Said best by a pioneer in yachting and one of the first people to sail around the world—Annie Van De Wiele, "The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance." Sailing is the original extreme sport; sailors must always be ready to expect the unexpected. Whether you're still learning the ropes or competing against 100 teams at once—knowing what to wear makes all the difference. Mastering the art of layering is the key to protecting sailors from the everchanging elements on the water. Stay dry, warm, and ready to tackle your goals with these layering tips for sailing:
Layer #1: Base Layer
The first layer, the base layer, is closest to your skin and plays a vital role in regulating your body temperature and moisture. The goal of any good layering system is to keep you comfortable longer. A good base layer should absorb your sweat to avoid exhaustion, overheating, or hypothermia. By wicking moisture away from your skin the base layer keeps you dry, warm, and ready to keep sailing. The best fabrics to accomplish this are merino wool or polyester.
Sømand's Do's and Don'ts for Base Layers:
➡Do stay cool, dry, and comfortable on the water with base layers made from breathable moisture-wicking fabrics like merino wool or polyester. Consider using a UV protective base layer for warmer days.
- Coastal Sailing Base Layer Recommendation: Look for warmth + moisture-wicking, a fabric made from merino wool is perfect for this. Use lightweight or regular merino wool based on your planned activity level.
- Inshore Sailing Base Layer Recommendation: Prioritize lightweight and quick-dry materials over warmth. Consider using a UV protective base layer on warmer days.
- Offshore Sailing Base Layer Recommendation: Moisture-wicking fabric is always a must. The need for extra insulation will depend on expected outdoor temperatures.
➡Don't choose cotton, as it retains moisture and will likely leave you damp and chilly.
Layer #2: Mid Layer
The second layer, the mid layer, should provide warmth and insulation while maintaining freedom of movement and breathability. It can be worn as a standalone jacket or layered under a waterproof jacket. Usually, the mid-layer is made of fleece, down, or synthetic material. The type of fabric needed will vary depending on the planned activity level and the expected weather conditions.
Sømand's Do's and Don'ts for Mid Layers:
➡Do look for a jacket made of fleece, down, or synthetic material based on your insulation needs. Remember that the level of insulation needed will vary depending on sailing conditions.
- Coastal Sailing Mid Layer Recommendation: Warmth is a must, but how much depends on the planned activity level and weather. Synthetic jackets are best for higher-intensity intervals. Down or more heavily insulated jackets are best for slower and colder days.
- Inshore Sailing Mid Layer Recommendation: Lightweight and waterproof. When temperatures go up, this might be your last layer.
- Offshore Sailing Mid Layer Recommendation: Warm, breathable, and easy to move in. Humidity is brutal out on the open sea. Make sure to balance warmth with breathability.
➡Don't use more layers than you need to! One mid-layer over many is always better to maintain ease of movement.
Layer #3: Outer Layer
The third layer, the outer layer, is the final barrier between you and the elements. This layer should be waterproof and windproof to protect you from rain, wind, and ocean spray. Look for a jacket that balances waterproofing with breathability. A high waterproof rating with a breathable membrane will keep you dry and comfortable. A hood is also crucial for extra protection while sailing.
We created the Farallon Sailing Jacket as a versatile outer layer for inshore, coastal, and lighter offshore sailing.
Sømand's Do's and Don'ts for Outer Layers:
➡Do choose a jacket that's windproof, waterproof, and breathable. Consider using a Hi-vis hood for extra protection.
- Coastal Sailing Outer Layer Recommendation: The jacket should be lightweight, windproof, waterproof, and breathable, with a hood and protective collar. For the pants, look for a reinforced seat and knees, roomy pockets, and adjustable suspenders.
- Inshore Sailing Outer Layer Recommendation: The jacket should be lightweight, windproof, and waterproof. For serious foiling, waterproof sailing pants or shorts can be helpful.
- Offshore Sailing Outer Layer Recommendation: Balance waterproofing with breathability. Humidity is the enemy. Strong waves favor high collars and sturdy hoods. Add a salopette to ensure the highest level of protection from the elements.
➡Don't choose a jacket without a hood.
Accessories: Adding the Final Touches to the Layering System
Aside from your base, mid, and outer layers, you'll always want to wear a life jacket. A hat, gloves, and neck gaiter can also be great to keep you warm and protected from the wind and waves. Sunglasses, especially polarized ones, are great for reducing glare and shielding your eyes from the sun. It's also good to choose shoes with durable grip and quick drying. Finally, a water-resistant bag to carry your other essentials is the last addition you don't want to miss.
Sømand's Do's and Don'ts for Accessories:
➡Do always wear a life jacket. Choose shoes with a durable grip that dry quickly. Consider using sunglasses, a hat, gloves, and a neck gaiter to get extra protection while on the water.
➡Don't forget a water-resistant bag!
"There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm," - Willa Cather.
Now go out there and do great things! Remember it's all about the layers 😉