Foulies to Keep You Dry
There are lots of ways to prepare for what Mother Nature tosses into your path. The trick is to find the right balance of comfort and price.
“Sailing is an active sport,” said Jeff Earl, northeast business development manager for Henri Lloyd North America, in a phone interview. “You want a good range of motion.”
As well, technological advances have made it possible for manufacturers to create jackets and bibs from materials that move moisture away from the body. If fabric is breathable, you might wonder how it can be waterproof, too.
For a simple version of the answer, I consulted retailer Martha Parker, a lifelong racer and offshore sailor. “This is how foul-weather gear breathes,” she explained during an on-site visit to Team One Newport, which sells lines of yachting apparel, uniforms, and gear from its Rhode Island retail operation as well as through its website.
“Imagine a chain-link fence,” she said. “That’s the outer layer. Body moisture moving away from you and out that fence is like ping pong balls. Rain and waves are the basketballs. All they can do is bounce off the fence. They don’t get through.”
Once you understand the concept behind the newer fabrics, the next step is to decide what you want to buy based on the way the fabrics are constructed for a set of jacket and pants. Each manufacturer employs some level of proprietary construction process and material, in offerings ranging from basic to premium gear. It’s good to browse them all and spend some time learning about the differences. Basically, “fabrics can have two to three layers,” said Filippo Bovio, the U.S. distributor for SLAM. “The outer shell is typically made of nylon. And some of the newer materials can stretch, allowing a more snug and more comfortable fit.” (See “Choice of Fabrics”, right). Women sailors, take note: Nearly all the makers carry female sizes and take female form and contours into account in design.
“In our women’s lines, you’ll find the arm lengths a touch shorter, and the hips a touch wider, more flared,” noted Henri Lloyd’s Earl. And drop seats make it possible for women to keep jackets on while visiting the head.
Time to Go Shopping
Parker, who sells most of the brands listed in this roundup as well as others, including gear from outdoor outfitter Patagonia, sums up the dilemma facing today’s sailors on the hunt for the right gear.
“Fabrics have come a long way,” she said. “Everyone has expanded their lines and it gets confusing. A lot of it crosses over to fashion. Twenty-five years ago, you’d never wear your foul-weather gear to go out to dinner. Now, it’s so good, people wear it all the time.”