Racing Evolution Jacket and ATS Spray Top by Slam

On a wet assignment in the Caribbean, Herb McCormick stays dry beneath this ergonomic foul-weather gear. "Gear Up" from our April 1, 2009, /SW eNewsletter/

****| |Slam's Racing Evolution Jacket kept Herb McCormick dry, yet cool, in the spray and sun of the Caribbean.| As I left for the Caribbean last March for my annual gig as press writer for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, in the bottom of my sea bag I had two new pieces of Slam gear, their Racing Evolution Jacket and the ATS Spray Top New. I had no idea they were going to come in so handy. But after three days of driving the very open 21-foot photo boat for shooter Bobby Grieser-much of it largely submerged in 8- to 10-foot seas stirred up by winds gusting to 35-knots-I was pretty certain I'd given the items a very rigorist test. And, man, I was impressed.

When I'd picked the gear up during Key West Race Week and told the Slam guys I was heading for the islands, they advised against the dark blue Racing Evolution Jacket I'd had my eye on and suggested I go with the gray model, to lessen the heat absorption in the tropics (it also comes in red, lime green, and black). It turned out to be a good call. Temperatures peaked in the low 80s, and though I was continuously soaked, the breathable jacket kept me bone dry but also very comfortable with just a T-shirt underneath.

It's next to impossible to be concise when describing the garment's long list of features, but I'll try. Externally, there's a pair of generous vertical pockets with long, laminated, water-repellent zippers for stashing gloves, notes, or sunscreen. The main zipper features an ingenious internal flap lined with Velcro that "double seals" the jacket when fully zipped. The collar includes a snug, fleece-like fabric that's very cozy when fully zipped. There are double cuffs on the sleeve and a handy drawstring at the waist. Inside there is another pair of pockets, including a dedicated one for a cell phone. On top of all that, if I do say so myself, it's one sharp-looking piece of kit.

The stow-away hood is big and effective, with a nice built-in visor, to boot. My only complaint-and it's a universal one, really-is that the hood is fairly bulky when stowed in the collar (flipping your ball cap brim around backwards is not an option). With all the advancements in modern sailing gear, no one, as near as I can tell, has successfully addressed the challenge of fashioning a hood that really disappears when not needed (which is about 90% of the time). That said, it's not like I have a better idea.

****| |Slam's ATS spray top has a generous cut, but only one pocket.|

The ATS (Advanced Technology Sportswear) Spray Top was, quite frankly, the envy of every damp sailor I encountered in St. Maarten. There's nothing revolutionary here, but it does everything it's supposed to do: Generously cut with ample room for stretching and working, it's totally waterproof, breathable, and comfortable, with solid, waterproof gaskets and Velcro seals at the neck, waist, and wrists. My one complaint here is that, with the exception of a small pocket on the sleeve, the company has kept the garment plain and light with no additional pockets. I understand why they did it, but I'm also used to the big front pocket on my Henri Lloyd spray top, where I can stash sunscreen, a notepad, a small digital camera, and so forth.

Overall, however, the jacket and spray top get two thumbs up from this satisfied sailor.

Racing Evolution Jacket, $250
ATS spray top, $130
www.slam.com