Super Clothing for Mortal Sailors
Super Clothing for Mortal Sailors
Can clothing make you a better sailor? These technical pieces aim to prove the answer is “yes.” "Gear Review" from our October 2010 issue.
If I sail enough, my hands become calloused to the point that gloves are optional. The same is true for the rest of my body; given the proper amount of time on the water, it adjusts to the task at hand. A pro sailing friend once told me of sailing the Tour de France—a month-long regatta around France—with a skipper who deemed lifeline padding an unnecessary luxury. Afer the first few days, the pain of flopping over stainless-steel linelines while going upwind was excruciating. After a few more days, it all but went away. “I could hike all day,” he said, “on bare wire.”
The problem, of course, is that I don’t sail nearly enough, even during Newport’s busy summer months. My hands stay soft, my hips and back never get desensitized to the rigors of big-boat hiking, my arms and torso still strain to turn the winch handle. So I decided to look for help.
I focused this search on clothing that would aid my performance: make me a more effective trimmer and a stronger hiker, and would help me perform to my limit day afer day. I restricted my search to gear that can be worn under (or in addition) to normal crew gear and is designed for keelboat and big-boat sailing.
CW-X Short-sleeve Ventilator Top (above, right)
The CW-X brand sells tights and tops featuring the patented Kinesio Support Web, which “creates an exoskeletal support system that improves biomechanics during motion.” In plain English, it aims to focus your muscles on their respective jobs, make them more efficient, and improve recovery. They’ve done the scientific research—mostly relating to endurance sports like running—so I’ll take their word on the benefits. I liked the top instantly. I felt stronger and more athletic the moment I put it on. It’s a snug fit (be sure to use their size chart), but after a few moments, I forgot I was wearing it. Afer testing it over a number of days, I didn’t have a single spot of chafe. It did a great job of regulating my core temperature, too. Despite sweating profusely (I was grinding the jib upwind and the spinnaker sheet on the jibes and July was hot, hot, hot in the Northeast) I didn’t experience the usual cool down between races. When the course signals went up, I was ready to race. $79, cw-x.com
Gill Race Lycra Shorts (left)
These shorts (and their three-quarter-length colleagues) were developed with the Quantum Racing TP 52 program. The fabric is extremely light and breathes well. A layer of padding running across the abdomen and hipbones makes hanging over the lifelines more tolerable. A decade ago, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my lef knee, and the resulting surgery left it very sensitive. The kneepads that are integral to the threequarter-length tights were not thick enough for my repaired knee, though they would be adequate for most sailors. So I preferred the shorts and a pair of kneepads. $40 (shorts) $85 (tights), gillna.com
Spinlock Impact Kneepads (right)
The biggest question when purchasing a pair of kneepads is whether you want removeable kneepads with adjustable straps, or the slip-on kind. I’ve tried both and, as convenient as the former are, I prefer the latter. The Spinlock kneepads are the most comfortable I’ve worn. A Velcro tab on the top of the sleeve allows adjustment. $45, spinlock.co.uk
Magic Marine Thermo Layer Pullover and Pant (left)
A particularly hot summer didn’t provide the ideal test conditions for these full-length items, but when the weather turns cooler, they’ll be perfect. You won’t find a more comfortable base layer. $59 each, magicmarine.com