, it's a rage we've all felt when your parapluie takes off like a paper plane on the way to work in the morning.

Tests show that regular octagonal umbrellas are flipped inside out by gusts of just 13mph.

However, by working with the wind instead of against, the latest triangular design apparently survived even a skydive. I put the so-called stealth brolly to the test on a famously blustery stretch of the Grand Canal.

And while it couldn't save my hair from the wind tunnel effect, the umbrella itself remained unflappable.

Of course, Senz° isn't the first to try and beat the elements with a brolly. The first umbrellas were used as parasols in Egypt over 3,000 years ago.

British globe-trotter Jonas Hanway was thought to have introduced them to the streets of London in the mid-1700s. In the past, they were used to signify wealth and status – and still do if you happen to have a Billion Couture crocodile-skin umbrella, the world's most expensive brolly at €38,000.

Back on the banks of the Grand Canal, my own award-winning dome is causing passers-by to do a double-take too.

Luckily it's not actually raining, so I lend it to one local office worker to try for herself.

She seems impressed by its lightness, spring-loaded opening and closing mechanism, and unusual shape.

But when I tell her the price, she gasps: "€50? I'd sooner buy 10 cheap ones – I lose them all anyway!"

At two-and-a-half feet long, there's no fear of losing this storm umbrella. But a smaller, foldable one costs €43.

When it comes to brolly manufacturing, though, it never rains, but it pours.

Last year alone, there were 1,860 different umbrella patents submitted around the world – 80 of which claimed to be either "wind-proof" or "wind-resistant".

Other brolly good ideas included a pet umbrella and one with humidity sensors.

GustBuster, Knirps, Blunt and Fulton are just some of the other brands whose storm-proof brollies will blow you away – or not, as the case may be.

But that's nothing compared to Queen Victoria, who reputedly had a parasol lined with chain mail to prevent assassination attempts – an idea copied 160 years later by the French secret service who developed a Kevlar umbrella to shelter Nicolas Sarkozy.

Personally, I'd settle for one that's impossible to forget on the bus – now that truly would be a miracle brolly.

Senz° Original, €49.95 – see www.senzumbrellas.com

Irish Independent

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