On any given race day, a sailor faces a number of critical decisions. For me, the most pivotal choice comes early on, when I step aboard and contemplate whether or not to take a seat on the dew-soaked cabin top. I know I’ll have to sit down at some point, but I try to delay the onset of wet butt as long as possible. Because, as we all know, once your butt gets wet…
Enough about butts. In fact, these days, we really don’t need to face the wet-butt conundrum (you should, however, check out Tim Zimmermann’s blog, “The Wetass Chronicles“). With advances in waterproof, breathable fabrics, the latest sailing shorts can fend off the morning dew without steaming up your undercarriage. At the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider San Diego NOOD, I took Helly Hansen’s Hydro Power shorts—and pants—for a spin.
On Saturday morning, I showed up to Luke Sayer’s Catalina 36 Sea Q, crossed my fingers, and sat down on the cockpit’s dew-slicked gelcoat. Sure enough, the two-layer HellyTech fabric kept the moisture from soaking through. Later in the day, when the wind died, the sun emerged, and temperatures on the low side began to climb, the shorts proved their breathability.
A cold rain showed up on Sunday, giving me a chance to test out the Hydro Power pants. Normally, I don’t wear pants when racing. Stop chuckling. What I mean is, I either wear shorts or bibs; waist-high pants don’t typically come into play. But because they’re water-resistant and quick-drying, the Hydro Power pants could fill the gap between shorts and salopettes. They’ll keep you warm on a brisk morning and fend off the spray, but when conditions really get wet, you’ll probably want to slip on your salopettes.
Both the Hydro Power shorts and pants exhibit excellent design detail. Thick reinforcement protects the garmets’ high-wear areas; elsewhere, the fabric has a slight elasticity, allowing the wearer excellent range of motion. You’ll find pockets where you want them—i.e., a generous cargo pocket on your thigh and secure zipper pockets at your hips—but you won’t find back pockets. After all, who carries their wallet on a sailboat?
Another nice thing about the Hydro Power pants and shorts—there are no protruding buttons or snaps to scratch the deck or jab you when you’re going through the contortions specific to your boat. The zipper pulls are soft, and the waist closure employs a slide tab rather than a button.