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    The right outfit for dinghy sailing

    Wearing the right clothes is important when sailing any kind of boat. And NO I'm not talking about fashion or latest styles. First and foremost sailing is a sport and its has its own sportswear which is all about practicality; keeping you warm, protected from the elements and able to focus on having fun. However dinghy sailing and yacht sailors have different needs. Basically dinghy sailors are closer to, or in, the water and they need to be kitted out appropriately.

    To choose your sailing outfit (dinghy or catamaran), you should take the weather conditions into account.

    Each piece of your kit plays a specific role :

    - A neoprene wetsuit is mainly used to preserve body heat and keep you warm. The thicker the suit, the better the insulation. The suits designed

    for dinghy/catamaran sailing are specifically designed for this sport. For example, they contain rub-resistant reinforced areas, such as on the knees and glutes, a shape adapted to seated positions and flexibility allowing freedom of movement for manoeuvring. But these specialist sailings suits might be hard to come by and can be expensive. A simple wetsuit will keep you warm. If the sun is shining then a shorty wetsuit (with short arms and legs) may be perfect. But remember the water in Youghal is never really warm, its always several degrees below body temperature, so if you plan to get wet a long suit is best.


    - Gloves or fingerless gloves will protect you from rubbing and help with gripping the sheets (ropes). Modern sailing dinghies have an array of synthetic ropes and control lines, which have a tendency to chafe the hands when pulling and for this reason dinghy sailing gloves are worn usually in all seasons. Dinghy sailing gloves for summer have a reinforced palm a synthetic leather material, which copes with being wet and resists hardening when dry, combined with a mesh back and velcro wrist strap giving a precise fit, with optional cut off fingers enabling exposed fingers to grasp small objects. Fingerless gloves are a lot like cycling gloves which could be used for some protection; but beware padded cycling gloves, they will reduce your grip, get wet and stay wet and become a positive nuisance. 


    Dinghy sailing gloves suitable for spring/autumn/winter sailing pose a problem in that a glove that is warm and waterproof has a tendency to be bulky and lack feeling. The solution is a wet sailing glove with a synthetic palm and 3mm double-lined neoprene backing giving warmth.


    - Sailing a dinghy barefoot is not recommended because there are boat fittings that bruise or cut feet and bare skin does not grip as well as rubber. As well as this, when launching and retrieving a dinghy, there are dangerous objects on the shore and under the water. Therefore sailing footwear such as boots or shoes for dinghy sailing are essential.

    Most specialist dinghy boots combine a neoprene sock, providing warmth and comfort, with a durable rubber sole with PVC rubber reinforcement at the heel and over the top of the foot. For warm water sailing the slip-on rubber or neoprene shoe are light, comfortable and have a strong grip. These sailing shoes are cheaper than boots but can fall off the foot at inconvenient moments such as a capsize.

    Neoprene products tend to have an unpleasant odour after a period of wearing them. This is overcome by proper care by washing them in fresh water and aired or clean them properly using soap or soak them in a solution of sterilizing tablets.


    - A light weight anorak aims to reduce the chilling effect of the wind. Ideally it is waterproof and breathable, in order to better manage the differences in temperature between periods of activity and calmer moments. Pockets always come in handy for a cereal bar ;-). Again these are readily available, and ones that pack up tightly are easy to stow on board and carry.

    - TOPS. There are 2 types:
    > Thermal tops, which you wear underneath your wetsuit to improve heat management. They will mainly be used in cold weather
    > UV protect tops, which protect you from the harmful effects of the sun by creating a UV barrier, even when wet. 


    - Sunglasses are essential too. The blue sea and big sky offers a reflective surface for the sun, even on an overcast day. Sunglasses should block out both UVA and UVB sunlight to at least 99% and fit comfortably and securely as well as stay in position. The wrap-around, face-hugging style is more secure with the advantage of having no protrusions that catch on a flailing rope or line. Ensure the lenses and frames are virtually unbreakable and if wearing corrective lenses, investigate prescription sunglass lenses. And make sure that they can stay in place. A simple sunglasses tie, which you can loop onto your lifejacket, will keep them on your head or close at hand even of they get knocked (or washed) off.


    - Your head will be a major source of heat loss in cold weather if its unprotected. A simple beanie-style hat made from a quick drying thermal material is best. These hats are resilient, offering protection against knocks to the head by the boom, and remain in place during a capsize. More extreme cold weather conditions require a neoprene hood or balaclava style sailing headwear, but they inhibit hearing and can be unpleasant to wear.



    Based on that, here is the ideal outfit for dinghy/catamaran sailing :

    1. Wear a life jacket and booties or shoes (certainly not boots), whatever the weather

    2. In hot weather:
    - 2mm neoprene shorty or short john.
    - UV protect top
    - Fingerless gloves
    - Sun protection (cap, sunglasses, suncream for uncovered areas)

    3. In cold weather:
    - 3 or 4mm neoprene full-body suit,
    - Additional thermal top for more comfort,
    - Neoprene gloves,
    - Anorak,
    - Woollen or polypropylene hat (which maintains heat even when wet) or a neoprene hood.



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