What specialist sailing apparel should you purchase and do you really need any? What’s worth buying for more demanding crossings? What do you need inshore versus offshore? These are some typical questions and not just for novice sailors. Here’s our guide to choosing apparel and tips on what to buy for certain conditions.
A guide to choosing yachting apparel
Why choose specialist clothing for sailing?
It may occur to you that it isn’t really necessary to buy clothing specifically for sailing when you already have a perfectly fine windbreaker at home. And for summer, you already have a stylish striped t-shirt and shorts. These are nice ideas… but not the best choices. So why? Because yachting apparel must be able to withstand completely different conditions that it has been specially developed for.
What makes sailing apparel special?
- The fabric must be able to handle salt.
- The fabric must be suitable for damp and wet conditions (quick-drying, waterproof or water-repellent) or for direct sunlight (UV filter).
- The fabric must be extra strong to be able to withstand friction, movement and contact with the boat.
- The cut must respect the specifics of movement on board as well as the weather (high collar, reinforced parts, adjustable elements).
What happens to normal clothing while sailing? The salt quickly clogs the fabric membrane and it ceases to perform its function. The clothing also wears out or get damaged much faster. Or even worse, they leave you wet and freezing cold.
Of course, some pieces of clothing are universal and can be used in the mountains, and on trips and on board a boat. These are items such as functional underwear that you can use as a bottom layer or warm socks on spring or autumn cruises. Remember that layering is the right way to go. It's better to have several thin layers than one thick one. There is no compromise here.
To buy or not to buy?
Not sure what clothing to buy and whether you’ll make use of it? Try renting clothes the first time you go out to sea. You’ll be able to see how they feel, find out what suits you and what you personally want to invest in. Plus, you’ll see for yourself exactly how much of a difference there is between a hiking jacket and a sailing jacket.
Why invest in special brands and not in retail chains?
Some sports chains offer their very own and inexpensive yachting lines. For your first tentative steps in yachting, it will probably be enough. But if you’re even the slightest bit serious about yachting, you should definitely try clothing manufacturers who specialize in yachting gear.
Why? Retail chains do not invest as much in development which means the clothing is often outdated. Reputable companies innovate every year and push new materials down to their lower clothing lines, so even the cheapest line is well thought out. And most importantly, they also invest in the cut of the clothing, i.e. specialist yachting apparel fits better, is more detailed, is better suited to a how a sailor moves about and to the unpredictable weather.
Whether or not a traditional yellow raincoat is enough at sea is also a heated topic among sailors. One of its main advocates is the well-known expedition yachtsman Jirka Denk.
What clothes to buy for yachting?
When you ask an experienced sailor what clothes to choose, they’ll probably summarize the main principles as follows: "Protection against water and wind". Although relatively sound advice, there are many factors involved in this. Let's take a closer look at what exactly lies beneath it and what to look for when making a choice!
We’ll take a look at what to take to Croatia in summer, as well as focussing on clothing for moderate and difficult conditions.
1. What to wear on a yacht in summer to Croatia?
T-shirt or base layer
- The best choice is a lycra t-shirt or a t-shirt made of a functional material. It should fit comfortably, perfectly draw away moisture and be made of a quick-drying material. And in summer you’ll appreciate a bit of UV protection. We recommend choosing a longer sleeve that protects against the sun and wind.
- For lovers of natural materials, a great choice is clothing made of merino wool. Don't worry, you can choose the lightest weight for the summer. It is naturally functional and antibacterial, helps with thermoregulation and warms even when wet. It draws away moisture and, although woollen, it is really soft and light. Choose a lightweight fabric for the first layer or for summer, and choose a thicker, warmer one as a top layer.
- Even with trousers and shorts, it pays to use a functional material. Again, you will really appreciate it, if it dries quickly and removes moisture. Another advantage is a sporty comfortable fit, which will not limit you in any way when moving around on the boat. In better clothing lines, you’ll also find trousers that are specially reinforced in areas that come under the most stress.
Vest or lighter jacket
- In summer, a light water-repellent windbreaker will suffice. A great choice is also a windproof vest which is very comfortable even when working on a boat - your hands remain free and able to move unhindered.
2. What to wear in medium conditions (INSHORE, spring or autumn recreational yachting)?
Here it is likely that you’ll face stronger winds and you’ll get a thorough showering from the sea. That's why it's very important that your clothes hold up in this weather. In spring and autumn there is also a big difference in temperature between the daytime and the evening. And even when the sun is shining, it can feel a lot colder due to the wind and moisture.
You can't make do with a light windbreaker anymore. So what to look for when choosing a jacket in medium conditions in spring or autumn?
- Higher collar that protects the face from wind and water
- At least a double-layered coated/laminated fabric
- Adjustable cuffs with seal
- Water repellent finish
- Fully taped waterproof seams
An adjustable bottom hem and a solid zipper, ideally with a double cover and sufficiently large front pockets would also be an advantage. An inner pocket is perfect to keep the most important things dry and safe and plenty of reflective elements would also be of benefit.
Under the jacket, you can layer a warm base layer, as well as a vest or fleece sweatshirt. In medium conditions, you will use everything you already have for summer sailing.
The most important thing for the base layer is absorbency, so choose one that absorbs sweat and moisture well. Because you will be layering more clothes on top of each other, choose underwear with flat seams. For colder weather, you will appreciate long sleeves and a two-layer construction with an insulated inner thermal layer.
The main task of the middle layer is perfect insulation and thermal comfort. Therefore an ideal sweatshirt for harsher conditions would also be windproof (densely knitted fleece). But you can also choose more versatile clothing. Most apparel is relatively universal, so it can be used as a top layer in better weather. In addition to its insulating properties and breathability, it should be light, windproof and waterproof.
When choosing trousers, essentially the same applies as for jackets: waterproof, windproof and highly resistant to mechanical damage. What else do experienced sailors look for?
- Reinforced seat and knees
- Articulated knees
- Taped seams
- Elastic waist, giving you more mobility
- Adjustable ankle cuffs
With or without braces? This depends on you. Trousers with braces are always better at keeping your back dry and warm. The elastic belt then ensures good mobility. And they usually have a well-designed zipper, which is especially handy for men who won’t need to remove them completely. :)
3. What to wear in medium to difficult conditions (OFFSHORE)?
It's getting tough here, so look for clothes that provide the greatest possible protection. The basic requirement of the clothing is breathability and functionality. On long crossings, in more demanding conditions, you’ll appreciate not having to constantly change clothes without fear of fungal infections. Many sailors could tell you a story or two about mould and mildew on their clothing (and then on their skin).:)
A tight fit that fully enables freedom of movement should be a matter of course.
For offshore voyages in harsher conditions, high visibility clothing is also suitable. One innovation is the use of photoluminescent technology for night visibility.
What to look for with offshore sailing jackets?
The fabric of an offshore jacket must be extra durable and waterproof. In addition to the basic requirements of a jacket for medium conditions, you will also appreciate the following features:
- Large insulated pockets
- Insulated high collar, insulated hood
- Double-layered laminated fabric with a durable water repellent finish
- Fully taped waterproof seams
- Extended hem
Other added benefits would be things such as a loop for attaching a life jacket or a d-ring for attaching tools, flashlights.
In this category, you’ll also find jackets for highly demanding yachtsmen that need to withstand the rigours of a stormy ocean. And how are they different? Protective areas, three or even four-layered fabric, GORE-TEX membrane or Solas reflective elements. These jackets are tested in the most demanding conditions (e.g. at the VOLVO Ocean Race) and use cutting-edge technology.
Again, layering should be used under the jacket.
For more demanding conditions, trousers can be found with, for example, insulated pockets, a thicker fabric and an even greater emphasis on breathability, water resistance and windproofing than with inshore trousers.
What are the latest trends in the development of yachting apparel?
- Clothing that is multifunctional and can be worn whilst walking as well as sailing. It has a more casual and modern look, but retains the features needed on board a yacht. Such clothing includes, for example, the new Henri-Lloyd jacket.
- Innovative use of colours. The traditional yellow colour has long been replaced by red. Recently there has been a refreshing use of orange, turquoise, blue and even white.
- Innovation also applies to the fit of the clothing. For example, work is being done on improved peripheral vision while maintaining a high collar.
- And one of the biggest gadgets is clothing which is battery-powered and actively keeps you warm. This is already well-known among technical divers and older skiers.
How to properly take care of yachting apparel?
Salt can cause a lot of problems. It corrodes cuffs, clogs membranes, damages fabric and colour. Therefore, the most important thing is to always rinse your clothing with fresh water as soon as possible. Ideally, use a hose in the marina and give your clothing a good shower.
Once in a while it is good to wash the clothes in a gentle/special detergent to prevent clogging of membranes, which would reduce the effectiveness of the clothing. Needless to say, the use of fabric softener is a definite no-no. In addition to clogging the membrane and thus virtually destroying the functionality of clothing, its use unnecessarily pollutes the environment and our body.
Did our guide help you and you’re ready to hit the shops? Enjoy the new season!
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