We asked a range of professional sailors who have clocked many miles in a busy season to tell us about the gear they’ve bought recently. Toby Hodges reports
Dee Caffari – Volvo and solo sailor
Exposure Marine MOB Search Light
I have spent many days sailing offshore, often solo in the inhospitable envi ronment of the Southern Ocean, but more recently as part of Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race. It is a magical place, but one where mistakes are punished immediately.
Which is why I appreciated Exposure Marine’s MOB Search Light. It is lightweight, versatile and pocket-sized, yet has illumination of 1,300 lumens. It has two modes: spotlight and searchlight, with various power levels.
But the function that makes this kit something I would not go offshore without is the strobe, which is activated by a motion sensor. Simply throwing the torch in the water after a MOB triggers the strobe light, increasing the chances of recovery and survival.
Price £179.95. www.exposuremarine.com
Dee is the only woman to have sailed single-handed non-stop round the world in both directions. She was also a Team SCA crewmember during the last Volvo Ocean Race.
Adrian Stead – tactician
I wear my iPod Touch on my wrist while racing, linked to the instruments so that I can have all the numbers I need without always looking at the main displays. This means I can keep hiking out and facing aft when downwind to see the breeze.
I have a windward/leeward page set up with six numbers: TWS, TWD, layline times; a Solent page with depth, COG, wind and current; plus a couple of others to give specific performance numbers.
The numbers are sent from the navigation computer and I use either the Ventus app or the Idatanet app to display the data remotely, depending on which boat runs which.
I am very numeric and like the numbers to help build the picture for strategy.
Price from £159. www.apple.com
Adrian Stead is a professional tactician, currently sailing with Quantum Racing in the TP52 Super Series, the mini maxi Bella Mente and RC44 Team Ceeref.
Henry Bomby – solo sailor
My smock is my top piece of kit this year. Sailing offshore often requires big and bulky foulweather gear – particularly, it seems, with smocks.
They tend to have huge wraparound hoods and face masks that are annoying when not in use, and normally are difficult to get out of and put away by yourself.
The material is heavy, making it difficult to move around in and making you feel cumbersome.
For me the Zhik Ocean Smock fixes all those problems, completely rethinking the hood’s design, deployment and stowage. And the Ocean material is the lightest yet most durable on the market.
I genuinely wouldn’t want to go offshore in a breeze without it.
Price €995 (£712). www.zhik.com
Henry Bomby has competed in the solo Figaro circuit since 2012, currently under the sponsorship of Rockfish. Bomby is also one of our regular gear testers.
Rachael Sprot – adventure training skipper
Nasa PC Navtex USB
In many of the more remote places we visit it is much easier to download a GRIB file using satcomms than it is to get hold of the marine forecast over the radio. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency clearly states that skippers should consult the official marine forecasts before putting out, and I agree.
As well as adding local knowledge to the computer-generated data, the marine forecast doesn’t pretend to be accurate to the nearest knot of wind. It gives a more realistic spectrum of conditions you might experience.
However, making out the weather forecast when it is rattled off by the Coastguard can be hard enough, let alone if that person is speaking with a Faeroese accent. So installing the Nasa PC Navtex receiver, which connects to our ship’s computer, has made life much easier.
It was relatively cheap, easy to install, whirs away in the background collecting forecasts, and after a leisurely lie-in I can plug in the computer and download the latest weather – in plain English.
Price £135. www.nasamarine.com
Charles Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Last year we went through three wet vacs. This year we are still on number one (touch wood) and that is Charles. He was pretty expensive as wet vacs go, but well worth it.
The bilges love him, he won’t complain if you ask him to deal with the engine bay and he has even been known to clear a heads blockage.
You can’t ask for much more in a crewmember!
Price £159. www.numatic.co.uk
Rachael Sprot set up Rubicon 3 with co-founder Bruce Jacobs. The adventure sailing company provides training from Competent Crew to Ocean Yachtmaster while also allowing time to explore extraordinary places. Its current itinerary includes Madeira, the Azores, Morocco and next year Arctic Norway.
Alan Roberts – Figaro and dinghy sailor
Sealskinz socks and beanie
There is nothing worse than cold feet. I find that even if my feet are slightly damp, I still get so cold. So having dry, warm feet was just the ticket this winter.
I went for the longest and thickest socks that Sealskinz had available. Having experienced damp feet from leaking boots, these are now one of the basic things I’d always take for cold-water sailing – I even wear them with trainers.
The thick mid-length socks cost £37 – and the Waterproof Beanie for £25 is a winner! www.sealskinz.com
Alan Roberts, 25, dinghy racer and former Merlin Rocket national champion, skippered his Beneteau Figaro Magma Structures to 9th place in the Solitaire de Figaro this year – the highest ranking of any British sailor in this solo discipline in 40 years.
James Prince – superyacht skipper
This D-Splicer kit and scissors have made all the loops and soft shackle splicing that were needed for my new boat [the largest Truly Classic yet, 127ft Atalante] easy and fuss free.
Price £35 for each (kit and scissors). www.d-splicer.com
The Fluke VoltAlert and Laser Thermometer
The VoltAlert is a handy method for quickly checking live wires. Touch the pen-shaped device to a wire or outlet and it glows and beeps to let you know a voltage is present.
I don’t rely on it but it’s a good, quick reference, especially on fuse panels and breakers or shore power.
Fluke also makes a laser thermometer, which is another item I really like having on board. It uses infrared to allow you to keep a safe distance from the object. The reading is really accurate and you can check all sorts of operating temperatures with it on the engine.
It is also good for checking temperatures on the air conditioning.
Price VoltAlert £20. Thermometer from £64. www.fluke.com
This is a small dive bottle with a built-in regulator and mouthpiece. It has proved to be great for a quick check overboard for lines on the prop or anything dropped in shallow water. It can be prone to some user error if people don’t know how to dive, but we have had no problems otherwise.
Price from £220. www.spareair.com
James Prince is a qualified superyacht captain and engineer. He skippers the newly launched Atalante, the largest Truly Classic yet at 127ft.