My recommendations come from experiences with the gear I use while racing, and the companies I work with when outfitting teams. Here are a fewof my favorites.
BASE LAYER:_ The bestbase layer we’ve found is the Slam Seamless Pants and Seamless Zip Top. They’re a great first layer when it’s colder. ($55 pants, $89 top) _
SHORTS:_ Slam’s Hissar shorts ($55) are a big winner here and the pricing makes them ideal for buying shorts for a larger team. Camet also has many styles (the Rio, at right) and the optional pads keep crew happy._
MID-LAYER: Slam’s Buldir ($74.95) or Henri Lloyd’s Fusion Vest ($89) are both good choices for a team vest. Zhik’s ZhikShell Jacket is a great waterproof soft shell ($229).
OUTER LAYER_: For lightweight applications, Slam’s RC Spray Top ($280) and Slam RC Long Johns ($299) are a good combination. Zhik’s Isotak gear ($349 spray top, $429 jacket, and $395 salopettes) are great for warm venues. For teams that sail in a variety of venues at different times of the year, Henri Lloyd’s TP2 offerings ($225 spray top, $275 salopettes) are excellent. A team with a lower budget could consider Slam’s ATS ($130), Ronstan Smock ($110), or Henri Lloyd TP1 Pace ($125) spray tops._
I’ve worked with many teams in my 15-year career in the sailing industry, and during this time the gear has evolved a lot. We also have a better understanding about how our gear choices influence our results: if we’re comfortable, we will perform much better than if we’re cold, wet, or insufferably hot. At Sail22, a concierge service for racing programs, a major part of our service is outfitting crews with team gear, and when we do, we focus on four things: the locations of the events, the boat type, team color scheme, and, of course, the budget.
With regard to the latter, we’ve found that a starter package for a five-person team, at $1,300 to $1,600, would include a technical base layer shirt, shorts, and a lightweight jacket. A team with a budget of $3,000 to $5,000 is able to include more technical jackets, mid-layers, and pants. A top-end budget team might commit $6,000 to $9,000 for multiple shirts, base layers, mid-layers, and high-end foul weather gear.
The essential piece
A base layer is the most important piece as it wicks moisture from your skin to allow your other layers to work better in cold weather or keep you cool in warm weather. In warmer weather, the first layer can be your only layer, so a light color is the best choice. I recommend light grey, as it stays looking good longer than white and doesn’t absorb the sun, as do darker colors. White and light grey colors are also the easiest shirts to accommodate your team logo using dye sublimation printing or screen-printing. Don’t be overwhelmed by the different labels like UPF 50, Quik-Dry, or Dri-Fit, etc. Try on a few brands and find which feels and fits most comfortably. Any base layer will provide sun protection, but the tighter the weave the better the UV protection. With a tight weave, however, you do sacrifice some breathability. For colder venues you want wicking properties to move moisture away from your skin.
The short on shorts
The factors to look at when buying shorts are the number of pockets, breathability, price, and, of course, comfort. Lightweight shorts are big sellers, but if you’re in a cold-water venue or sail a wet boat, then shorts that are waterproof and breathable are a better option: they’re more expensive but tend to be more durable, too. My ideal pair of sailing shorts would be lightweight with cargo pockets for carrying tape or wet notes and have a fairly long inseam. I can always wear compression shorts underneath for warmth, or go to my salopettes when I’m getting cold.
Warm to the core
A mid-layer is the next item a team will tend to buy. These are good for cooler days, and to continue the team’s look on shore. Vests are great for layering and soft shells keep you warm while also repelling water. If you don’t have foul weather gear in your team budget, a soft shell jacket is an inexpensive way to finish out the team package. A higher budget team may have soft shell jackets and vests for all of their crew and it definitely makes a team easy to identify at race parties and around town. Make sure you check out the features and not just the price tag when looking at soft shells, as this technology is advancing quickly. The higher end jackets are usually waterproof (except for the seams), and will have a more refined fit, additional pockets, and adjustments. These jackets are for layering, not to replace your foul weather jacket or spray top.
Dry on the inside**
The outer layer for most teams is foul weather gear: here’s where taking into account where you will be sailing is important in making the decision on what foul weather gear to purchase. The most popular pieces are salopettes and a spray top or inshore jacket. The type of boat should influence your decision between a jacket or spray top. If you are racing a smaller sportboat, your whole team will probably want spray tops. If you are on larger keelboat most of the back of the boat will want a jacket and the front of the boat will prefer a spray top. Salopettes are the way to go for pants on any boat. A warmer climate, such as in Florida or the Caribbean, would mean a lighter weight combination or even an inshore jacket. The cold environment of San Francisco necessitates heavier weight gear.
Team gear purchases usually qualify for a discount due to the quantity of pieces of the same item ordered. At Sail22, we have a team gear discount program, but many other retailers also offer programs, so be sure to ask when placing an order. Embroidery and/or silkscreen/dye sublimation with team logos will be additional and priced based on the quantity, logo design, and method used.
For the following Team Gear Guide (see related galleries above) we sought recommendations from across the sailing apparel industry, based on three budget levels at full retail pricing. Take a look and find out how you can get your team looking fast and sailing fast.—Eds.