It’s the ultimate test of wet and cold weather gear, as Elaine Bunting, David Glenn and Skip Novak go to Cape Horn

Cape Horn gear test

Elaine Bunting, David Glenn and Skip Novak test wet and warm weather gear at Cape Horn

Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel is the strangest place, as we found when we joined Skip Novak last year to film our Storm Sailing Techniques series. In a day, it could – and did – go from flat calm to 50-plus knots. The unpredictability and suddenness of wind here is one of the most alarming, yet impressive features of this elemental extremity of the world.

We were lashed by williwaws during our trip and got a good few soakings, not least rounding Cape Horn. Keeping dry is easier here because most boats have a cuddy or pilothouse and the object is to stay sheltered as much as possible, but keeping warm is harder. Kit has to be tough and durable as well, as this is a rough and rocky environment (topped, mind you, by the fabric- and skin-shredding non-slip deck finish on Pelagic).

We wrap up our Storm series with a look at the kit we all chose to take to Cape Horn and how it performed.

1. Smith Anthem ski goggles. Essential for visibility in driving snow and rain when outside the comfort of the doghouse. £65. ***** Skip

2. Sail Racing liner jacket with hood. Superlight mid-layer shell with polyfill. For sub-zero conditons they also do a down fill. Gives that bit extra warmth for ‘standing around’ conditions. Serves as a liner for a Sail Racing shell jacket, but can be worn on its own. Stylish too! £220. ***** Skip

3. Silk scarf (worn and ragged so you don’t look like a complete poser). Keeps your neck warm, especially in damp or wet conditions, which is tricky with wool or a cotton towel. I pay about £40. ***** Skip

4. Alpaca woollen hat. My lucky hat worn at sea and in the mountains for over 15 years, which speaks of the quality. Breathable, but incredibly warm. Enormous sentimental value. Cost about £25 way back when. ***** Skip

5. Sail Racing Element bib pants. Offshore salopette, very rugged, but comfortable. £600. ***** Skip

6. Orange fish boat gloves. Rubber-coated fleece-lined work gloves for general wet weather conditions, steering and line handling. Best value for money of any glove going, at £6. Buy several pairs and be happy. ***** Skip

7. Scarpa Crux trekking shoes. Useful on the ‘approach’ from Heathrow to Ushuaia, walking around various dusty Patagonian towns and inevitable pub crawling before and after a voyage. £99. **** Skip

8. Helly Hansen sailing gloves. Standard sailing glove. Marked down because of price. £22. *** David

9. Guy Cotten Blue Thermo gloves. Fleece-lined, surprisingly supple and good for steering when very cold and wet. Not so good for intricate work like opening a snatch block, etc. Essential for line handling when ‘tying in’ to an anchorage. Remarkable value for money. £8.99. ***** David

10 & 11. Sail Racing Orca Softshell jacket and pants. Middle layer for Sail Racing’s Element Range. Windproof and water-resistant. Surprisingly warm for minimum bulk, so good to work in. When the work stops, pop on the Liner Jacket (2). Jacket £302. Pants £250. **** Skip

12. France Nege Polartec hat with ear flaps. Bought many years ago for about £10. Not currently available online, but a favourite. Warm, but not waterproof. *** David

13. Helly Hansen On Tip Softshell gloves. Features neoprene tips to index finger and thumb to operate phone or iPad screen. Not much call for that on our trip. Fleece-lined and offers better protection than sailing gloves. £55. **** David

14. Musto Southern Ocean boots. Normally indestructible, but Pelagic’s non-slip deck finish wreaked havoc with my toecaps. But these are warm, the gaiters keep the water out and the non-slip is ace. Heavy, but who’s going to notice that in the rough stuff? Big bad boots. £145. **** David

15. Muckboots. These rubber, high-topped, insulated workboots double as sea boots. They are remarkable on the deck with soft rubber soles, and a trekking boot that has enough support for short distances on the go in the wet conditions of Tierra del Fuego. The tread on the sole is coarse, so its easy to clean. £90. ***** Skip

16 & 17. Sail Racing inner base layer shirt and pants. My favourite inner layer by far, in many years of trying them all. Can be worn for days with minimum smell factor! Expensive, but worth it. Shirt £80. Pants £60. ***** Skip

18. Quechua Inuit gloves. Budget waterproof gloves from the Decathlon sports superstore. Perfectly adequate though a longer gauntlet would be good. Teamed up with Helly Hansen Dry glove liners. Gloves £12.99. Liners £15. **** Elaine

 

This is an extract from a feature in Yachting World September 2014 issue