Offshore sailing is a great sport but if you are new to it there's a bewildering choice of gear and gadgets to choose from. Knowing what to invest in or bring with you is tricky but here are some tips from seasoned offshore JOG sailors.
Keeping warm and dry is essential offshore - it sounds obvious but it's surprising how many people who head offshore for the first time don't heed the warnings and pack properly. Getting cold can often contribute to or cause seasickness and that's no fun at all. If you are prone to motion sickness it might be worth investing in some pills to take before you set off, although there are some people who swear by wristbands.
No-one is suggesting you need to go out and spend a small fortune on new gear before you've decided if you like offshore sailing, but it's worth thinking about this kitlist to see what you can pull together from things you already have. If you've found a boat already, great, if not check out ways of finding one via our Crew Locker. If you are coming to crew for the first time and are unsure if you have the right kit it's always worth asking if anyone on the boat you are joining has any spare / old kit you can borrow. Most of us have spare oilskins or boots in the garage or the sail locker.
Predictably the weather can make a massive difference to what you need, and there's a running joke amongst some of the JOG girls about needing to pack everything from your thermals to a bikini, as there's a chance you might wear them all at some stage during a weekend away, or all together - layers is the way forward. Keep an eye on the forecast before you leave, but we'd recommend that you assume that worst case it will be cold and wet at some point. Anything other than that is a bonus!
A kitlist suggestion:
- High UV preferably waterproof sunscreen - even at 6am combined with reflection off the water you can get sunburn
- Warm hat - hugely important, and an easy way to temperature control via hat on / off. Go for warmth over style at sea. Be aware that caps aren't terribly warm at night, and if you do wear one a hat retainer is advised. Caps might be useful for keeping the sun off your face but brims have a habit of getting caught by the wind and before you know it it's over the side.
- Scarf, Buff or Snood - good for preventing chilly drafts around the neck and cleaning spray from your sunglasses.
- Thermal top and bottoms / long johns (highly recommended)
- T-shirt / Rugby shirt.
- Lightweight jumper or fleece (at least one).
- Trousers (obviously) - but NOT Jeans - they get wet, stay wet and make you cold.
- Spare socks - water has a habit of getting into your boots, and dry socks = warmer feet.
- Sailing gloves - they certainly do help if you are more likely to be driving a mouse than a winch in the week. Which type (full fingered, fingerless, thumb & index finger exposed) comes down to preference and how many knots you might be tying or undoing - easier with bare fingers.
- Sailing boots - leather ones make a huge difference to keeping your feet warm (especially with fleecy insoles), but they aren't cheap so try and borrow some to start with. Rubber ones do the job but don't keep your feet as warm.
- Mid-layer jacket - great for adding an extra layer of warmth under your oilskins and doubling as a shore jacket too.
- Mid-layer - lots of people swear by these fleecy lined bodysuits - just be aware ladies that if you have drop seat oilskin salopettes, you'll need a drop seat mid layer too.
- Oilskin jacket - Offshore, you are normally exposed to the elements for longer so make sure you choose a jacket that will do the job - The Channel isn't the Southern Ocean but it can throw rather more at you than a few hours pootling around the Solent.
- Oilskin salopettes - see above. Ladies, think seriously about what else you might be wearing underneath before you invest in a pair with a drop seat! The theory is good, the reality doesn't always quite match up when you are fighting with zips in funny places when confined in a small heads compartment whilst the boat tacks. We're just speaking from experience ;-)
- Lifejacket - if you are crewing for the first time talk to your skipper to check whether they have one for you (they almost certainly will). If you are going to buy one, think about how heavy you are, and make sure you try them on for comfort. Newer styles of lifejacket are generally more comfortable but they don't fit everyone.
- Lifeline - some people like 3 point lines, some prefer two - it's really a matter of personal choice.
- A change of clothes so you have something dry to change into when you finish the race / to come home in.
- A sleeping bag.
- Sports bag - stowage and space on a yacht are always at a premium so squishable bags are best for your gear. Some yachts are wetter than others below deck so the waterproof bags many of the sailing gear brands sell are certainly useful but they aren't a pre-requisite if you are starting out. Take a sports bags & just pack your shore clothes and sleeping bag in plastic bags just to be on the safe side.
Other things JOGgers have reported are handy...
- Lipbalm - salty water dries your lips out.
- Get your own improvised personal central heating using 12 hour back pain warming patches stuck to your thermals on your tummy - your core stays warm so your hands and feet don't get so cold - readily available in Boots or most supermarkets, and air activated once you open the packet so no faffing involved.
- Good moisuriser / after sun for after a race.
- Sweets - always handy to have something to munch on during a long watch.
Need boat or sailing tips?
JOGgers are a friendly bunch and more than willing to share their experiences of boat fixes, what works, what doesn't, good alternative solutions to xyz problem or trim techniques and tips. If you are a new boat owner or new to racing offshore and are looking for help and direction just ask someone after a race, or join our Facebook page and post a question there.