Rupert Holmes picks best performing gear over an 1,800-mile test after taking part in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race in 2022
After winning the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race aboard JPK 1010 Jangada Rupert Homes provides this full offshore sailing clothes review.
Rupert Holmes has some 85,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience in waters ranging from the Norwegian fjords to the Southern Ocean, plus the Caribbean and Mediterranean. As well as racing two-handed across the Atlantic, around Britain and Ireland, and to the Azores and back, he has cruised from New Zealand to South America and the Falklands, via Cape Horn, so it’s fair to say he knows a fair bit about the offshore sailing clothes that work.
Offshore sailing clothes reviewed
Helly Hansen Aegir H2 Flow midlayer
This was originally developed as a high-end product for the Mapfre team in the 2016/17 Volvo Ocean Race. My set is far from new, but still offers excellent insulation, while zipped ventilation slits reduce overheating when working hard.
They are insulated, windproof and breathable garments that can be worn as an outer layer in relatively tame conditions, or under foul weather kit in more inclement weather. Construction mixes lightweight ripstop panels with heavier reinforcement where necessary and includes mechanical stretch zones for easy movement.
I wore them extensively throughout the race – at night without foul weather gear in the light weather of the early stages, and as part of a full clothing system in the more challenging weather in the north.
Although the Aegir range of foul-weather gear is still available, the closest midlayer equivalent I’ve found in the current Helly Hansen range is the HP Racing Midlayer.
Gill OS1 smock
No matter how good your offshore jacket, there comes a point at which it’s impossible to prevent water coming down the neck, or dribbling through the cuff seals when your arm is raised. Jangada is only 33ft and has no sprayhood or cuddy, and the long upwind leg from St Kilda to Muckle Flugga saw a lot of water flung at you while helming.
That’s where efficient neoprene neck and wrist seals make a big difference and my arms and torso remained dry in conditions that drove others to use drysuits. Equally, the ocean specification collar and hood help to retain warmth, as well as keeping your head dry.
Zerofit Heatrub Ultimate base layer
These thermals are intended for very cold weather and long periods of inactivity – exactly the conditions we had for the most northerly sections of the race. They’re made of a stretchy mix of acrylic, nylon, wool, polyester and polyurethane, with a deep pile of long fibres on the inside. This traps a thick layer of warm air next to your skin and, according to Zerofit, generates extra heat by friction whenever you move.
Compared to standard sailing thermals it felt like turning the thermostat up several notches. Strongly recommended for out of season or high latitude work.
Dry feet are a great luxury when sailing offshore, but I’ve had a run of bad luck when ordering boots, with problems including leaks, sizing and delivery. However, expanding my collection of Sealskinz waterproof socks saved the day. Even if you have a pair of trusted boots it’s worth investing in a couple of pairs of these as they take up very little space, but are extremely effective, even if they don’t keep the water out for ever.
My recommendation is to opt for the ankle-length versions, with the Hydrostop seal to protect against water ingress. These proved to be both comfortable and warm, yet much quicker and easier to get on and off than the knee-high pair that remained in my kitbag throughout the race.
Gill Helmsman Gloves
I didn’t wear these often – perhaps a reflection of how well the remainder of the clothing worked, including base layers. However, they proved their effectiveness, remaining dry and keeping my hands toasty in conditions most gloves would fail to cope with. The palm is made of flexible, grippy, reinforced material that extends up the fingers and thumb and is sufficiently tough for occasional rope handling. The long gauntlet style allows the gloves to be tucked well up inside the sleeves of foul-weather gear.
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