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What to wear

Knowing what to wear when dinghy sailing can make the difference between being cold and miserable, and a terrific day messing about on the water.

There is a whole industry dedicated to creating excellent equipment for all conditions. What you will also find is that you really don't need that much kit to get going. At HCYC you are never more than a few minutes from the warm showers and a changing room.

Training, taster sessions and first outings

Most important: bring a change of clothes. You are on the water, you might get wet. Keep phones, keys and such like in a properly watertight bag or container. Anything that falls in the water is probably gone forever.

Face and arms: Sunscreen. Even on a dull day there is a lot of UV reflected from the water so proper sun protection is essential. A lightweight cap or snug fitting hat is a good idea, bear in mind that it can get blown or knocked off.

Hands: Gloves can be useful. This is mostly to protect yourself from rope burns, boating gloves are best but cycling or other reinforced lightweight gloves work well. Choose something that won't soak up water. If you want warmth as well then you will need proper sailing gloves.

Eyes: Sunglasses are often useful, and if you have glasses of any sort then it's strongly recommended that you have a glasses retainer strap.

Top & trousers: wear things that will tolerate getting wet. Most outdoor gear works well, if it's warm then beach shorts and sunblock shirts work well. A shortie wetsuit is excellent if you have one. A snug fitting waterproof top will keep both the wind and spray away on a cooler day.

Footwear: Something that will protect your toes. Wetshoes or washable trainers are best. Your feet are likely to get wet. Beach 'jellies' are ok, but don't wear slip-on shoes or flip-flops, they will fall off.

Buoyancy Aid (BA): This is vital. If you don't have one then the club has a large collection of BAs in all sizes. The BA needs to fit very snugly, you might be rescued by being lifted up in it; it causes a real kerfuffle if you fall out the bottom!

Going pro'

The order in which you upgrade what you are wearing will vary with your priorities and the sailing conditions. The main thing that will drive your selection will be the desire to stay warm in various conditions. There are two main parts to this: being wet and keeping the wind off.

Spray Top: Main benefit is that it reduces the wind chill. Try to get something that is fairly snug to avoid it snagging, but with enough room to move in all directions. Good breathable versions will be expensive as they aim to keep out as much water as possible from all directions; rather different from walking gear where rain tends to fall in a predictable direction. A version of this is the Dry Top which will will have tight fitting wrist, waist and neck bands to keep water out even if you are in the lake.

Wetsuits: These are very useful and come in a wide variety of styles and capabilities with prices to match. For summer sailing a low cost high street beach wetsuit will be fine. Whatever the type, wetsuits work best when they are snug like a second skin. The water next to your skin will warm up, if it's baggy then cold water can wash through which can be 'refreshing'. Low cost wetsuits are poor at protecting you from wind chill so when it's cooler it is best paired with a spray top. There are options for full body wetsuits, both with arms and without (long johns), as well as tops and bottoms only. Being able to add and remove layers is one of the benefits of a wetsuit, as is the resilience to damage: even a torn suit will keep you warm. It's also possible to wear thermals underneath for a really cosy kit that can be used right through the winter.

Drysuit: This is a whole body suit designed to keep you entirely dry typically with sealed socks around your feet and tight seals around wrists and neck. A tremendous confidence booster to know that even on the coldest of days that should you fall in or the heavens open that you will come out dry. There is a premium for this luxury, they are fairly expensive. The cheapest suits will be comparable in cost to premium wetsuits. Better suits will be partially or fully breathable which will help to keep you dry inside. In the summer they will be too warm so remember that you will still need some fair weather kit.

Boots: Wet boots are the most common footwear for dinghy sailing. Normally made of neoprene like wetsuits and come is a range of styles from lightweight shoes through to lace-up boots. Some people will get a larger size to use them over their drysuit socks. Wearing wet-socks with them will keep your toes warmer and the boots a bit less noxious in the airing cupboard.

Where to get your kit

We have no affiliation with any of these companies but they are a good place to start:

Last updated 12:54 on 2 July 2024

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