Vigo Coastal Jacket by Gul

This lightweight foul-weather jacket, like its tester, is well suited to mild-weather racing and the occasional booze cruise. "Gear Up" from our September 16, 2009, /SW eNewsletter/

Gul's Vigo has all the features we look for in a coastal jacket, including numero uno: it keeps us dry.

Gul's Vigo has all the features we look for in a coastal jacket, including numero uno: it keeps us dry.Courtesy Gul

All foul-weather jackets may not be created equal, but I must say, they all seem kind of alike. You've got your high-tech fabric, your storm pockets, your fluorescent, stow-away hood. I've had the chance to try out foul-weather gear from many of the major manufacturers; all of it has been well made and purpose built. Which leads me to believe that, when it comes to choosing a foul-weather jacket, brand doesn't really matter. What matters is finding the right jacket for the job. If you're racing around the cans in warm weather, you probably won't appreciate the heft of an offshore jacket. And if you're rounding Cape Horn, you'll want something more substantial than a spray top.

For the sailing I've been doing lately-racing J/22s and J/24s and Shields on Narragansett Bay-I've found the perfect piece of foul-weather gear, the Vigo jacket by Gul. Made of lightweight, breathable, waterproof GCX2 EVO fabric with a mesh lining, this coastal jacket is perfect for mild-weather racing. As someone who hates to feel restricted or overheated while racing, I sometimes hesitate to put on my foul-weather jacket when conditions get wet. The lightweight Vigo, which has a roomy, ergonomic fit with articulated bends in the arms, has put an end to that hesitation and made my last few weeknight races a lot more comfortable. And as the weather has grown cooler and I've been piling on the mid layers, the Vigo has performed well as an outer shell, too.

The Vigo incorporates a number of the features I've come to expect from foul-weather jackets-life-jacket loops, reflective patches, a high, fleece-lined collar, double cuffs, a two-way zipper. Gul did a particularly nice job designing the pockets. At waist height, you'll find a pair of easy-entry, fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, a pair of cargo pockets with easy-open Velcro tabs, and a single, water-resistant pocket located above the right cargo pocket, all integrated into a simple, cohesive package. There's also an interior chest pocket with a sunglass cloth.

It probably shouldn't matter, but I'd like to add that the Vigo ranks fairly high on my coolness meter (which, admittedly, hasn't been calibrated since the mid '90s). It comes in basic colors like black and gray and is not too techy, besides the reflector patches, which are, by design, awfully conspicuous. Other than that, though, the jacket has a subtle look that transitions nicely from the racecourse to the booze cruise.

Of course, a jacket's fit, features, and style mean nothing if it doesn't keep you dry. Like Forrest Gump in Vietnam, the Vigo and I have seen water coming from all directions-waves splashing up from below, a wall of water crashing over the bow, seaspray to the face. One night I even stood outside in a torrential downpour just for good measure. I still haven't found a leak.