Dinghy sailing is an exciting and exhilarating sport, so it's important to dress right for the occasion. Get it wrong and you risk being too hot, too cold, not able to move well in the boat or not performing at your best. So before you grab an old jumper and gym shorts and hit the water, check out our information below on what to wear when you go dinghy sailing (and why), the most appropriate dinghy sailing clothing, and where to buy the latest sailing gear.
Why choose specific clothing for dinghy sailing?
Dinghies (or small performance racing sailboats) are designed to move fast though the water, and change direction with the pull of a sail or push of a rudder, so a lot can happen in a short space of time. In an instant, people new to dinghy sailing have been bruised on a metal spar, chafed by a rope or thrown overboard into cold water. This can all be good fun IF you’re dressed right and invest in some decent sailing gear. This includes a safe life jacket designed for sailing, a sailing cap or visor, sailing wetsuit top or pants, a smock top and sailing boots.
Top 5 pieces of dinghy sailing clothing:
A sailing PFD (life jacket / life vest)
Did you know that you may not need a thick and rigid foam PFD1 just to go inshore dinghy sailing? Check your local waterway rules before making your choice, but the best life jacket for dinghy sailing is a low-profile, form-fitting life jacket with some storage. Vaikobi designs sailing-specific life jackets that allow for freedom of movement while sailing, and come in bright colours so you can be seen on the water, by your coach, instructor or other sailors.
A sailing wetsuit.
Neoprene wetsuits are essential for comfort and safety when you go out on a dinghy or performance sailing boat. The thickness of the wetsuit should depend on the weather and water temperature, so it's important to choose the right wetsuit for your race or day out. Wetsuits come in a range of thicknesses, starting at 1.5mm all the way up to 7mm steamers! What you need to watch out for (according to the professional sailors in the Vaikobi Race Team) is that you have lots of movement around the shoulders, hips and knees. Dinghy’s are a lot smaller than yachts, so you need to be able to bend, sit, squat, stand and hike out in your wetsuit. Choose a wetsuit thickness that’s warm enough for the apparent air temperature but not so thick you can’t move. You can always layer a spray jacket or thermal top, so our advice is to go a bit lighter than you need. Check out the FlexForce range of wetsuits by Vaikobi, which give you options to wear REACH certified neoprene as a top, pant or LongJohn style wetsuit.
Sailing boots or Shoes
Your feet are often the part of the body most connected to the boat. While tacking, hiking or trapezing, various parts of your foot need to maintain a non-slip contact with the boat, or you won’t have any balance or be able to move your weight around the dinghy. If your boat has hiking straps, choose a high cut boot with grip on top of the foot, such as the Speed-Grip high Cut Sailing Boots. If you are in a skiff and need to be light on your feet, we suggest a low cut boot or surf bootie, which can be found in the Vaikobi Footwear range.
With ever-changing conditions, it’s nice to have the option to stash a sailing spray jacket or smock top in a bag, and throw it on if the conditions get windier or wilder. The best smock tops for dinghy sailing are those that allow for ventilation near the neck, that way as you warm up, you can simply unzip the top of the neck and let the hot air out. Most good dinghy sailing spray tops have a neoprene or rubber seal on the wrist cuffs and the hip band, which prevents water from rushing up the arms or back. While a bright coloured smock top is not a mandatory piece of dinghy sailing equipment, it’s vital if you want to enjoy your sailing without being cold or soaked.
A Hat that stays on
How do you get a hat to stay on while you’re sailing? We asked our professional team of sailors and they unanimously agreed that a well-fitting visor stays on best, closely followed by a lightweight racing hat that doesn’t soak up any weight when wet. Pair these options with a simple rope tie or lanyard and you can ensure your headwear investment won’t sink under the next big wave.
Dinghy sailing clothing has come a long way since woollen jumpers and canvas hats, and is constantly being reinvented by the world’s most exciting water sports brands.
Need more inspiration before you buy clothing for dinghy sailing? Vaikobi has a collection dedicated to sailing to help you choose the best gear for your next adventure!