Embracing Winter Sailing: Cold Weather Essentials for Dinghy, College, and Big Boat Sailors

Embracing Winter Sailing: Cold Weather Essentials for Dinghy, College, and Big Boat Sailors

The following blog post is a repost from Afloat.

Winter Sailing enthusiasts are a dedicated bunch, and even when the chill sets in, they can't resist the call of the open water. Whether you're into the exhilaration of dinghy sailing or prefer big boat sailing, the right winter gear is essential to keep you warm, comfortable, and safe. In this guide, we'll explore the best winter sailing gear options for dinghy, college, and big boat sailors, helping you stay comfortable and prepared for whatever the winter winds may bring.

Dinghy Sailing: Embracing Neoprene

Dinghy sailing is all about getting up close and personal with the water, making it crucial to invest in gear that keeps you warm and comfortable. Here are some essential winter sailing gear items for dinghy enthusiasts:

  • Neoprene Long Johns and Top: Neoprene is a must-have component for dinghy sailors. Rooster SuperTherm and ThermaFlex offer excellent thermal insulation, flexibility, and durability. These thermal sets keep your body warm while allowing you to move freely, essential for effective boat handling.

  • Hot Hands: Cold hands can affect your ability to handle ropes and control your boat. Neoprene liners, like Hot Hands, can be a lifesaver when you need warm hands in wet and windy conditions.
  • Hot Socks: Cold feet can be a sailor's worst enemy in winter. Hot Socks, designed to be worn under your dinghy boots, provide an extra layer of warmth and comfort. They are lightweight and comfortable, making them an ideal choice for dinghy sailors. When choosing your gear, think about how you'll be launching your dinghy. If your feet are likely to get wet during the process, proper footwear and warm socks are even more critical. 
  • Dinghy Boots: Don't overlook the importance of proper footwear. Dinghy boots with good grip and insulation are essential for keeping your feet warm and ensuring a firm footing on the boat
  • Cag: A Cag, such as a Rooster Aquafleece or Musto Aqua Top, can be worn over your neoprene layers for added wind protection and additional warmth. 

 College Racing: Combining Performance and Comfort

In college sailing, you'll alternate between spending long amounts of time on land and on the water, as team racing is sailed in a round robin format. It is essential to have gear that is comfortable whilst lounging on land, rigging, and out racing. Here is what we recommend:

  • Jacket and Salopettes:
    • Musto BR1 Series: The BR1 series from Musto offers excellent waterproof and breathable protection. This set includes jackets and trousers designed to keep you dry while allowing freedom of movement.

    • Helly Hansen Pier Set: Helly Hansen's Pier series combines style and functionality. These sets are known for their durability and weather resistance, making them ideal for college racing.
  • Footwear: Brands like Dubarry, Rooster, Musto, and Gill offer a range of dinghy boots and runners designed for sailing. In college team racing, flexible, easy-to-move-in shoes are extremely important to allow for effective boat handling, where one good or bad tack can mean the difference between your team winning or losing a race.

  • Gloves: Consider whether warm hands or quick access to cleats and knots is more important for your style of racing, and choose your gloves accordingly. Gloves with a few fingers free are a great compromise for dinghy crews who have more responsibility over control lines than helms.


Big Boat Sailing: Embracing Comfort and Protection

Big boat sailing generally offers more space and comfort, but it also presents unique challenges in the winter months. Here's the gear you'll need for winter big boat sailing:

  • Jacket and Salopettes:
    • Musto BR2 Series: Musto's BR2 series is perfect for winter offshore and big boat sailing. These garments offer enhanced waterproofing and breathability over the BR1 set, ensuring you stay dry even in rough conditions.

    • Helly Hansen Skagen Series: The Skagen series by Helly Hansen combines style with functionality. These jackets and salopettes are perfect for big boat sailors looking for protection from the elements and need a step up from the Pier set. 
    • North Sails Offshore: Expertly crafted with GORE-TEX® Pro, ensuring complete waterproofing and exceptional breathability, these jackets and salopettes boast an innovative TightWeave™ fabric and an Offshore 7" collar and hood for top-notch weather protection. The 2-way AquaGuard® zip, snag-free design, twin high-capacity pockets with drainage, and 4DL™ reinforced seat make it ideal for big boat sailing

  • Footwear: Just like in dinghy sailing, having the right boots is crucial. Brands like Dubarry, Musto, and Gill offer boots designed for big boat sailing that provide warmth and grip.
  • Gloves: Big boat sailing allows for a bit more comfort with larger, easier to use cleats and thicker lines, so you can wear gloves with a bit more warmth and protection and less dexterity. 

Balance is key as big boat sailing allows for more comfort as you are generally a bit further from the water, but don't neglect the importance of staying warm and dry. A well-chosen set of gear will help you achieve this balance.

Gear Essentials for All Types of Sailing

In all three types of sailing, base layers are essential and ensure you can quickly shed or add layers in ever-changing weather conditions. Consider rooster Polypro or Hot Tops/Hot Legs. Skiing base layers can be considered if you already have these, but as they are not designed to be worn while wet, they are not quite as effective. Layering is key to staying warm, and polypropylene/merino base layers are perfect for wicking away moisture and retaining heat. And don't forget to keep your head warm with Aquafleece beanies or headbands, the latter of which is ideal if you have long hair in a ponytail. Polarized sunglasses will allow you to see pressure on the racecourse and should be paired with a set of sunglass retainers so your glasses stay safely on your head. So, gear up, stay warm, and enjoy sailing, no matter the weather!

Winter sailing can be an incredible experience if you have the right gear. Whether you're a dinghy enthusiast, college team racer, or a big boat sailor, investing in quality winter sailing gear will keep you comfortable and safe on the water. Consider the specific demands of your type of sailing, and choose your gear accordingly. With the right clothing and equipment, you can embrace the beauty of winter sailing while staying warm and comfortable.

 About the Author: Paige has been sailing for 14 years, most recently in Dublin Bay but also at the collegiate level in both the United States and Ireland. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published