If you are new to the sport and can be hard to work out exactly what to wear dinghy sailing, so here's our guide to the kit you might want to consider to get you started
If you want to make a start in sailing then often a dinghy will be your first port of call for learning – and thereafter many choose to keep dinghy sailing whether in a racing capacity, dinghy cruising, or just for the pleasure of being out on the water.
Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a beginner setting foot in a dinghy for the first time, understanding what to wear dinghy sailing is essential for both comfort and safety. Proper attire not only protects you from the elements but also enhances your performance and ensures an enjoyable experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of dinghy sailing attire, equipping you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your wardrobe choices for the next exhilarating voyage.
Not all sailing is the same and there is a difference between the clothes that are most suitable for dinghy sailing and what to wear sailing on a yacht, although some kit will enable you to do both, typically dinghy kit is designed for a much wetter environment.
Dressing for the Conditions
When it comes to dinghy sailing, the ever-changing weather conditions can be both exhilarating and challenging. As such, it is crucial to dress appropriately. Layering is key, as it allows you to adjust your clothing according to the temperature and wind conditions. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep your skin dry, followed by insulating mid-layers to retain body heat. On top, choose a windproof and waterproof outer layer to shield yourself from splashes, rain, and spray.
While sailing can be an exhilarating experience, safety should always remain a top priority. Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) or a life jacket is non-negotiable, though more often than not, dinghy sailors will wear a bouyancy aid, which will not flip your body over if you are face down, nor support your head as they usually do not have a collar.
Dinghy sailing bouyancy aids
even more so than when sailing on a yacht, a bouyancy aid or some form of personal floatation device is an absolute necessity when dinghy sailing. As dinghies are inherently unstable than yachts and that they can capsize and require the sailors to help them come back upright, the chances of you ending up in the water are fart higher than on a yacht. Indeed, if you are new to dinghy sailing you should expect to end up in the water on a few occasions.
Not only is a good personal floatation device a key safety consideration, it also means you will be less tired after a capsize, so able to sail longer.
Gill Pursuit Buoyancy Aid
This is the bouyancy aid I wear for my dinghy sailing and it’s comfortable on my body, while the side zip allows for easy donning and is out of the way, so the front of the bouyancy aid is less likely to catch on any ropes and lines in the boat.
It’s got adjustable shoulder straps, a secure clip system around your torso and generally always feels securely attached to my body – this is crucial, as you do not want your bouyancy aid to ride up should you end up in the water.
As is often the case with this style of bouyancy aid, there is a large zippered front pocket that is useful for storing spares and snacks . My only quible is that I would prefer a couple of holes in the front pocket to assist faster draining when you have been submerged.
Musto Regatta Bouyancy Aid
Musto are an excellent sailing clothing brand and their kit regularly performs extremely well in our testing. The UK-based company has been creating dinghy clothing for decades and has always been at the top of the field in terms of innovation.
However, this Regatta Bouyancy Aid is not built to push the boundaries of innovation, rather it’s an excellent performer at a decent price. It has a side zip and a front pocket – though it is smaller than the one on the Gill Pursuit option above. The waist belt will prevent it riding up when in the water.
Personally I prefer a bouyancy aid that sits a little higher than this one – is shorter in the body. But shorter ones tend to need to add more foam higher up and thus have a tighter fit around the chest, while a longer bouyancy aid like this one might be better for women or those with a broad chest.
Dinghy sailing wetsuits
If it’s your first time dinghy sailing and if the weather is good and warm then you will be fine dinghy sailing in shorts and a t-shirt for your first time out. However, if you are planning on sailing with anything approaching regularity, a wetsuit is a key bit of kit to keep you warm out on the water.
It’s especially important to consider water temperature as, early in the summer, the weather might well be hot and sunny but the water temperature will remain fairly low. A summer wetsuit will suit most peoples needs and these typically top out a 3mm thickness. Something of this thickness will offer you plenty of flexibility while keeping you warm. Of course, if you are planning on dinghy sailing in colder conditions, then you will want to consider something around 5mm thickness but these do restrict movement significantly.
Typically due to the thinner material many summer wetsuits do not feature a zip and you usually climb into them from the neck. That is especially true of the longhjohn type like the Musto one below. I would always favour this style for dingy sailing as having your arms free is, to my mind, vital. And should you get cold, you can always add a top or another layer.
Musto Flexlite Alumin longjohn
The Flexlite Alumin longjohn 2.5MM from Musto may sound a bit too thin for cold water sailing but Musto tell us it uses its unique Flexlite Alumin technology that not only makes the warmth benefit the equivalent of wearing a 4mm to 4.5mm standard wetsuit, but it is also incredibly light and flexible for high-octane racing.
So what is Flexlite Alumin technology? And how does this compare to standard three-layer neoprene where a sheet of neoprene is bonded between two fabrics – the durable outer fabric and insulating inner fabric? According to Musto, Alumin is the fourth layer, which sits between the neoprene and the inner fabric. The idea is that it regulates body temperature, keeping you warmer for a lot longer.
Other features include durable anti-abrasion nylon-faced neoprene on the seat, back of the thighs and knees, plus quick drying plush backer in the chest and back area.
In her summing up of the Flexlite Alumin suit she wears, double Olympic Gold medallist Hannah Mills MBE says, “it’s an amazing product… Although more expensive than some others in the Musto selection, it provides a super high-quality neoprene which would last for years.”
Decathlon Men’s Surfing 2/2 mm Neoprene Wetsuit 100
This 2mm Olain wetsuit from French sporting giant, Decathlon, has a more traditional shape and features full arms with a back zipper. This does make donning the wetsuit easier if you are unfamiliar with wearing them and the full arms will ensure you body is fully covered. As mentioned above, I prefer to have my arms free when dinghy sailing but that is entirely a personal preference.
Decathlon were relatively unknown outside of France until fairly recently, but their combination of solid performing sporting kit at really competitive prices has seen them grow both inside and outside of France in the last couple of decades. Their kit, while not always the most innovative, consistently performs well in out testing, especially when you consider the outright cost.
The 2mm neoprene is thin enough to allow for plenty of flexibility but will keep you cosy in the summer months. As this is a surfing wetsuit Decathlon recommend use of up to one hour in temperate water, but if you are using the suit for dinghy sailing, you should be in the water less often and so it should be fine for longer periods of time and in slightly colder water. That being said 2mm is very thin so if you’re looking to go dinghy sailing in spring or autumn, you might want to consider something thicker, such as a winter wetsuit.
Dinghy sailing boots and shoes
Again, if you are brand new to dinghy sailing then an old pair of trainers will be perfectly suitable initially, but over time you will want to consider something designed for purpose. Wetboots will help keep your feet warm, wont fall of and should offer superior grip to keep you from falling over in the boat.
Helly Hansen Men’s Crest Watermoc
If you don’t want to buy a shoe that is too specific to dinghy sailing then a slip on ankle boot such as this Helly Watermoc could be the ideal option. These neopreme booties are easy to put on and will be great for a variety of watersports such as paddle boarding, dinghy sailing or, indeed, just chilling out at the beach.
They feature a very flexible rubber outsole, which features Hellygrip rubber, and should keep your feet well planted. Many people prefer this type of boot over a full ankle boot, but do be warned if you are hiking out (sitting over the side of the boat to balance it, while you tuck your feet under toe straps in the boat to keep you planted) then you might find they do not offer enough protection to the top of the foot.
Zhik ZhikGrip 2 Neoprene Wetsuit Hiking Boots
Zhik is a brand that was founded in Australia with the aim to provide top performing kit to dinghy sailors – though they have since branched out into other sectors of the sport. A lot of Zhik’s kit is developed alongside professional dinghy sailors and they typically offer some interesting innovations.
These hiking boots have a special rubberised front which helps maintain contact with the boat’s toe straps (see note about hiking above). The idea is that this takes some of the pressure off the connection to the boat and allows you to hike harder, for longer (and so go faster).
Clearly these are boots designed for people who primarily want to race, but there are benefits for non-racers too. They have a really secure ankle strap and very grippy rubber outsole, they might not be as good for use with crossover sports, but if your main interest is dinghy sailing then you’d be hard pressed to find a better bit of kit.