What to wear to go sailing

by Chris Kameen on September 8, 2014

boardies and a waterproof and hatWhat to wear to go sailing is probably most new sailors biggest concerns People have a fear that they are going to look out of place or are going to get cold and wet. Both fears are well founded and at Sydney Sailing School we do our utmost to make sure we put people at ease.

I often tell people that the best kit to wear is the same sort of kit that  you would wear to go walking in the mountains. Quick drying, light weight layers, and here in Australia long sleeves and a wide brimmed hat.

Most dinghy sailing sessions are only a few hours so a quick check of the forecast can save you overheating or getting a little chill.

Waterproof jackets will keep you warm for an hour or so even if you are wet underneath as they stop the wind, and often when I go dinghy sailing even in winter, I wear shorts and a thermal top only, underneath waterproofs. If you have some waterproof trousers then this will be even better especially if there is a chance of showers. (we can always stuff them up the front of the boat)

As you progress in your sailing a number of doors will open and you will see that there are lots of different types of sailing that you can do from skiff sailing through to offshore ocean sailing or twilight sailing on the harbour, and each has a type of kit that is best suited.

If you don’t do a lot of manual labour then a pair of gloves relatively early on would be a good investment. Personally I rarely wear gloves unless I’m sailing on a high performance yacht or skiff. When I do, I’d recommend something like these fingerless gloves from Gill.

Skiff sailing

What to wear Skiff Sailing

Skiff sailors wear wetsuits as much for protection from bumps and knocks as for keeping the warm. Skiff sailing is very physical and during the summer months it is an effort to keep cool. Long sleeve rash vests protect you from the sun. A trapeze harness allows skiff sailors to ‘trapeze’ off the side boat by leaning out as though they were abseiling!

offshore southern oceanWhat to wear Offshore Sailing

At the other end of the spectrum is sailing offshore – this gear is expensive and potentially life saving. I have been on many offshore trips where experienced sailors have turned up with the sort of kit that they sail in on the harbour and they have really suffered with the cold and wet.

Given the level of investment required here – you need to make sure that you are fully committed. I’d hold off on buying this gear just yet!

Dinghy waterproofsWhat dungarees and UV rashvestto wear dinghy and harbour sailing

Once you have been a couple of times and you are thinking of purchasing some equipment, then proper waterproof trousers (dungaree style) and a water proof top will really keep you comfortable and will be versatile. I would wear this kit dinghy sailing and crewing on a friends yacht in the harbour if the weather was inclement. Note that I’m also wearing a buoyancy aid, it is a legal requirement that all boats carry enough lifejackets for the crew but it is not always a requirement to wear them. I am one of the few people that very rarely sails at all without wearing my buoyancy aid. Mine is a snug fit and has other safety equipment attached like a penknife, whistle and spare bits and bobs incase something breaks on the boat.

DrysuitHow to look completely out of place in Sydney

If you want to cook and feel completely out of place in Sydney then a dry suit is just the item needed. I think during my 9 years here I have wanted one of these on one occasion only in Sydney midwinter (Melbourne on the other hand is a different story!)

Dry suits allow you to do the James Bond thing and wear normal clothes underneath which allow you to dinghy sail to a black tie do in your Tux!!

In all seriousness sailing in the winter in the UK and probably Tassie and Melbourne these are good bits of kit though are quite expensive.

Hopefully this helps, if you have any comments do post them below, even if it is how ridiculous I look!

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