Gear Box: The Little Things

Small gear upgrades can make a big difference. See what a halyard clip, new shoes, and a tech shirt can do.

September 13, 2013
Sailing World

SOAK halyard clip, Gill’s Pro Racer Performance Trainer, Free Fly Apparel’s Bamboo Tech shirt

Courtesy Of The Manufacturers

While racing on the J/70 Helly Hansen at this year’s Quantum Key West, one of the most important things we tried to sort out was how to prevent the spinnaker from shrimping during the set. One key was ensuring the spinnaker halyard got to the top of the rig without the head getting stuck in the shrouds. We initially tried the trusty electrical-tape method, whereby you pre-load a bunch of wraps at the port turnbuckle and use one wrap to hold the halyard outboard. When you hoist, the tape breaks. But with the big wind and waves, the tape often failed to stick and was a pain to reload each time, so on the third day I bought a SOAK halyard clip, a clever little $20 plastic device that’s been around for a while.

Using its nylon lanyard, I tied it to the base of the mast on the port side, angled forward so the halyard was pulled away from the shrouds. Simply slip the halyard between the jaws, tension the halyard, and you’re done. It held reliably—in fact, so well that when my temporary knot came untied, the clip went up to the top of the rig during one set. We’d thought we lost it overboard, but there it was when the kite came down. It’s a perfect piece of gear for any keelboat or dinghy, and over time, will offset the cost of multiple rolls of tape—while preventing shards of tape from littering the water.

Ever had to take a minute mid-race to re-tie or tuck in your shoelaces? Gill’s Pro Racer Performance Trainer makes those aggravating laces a thing of the past with its integrated lace protector. These newly released sneaks also boast an anti-microbial treatment on the insole, giving us hope that our sailing shoes won’t offend those we carpool with. Such features as lightweight, quick-drying construction, toe protection, and water-dispersing channels on the outsole should make these shoes commonplace on decks of big boats and small boats alike. $135,


Compared with cotton, the modern dry technical shirt is a huge upgrade for performance sailors. But it’s not perfect. Chief among the complaints is the feel of polypropylene and other synthetic fabrics. They just don’t wear that comfortably against bare skin, which of course is where they need to be for their wicking properties to be most effective.

Free Fly Apparel’s Bamboo Tech shirt, which is made from a blend of bamboo viscose and polyester, is the most comfortable performance-oriented shirt I’ve ever worn. It has the soft, supple feel of expensive cotton sheets. Since it doesn’t generate static electricity like a synthetic shirt, it also tends to hang a lot more naturally right out of the drawer. Unlike cotton, it wicks moisture away from the skin and dries quickly.

Free Fly Apparel was originally created for saltwater fly fishermen, and the company website is full of testimonials raving about the fabric’s odor-resistance and UV protection. My test results agreed. It kept me from getting sunburned, and while I may have developed a bit of musk by the end of the day, the shirt was largely odor-free. The Free Fly line includes shirts, hats, and sun masks, but plans are in the works to expand the company’s offerings. $49.99,


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