RC Spray Top by Slam

Russell Coutts-influenced top combines features of traditional spray top and inshore jacket. "Gear Up" from our March 20, 2007 /SW eNewsletter/.



If I could make any complaint about the 2007 Acura Key West Race Week, it's that the weather was too nice. Too nice, that is, to wear anything other than shorts and a T-shirt on the racecourse, which made testing Slam's RC Spray Top a daunting proposition. After waiting all week for the weather to turn just a bit cooler, for the clouds to hide the sun for a race, I slipped the yellow top to start the final race of the nine-race regatta. Halfway down the run, I started to overheat and took it off. It just wasn't spray top weather, and no level of breathability was going to change that.So I brought the top to the Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta in mid-February, even though I knew I wouldn't be sailing. The photo boat can be even wetter and colder than a race boat. As it turned out, the first day of the regatta was, without a doubt, the coldest day on the water covering a NOOD regatta in my seven-year career at Sailing World. The breeze was gusty and from the north and Tampa Bay was covered with short, white-capped chop.I was one of the few people on the press boat to dress somewhat appropriately for the conditions. I was rewarded for my foresight with the spot on the boat directly to windward of the driver. Essentially, I was the spray blocker for the rest of the crew as we worked our way from the leeward-most circle up to the circle furthest upwind. Needless to say, I took my share of waves. But the adverse conditions gave the RC Spray Top-the RC stands for Russell Coutts, who offered some advice with the design-a chance to shine, and shine it did. I finished the day as dry as I started. And aside from my feet, which were numb by the time we reached the dock-stupid flip flops-I was warm as well.The top spans the gap between the minimalist protection of a spray top and the comfort of an inshore jacket. It has a high, zippered collar offering extra protection from the elements, and two mid-chest, slash pockets. Not having a full-length front zipper makes the jacket lighter and less bulky. Most small dinghy sailors won't have much use for the collar-just another thing to snag a wayward mainsheet-but on two- and three-person dinghies, small keelboats, and even larger raceboats, this could well be the first piece of gear anyone throws into their bag. The garment is surprisingly light-just over a pound-and compressible and it moves with you very well. Yet, as I mentioned above, it's thoroughly waterproof. The wrist, neck, and waist seals are largely neoprene, which I favor over other materials for this job. The internal neck seal proved quite comfortable and kept out any stray drips during my day on Tampa Bay. The collar has a lined internal flap that covers the zipper, which will help prevent any irritation to the chin or lips, and an external flap to prevent any water slipping through the zipper. All in all, it's quite an impressive package, certainly one worthy of the prestigious initials in its name. Of course for a retail price of $275, we should expect as much. But considering how this top could easily take the place of two garments, it becomes much more reasonable. For more on the RC Spray Top, www.slam.com