By Airwaves Writer Paige Hoffman
It’s safe to say that the most difficult aspect of spring sailing in the Northeast is facing the cold. Knowing how to keep yourself warm on frigid days makes all the difference in staying up to speed during practice and competition. Getting uncomfortably cold may seem like an inevitable part of spring sailing, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.The cold weather has significant effects on your body, which in turn has a big effect on your performance on the water. Cold and stiff muscles are especially harmful when paired with the explosive kind of body kinetics involved in dinghy sailing. All the work you have put in at the gym in the winter offseason is useless if you’re wasting energy shivering and can’t even feel your fingers.
The most important approach to staying warm is having the right clothing. In 2017, sailors have more choices than ever for cold weather gear. Unfortunately, sailing is an expensive sport, and you may be tempted to try to save money on gear. However, if there’s one thing that you should splurge on, it’s having the right kind of equipment to sail efficiently. You wouldn’t go skiing wearing a tshirt and jeans under your pants and jacket, so why sail in the same kind of clothing? Base layers are the most important kind of clothing to invest in. As far as drysuits go, as long as your seals work properly it doesn’t matter what brand of drysuit you wear. Some may be more comfortable than others, but drysuits are designed to keep you dry, not warm. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, literally.When I first started high school sailing my freshman year, I thought I would never be able to learn how to stay warm and sail efficiently like the upperclassman could. As a newcomer to spring sailing, I had no idea how to keep myself warm, and it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked best for me. I ended up getting frequent colds that kept me out of class and off the water. Over the years I’ve picked up a few techniques that help me stay warm and comfortable while sailing.
I have found my favorite line of base layers to be Patagonia. Although it’s an expensive brand, you really do get what you pay for. At every regatta in March and April, I still wear the Patagonia R1 Pullover I got when I was a freshman sailor. I’ve worn it sailing, skiing and horseback riding, and it’s held up it’s held to the test of time. It’s soft and comfortable on the inside and does wonders keeping me warm.
PATAGONIA MEN’S or WOMEN’S R1® PULLOVER
Patagonia also has the benefit of being very in-style right now, so when you’re not sailing you can wear just about any of your base layers wherever and however you want to. They also have a number of discounts available for high school and college sports teams. Patagonia base layer pants which run between $30 and $60, are an invaluable investment.
Patagonia Women’s Capilene Lightweight Bottoms (my personal favorite for under a drysuit or spray pants.)
Other popular brands, Helly Hansen and Musto, have the same advantage of being focused on multiple sports. While they do make plenty of sailing gear, I have found that the skiing base layers from these brands work best. They’re warm and form-fitting without being restrictive. It’s hard enough to stay flexible in a drysuit alone, so having gear that fits properly is an absolute must.
Musto Active Base Layer Zip-Neck Top, one of my favorite mid-weight base layers.
I prefer wearing one or two thick layers as opposed to many thin ones. Getting dressed for sailing is definitely a quality over quantity situation. It’s much easier to stay mobile on the boat when your joints are not hindered by excessive layers of clothing.
With high performance base layers and a good pair of wool socks you will be much happier and warmer than anybody else on the water. While you may have to spend a bit more money initially, investing in quality clothing will save you money and provide invaluable comfort on the water.
About Paige Hoffman, Northeast/High School Sailing Airwaves Reporter
Paige started sailing at age ten at Duxbury Bay Maritime School. By age twelve, she was competing in Optis and transitioned to 420 sailing when she was fourteen, becoming a member of the Duxbury High School sailing team as a freshman in high school and racing through club programs at Duxbury Bay Maritime school in the fall and summer seasons. In the summer, she works as a Junior Sailing Instructor at Duxbury Bay Maritime School, teaching younger sailors the fundamentals of sailing. In 2016, she helped her team win the Mass Bay League Team Race Championship and was named co-captain of her team for the 2017 spring season.