I’m pretty nerdy about lists. I make grocery lists, to-do lists, and packing lists for all occasions, even those as mundane as beer-can racing. When I’m headed out on the water, the first things that go on my list are, typically, spray top and trousers. In my experience, this foul-weather gear combination will cover the majority of wet situations you’ll encounter racing small and big boats in moderate conditions. But what I really like about the spray-top/ trouser combo is it’s ideal for the times when I don’t need any foul-weather gear at all, the times when the foulies are tucked neatly away in the gear bag, where I like them best. Having compact foul-weather gear means I don’t have to feel guilty about bringing it along, no matter how benign the forecast, which means I’m less likely to get caught in the rain.
As I made my way through the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD circuit this spring, Gill’s Pro Dinghy top and trousers rested quietly in the shadowy recesses of my gear bag while I basked in the sunshine of Annapolis, Seattle, and Detroit. It wasn’t until we arrived in Chicago that the foulies came out. In between two wet days on the press boat shooting video of the J/111 class, I sailed a cold, damp distance race aboard the Beneteau 36.7 Endeavor. Each day, I left the dock thinking I wouldn’t need the gear, but quickly learned otherwise as Lake Michigan came splashing across the bow. The Pro Dinghy top and trousers saved my bacon all weekend, keeping me dry and warm despite frequent dousings.
But it wasn’t until I hopped aboard Adam Spiegel’s J/105 Jam Session at the San Francisco regatta last month that the Gill combo showed its true colors. There was a strong wind whipping up the Bay under bright sunshine; I was trimming spinnaker and jib. When I was riding the rail upwind, the conditions were chilly and wet, but when I was tugging on the sheets, conditions quickly changed to hot and sweaty. The Pro Dinghy combination kept me comfortable in both modes. On the rail, I could batten down the hatches and keep out the spray, and as I worked up a sweat trimming, I could unzip the cuffs and collar for plenty of ventilation.
Both garments are made from Gill’s lightweight, breathable, flexible, waterproof 2 Dot laminated fabric with fully taped seams, and both benefit from numerous thoughtful design features. The top has a a polyurethane collar with a center zipper and Velcro adjustments on either side of the neck. Once you set the flaps to fit your neck, you can return to the same comfortable seal each time you rezip the collar. There’s a soft chin flap covering the zipper closure, and abrasion-resistant patches protecting the point inside the collar where the taped seams come together. These are the kinds of details that indicate the Pro Dinghy top isn’t some flimsy thing you bring along for light duty—it’s a workhorse built for regular use. The generous cut accommodates base layers, and ergonomic paneling through the shoulders and arms allows for free range of movement during high-energy tasks like grinding and trimming. The single zipper pocket on the right hip is angled for easy access when wearing a PFD.
The trousers ride high in the front and back, providing plenty of overlap with the top. You’ll find reinforcement at the usual places (knees and seat). The shoulder straps employ Gill’s user-friendly Velcro adjustment system. I like how the hem is angled upwards from front to back, giving you more coverage over the top of your foot but less in the back of your ankle, so the cuff doesn’t catch your heel. At first, I found the absence of pockets on the trousers to be annoying, especially since the top only has one side pocket. But this gear is designed for active racing, where you don’t want to have a bunch of stuff in your pockets, where you want something that will get the job done with as little fuss as possible. And in that regard, Gill’s Pro Dinghy gear gets it done.
Men’s Pro Top, $129
Women’s Pro Top, $129
Junior Pro Top, $119
Pro Trousers, $129