Helen Fretter takes a look at what is on the market and selects some of the best sailing kit for kids to keep them nice and warm on the water
Sailing kit for kids is now just as good as the adults’ options, with many brands taking the latest technology developed for Olympic sailing or high performance sailing and adapting it for their junior ranges.
There are good reasons for this – as every sailing parent knows, nothing puts your child off the sport faster than being cold and uncomfortable. Once young sailors move into class training and events, combined with club sailing or cadets sessions, they can quickly be on the water for 100+ days a year including training through cold winter and spring months.
Kate Morrison, who works in product design and development marketing at Rooster Sailing, explains: “Young sailors generally have less awareness of their temperature, so designing kit for this audience is even more important. When in competition, the sailors can be on the water for a long period of time so our challenge is always to make sure our kit will perform throughout the day, even when subjected to changing conditions – be it rain, when capsized, or in UV etc.”
A key element of many new youth sailing ranges are layering systems, which for parents have the added advantage that a single wetsuit can be adapted for a range of weather conditions. These are some of the best performing items in my junior sailors’ kit bags.
The best sailing kit for kids
Musto Junior Flexlite Alumin 3.0 Long john
Long john style wetsuits work really well for junior sailors. New super-stretchy Neoprenes mean they’re much easier to get on than a conventional back-zip suit, and when combined with a 3mm wetsuit top offers a superwarm 6mm over the body and core, equivalent to a winter steamer suit. In warmer weather the suit can then be worn with a lighter rash vest layer and spray top if needed. So although the initial outlay is expensive, a single suit can cover a near year-round sailing schedule.
Musto’s Junior Flexlite suit is seriously warm, made of four-layer Neoprene with a thermal backing layer on the torso which feels almost like a cosy fleece. Long john style suits, with their open arms and lower cut neck, can flush through with cold water more rapidly in a capsize, but the suit has proved really good at keeping the water out – my son has come ashore with his body nearly dry after a full day sailing in waves. The reinforced knees, shins and bum have also stood up well to heavy use.
Musto Junior Flexlite Alumin 3.0 Long Sleeve top
Designed to wear with the long john, this combines the same thermal backed thick neoprene with high stretch panels on the arms and sides to create a seriously warm suit. However, it will also work well with thinner leggings or shorts on breezy days when sailors want to keep their core warm but don’t need a full wetsuit. Breathable Neoprene under the arms improves ventilation making this a comfortable wear for long days.
Musto Junior Championship Smock 2.0
This is a high-spec spray top that’s super light, breathable, quick dry, and water repellent. The soft finish fabric has some stretch to it with no uncomfortable bunched feeling, and a smooth wrap collar design that is comfortable with no rub on the chin or neck. Good for warmer days.
Zhik Lightweight High Cut Boots
Not purely a junior product, these start from size 5/EU38, but as any parents – particularly of boys – will know, they can easily be wearing that size well before hitting teen years. Australian brand Zhik is associated with high performance sailing such as foiling, and comes with a real cool factor, so it’s no surprise that these Zhik boots are popular among young dinghy sailors who love their styling and luminous green sole. However, they also have serious design know-how behind them, with an ergonomic shaping using Zhik’s own lasts (moulds) to offer great support.
My son praises them for the additional support in the heel and ankle that allows him to hike harder, while the soles offer great non-slip for crossing the boat. The quick-lock side lacing system can also be adjusted – loosened for more flex on light winds days when you’re crouching in the boat, and tightened for extra support on breezy hiking days. An investment (or birthday present), but one of my son’s favourite pieces of sailing gear.
Rooster Hot Layers
These are the secret to avoiding cold hands and feet when the temperature is still low. Rooster’s ‘Hot’ range of titanium-lined under layers include gloves and socks, as well as top and legging under trousers. Layers are made of polypro with 0.5mm Neoprene with titanium lining that traps body heat. When worn under a wetsuit, normal sailing gloves or dinghy boots, they really, really work. Icy hands or feet are often the first reason young sailors will head to shore early and depending on what your child suffers from most a pair of under gloves or socks can really help them stay out on the water for longer. They are easy to lose though, so label carefully!
Rooster Aquafleeces are ubiquitous at kids’ dinghy sailing events, and it’s not surprising why: they are indisputably the warmest thing to wear on the water, bar a full drysuit. But they’re also so comfy that many choose to wear them all year round – the sailing equivalent to a favourite hoodie. We own several iterations, all bought second-, third- or even fourth-hand, as they are highly durable and easily handed down (just avoid putting the winter Pro version on a washing machine spin cycle as the taped seals can deteriorate).
The Pro Lite Aquafleece top combines a waterproof polyurethane outer coating with a lighter fleece inner layer. Super-comfortable and snuggly, the waterproof fabric stretches while the fleece inner is cosy. The fleece funnel neck is also easy to pull overhead. Neoprene wrist and waist fastenings help keep out spray, but this is not a dry top and will soak up a lot of water in a capsize – though it drip-drains quickly.
Spinlock Wing PFD
Spinlock’s Wing buoyancy aids have exactly the same features across all sizes, with the smallest suitable from approximately eight years old (25-40kg). The Wing PFD is made from a foam specially selected for its malleability, which gives a closer, more moulded fit. My daughter adores hers for its comfort, and the ergonomic cut is low bulk under the arms, also making it easier to swim in. It doesn’t ride up, sitting snugly above the waist, and doesn’t retain water, making it light to wear even when wet. A side access outer pocket is well placed for snacks, course cards, and other essentials.
Dryrobe Advance Kids Long Sleeve
The original dryrobe still sets the standard with a tough wind and waterproof outer shell made from recycled nylon, and a faux lambswool fleece inner. The outer repels water while the inner doesn’t soak up water, meaning that even if you pull it on over wet kit in the rain it doesn’t absorb much moisture. Size up as the sleeves can be rolled up for ‘growing room’, and they’re also cut generously making them great for getting changed under at the beach or dinghy park.