Inshore sailing puts you in very close proximity to the water; there'll be regular splashes and possible falls, and you're highly likely to get a drenching, whether in a dinghy or on a catamaran. So, an inshore sailing outfit certainly won't be synonymous with a comfortable one...
You'll choose your kit based on objective criteria, but above all on your own sailing techniques.
BASIC KIT FOR SAILING DINGHIES OR CATAMARANS
Every item of clothing you use when sailing a dinghy or catamaran serves a certain purpose.
Let's go through the kit checklist together to see what it's all for.
You wear a wetsuit underneath your buoyancy jacket (with a smock between the two if necessary). Its role is to keep you warm by holding heat next to your body. The thicker it is, the better it insulates you against the cold!
Wetsuits designed for use on dinghies/catamarans have a few sailing-specific features. For example, they have reinforced knees and seat to cope with abrasion. Their form is also specially adapted to the seated position, and the material is supple to increase freedom of movement when manoeuvring. Depending on the model, the seams are stitched and glued, which guarantees better insulation against the cold from the water.
INSHORE SAILING SMOCK
This loose-fitting smock limits the cooling effect of the wind on your body, aka wind chill. Ideally, it is waterproof and breathable to better cope with the temperature changes between periods of high and low activity.
Pockets are always a welcome feature too, allowing you to store a shackle key or cereal bar!
THERMAL OR UV TOP
Depending on the season and temperature, you might want to complete your outfit with a top.
There are two types you might use for inshore sailing:
— thermal tops: mostly used in cold weather, these are worn under the wetsuit to improve heat management;
— UV tops (T-shirts to cut out UV rays, worn in sunny weather and without a neoprene wetsuit): the material acts as a filter, protecting you from the damaging effects of the sun and forming a barrier against UVA and UVB rays. And that's even when wet.
Gloves, both full and fingerless, protect you from abrasion. If you prefer to keep your hands warm, choose a pair of neoprene gloves. If dexterity is more important to you, opt instead for a fingerless pair.
INSHORE SAILING BOOTIES
These protect your feet from knocks with the deck equipment. Their design also improves your grip for certain manoeuvres and actions (like hiking).
Neoprene booties also allow you to manage the temperature of your extremities: always useful in cold water or during long trips on the sea.
THE PERFECT OUTFIT FOR INSHORE SAILING IN AUTUMN/WINTER
In any weather on a boat
COLD WEATHER IN A DINGHY OR CATAMARAN
A 3 or 4 mm full wetsuit will regulate your body temperature, but for added heat, it's common to use a thermal top as well.
Since cold enters the body through the extremities, it's important to protect them from it. Gloves, anoraks and booties are your allies, and for your head you'll want a woolly hat, or one made from polypropylene (a material that retains heat even when wet) or water-repellent fleece (the water repellency means water drips straight off).
To protect you from the wind and rain, you'll also need a smock.
WARM WEATHER IN A DINGHY OR CATAMARAN
You won't have too much need for insulation, so you should be fine with a shortjohn or shorts or water-repellent shorts with reinforcements.
Beware of UV! You'll need to protect yourself against these rays with a UV top (or UV water t-shirt). As well as this, you should also wear a cap, sunglasses and sun cream to protect your face.
Lastly, your hands will see some abuse, so wear fingerless gloves to limit the damage.