Cold weather gear for Laser sailing in 2023
Cold weather gear for Laser sailing in 2023
The winter of 2022–23 has been a cold and sometimes rainy one thus far. And yet, my squad and I have managed to get in a good number of practice days in Lasers (also called ILCA Dinghies) to get ready for upcoming regattas.
Since I’ve gotten a few questions on cold weather gear, here’s my cold weather kit. As they say in Norway, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.
Rooster Pro Hikers 4/3mm Full-Length pants are my go-to for sailing in anything cooler than tropical conditions. (I’ll need to create a warm-weather sailing blog post one of these days…)
These aren’t cheap, and I chewed them up a couple of years ago on a Laser with a sloppy repair job on the rail (the legendary Bucket Seats). So, I protect them with Rooster wear protection shorts. These are heavier-duty than typical spandex pants.
Steve Cockerill — founder of Rooster Sailing — says that you don’t need these wear shorts since the hiking pants use a superior grade of Duratex on the knees and seat. So maybe I’ll eventually stop using these when I finally switch to a new pair of Rooster pants.
I recently got Rooster Hot Legs to go under my wetsuit on cold days in the low 50s. They help take the edge off the cold.
I wear Zhik 360 boots from a few years ago. But Zhik is pricey, doesn’t have the greatest durability, and I’m not a fan of the bright green soles in the new models, so for my next pair, I’ll look into the Rooster Pro Laced Ankle Strap Boot.
Now, some people get cold feet in the winter. I don’t. But if you do, check out Roosters Hot Stuff socks. It’s made of titanium neoprene and is 0.5mm thick, which reduces the chances you’ll need another pair of boots when you wear them. If I were doing a regatta in a cold venue, these would be on my list to try.
Another option is these Rooster ThermaFlex Wet Socks. These are more traditional neoprene. Of course, you’ll need bigger boots if you go this route, and maybe two pairs — one to use with neoprene socks, and one to not.
I wear a Rooster SuperTherm Top. It’s 4mm thick. Newer models are fuzzy inside, to hold even more heat. For me, this is enough for about 60 degrees air temperature and windy, or 55 degrees and light air.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Maybe controversial. Some folks like to layer on a Rooster Pro Aquafleece Top. I’ve got one of these, and I love it for keelboat racing, especially during windy San Franciso summers. But for Lasers, I’m not a fan of how much windage it carries. That said, if it’s raining AND in the low 50s or colder, I’ll put one of these on. This is because the evaporation of rain on clothing is a cooling process, and in this situation, neoprene isn’t enough.
But if it’s not low 50s and raining, I go with additional neoprene layers. They keep my core warm, arms free, and windage low. If it’s windy and 50 degrees air temp (but not raining), or rainy and 55 degrees air, I’ll layer on one or even two 2mm wetsuit vests. I have an O’Neill 2mm Men’s Vest. You’ll be rocking 8mm, enough to keep the cold away. But because it’s just on your core, your arms will be free to move.
If you go with one of these vests, know that they’re sized super small. I normally wear a size large shirt, sometimes a medium. With these, I need an extra large. Remember, you’re wearing this outside a 4mm top. Go a size higher.
I also recently picked up a Rooster Hot Top. It’s only 0.5mm, but has that same interesting titanium neoprene. I was worried about losing arm mobility, but this stuff is really thin. It also might be good to wear on its own in more moderate conditions like 65–70 degrees, such as a warm day in Alameda, or a windy day in Long Beach — something to try once the weather warms up a bit. Another strategy is to toss a couple of wetsuit vests on a support boat, and put those on if the Hot Top isn’t enough or if the temperature drops, such as if the fog rolls in.
For those of you who see me on the course, I also have a Ronstan 1.5mm neoprene top that I got several years ago, which I wear in the 65–70 degree range. But if I were starting fresh, I’d go straight to the Rooster Hot Top.
Down to about low 50s and windy, or high 40s and light, I’ll go with my usual jogging cap and neck gaiter for sun protection. UV rays go through clouds, so wear even if the sun’s not out.
There are a ton of jogging caps, but I like this one on Amazon, and the price is hard to beat.
For neck and face protection, I really like Huk. They’re a fishing apparel company, and they have the sun protection thing really nailed down. I like their neck gaiters.
If the temperature drops further, you can go with a Rooster Pro Aquafleece Beanie. This is great for summertime sailing in San Francisco when it’s foggy and 20+ knots.
But if it’s really cold, say low 50s and rain, go with the nuclear option: an NRS Storm Hood. If you’re not familiar with them, NRS is a great brand focused on kayaking gear. I wear a size large.
It’s amazing at keeping the warmth in when it’s cold because it covers your neck as well as your head. It’s even more potent when you tuck it under your wetsuit top to keep cold air from escaping. Unlike warm neck gaiters, it doesn’t let any cold air or water get to your neck. (Fun fact: the Cleveland Clinic says that you lose about 10% of your heat through your head.)
This is a great way to be mentally ready for gnarly days when a lot of sailors want to stay on land. I didn’t go, but I’ve been told the 2018 Laser Masters Worlds in Ireland had days like this.
I don’t know, but my hands don’t get cold. So I go with gardening gloves down even to high 40s air temperatures.
But when I was setting up my kid to race Optis on a lake in Holland a while back, and they had to be ready for snow, we went with Atlas TEMRES Insulated Gloves. I don’t ever use these, but if you suffer cold hands, maybe these are an option.
A lifejacket (aka PFD) won’t keep you warm, but you should definitely go with one. If you’re wearing all these layers, you’ll want something that’s low profile. I’ve got an old Zhik P3 Buoyancy Aid from around 2015 that’s held up.
If you’re doing regattas run by US Sailing, like Smythe Cup or Youth Champs, you need to go with a slightly bulkier Zhik USCG Approved PFD or Rooster USCG Approved PFD.
The downside of these is that their increased bulk means that they’re more likely to get you stuck under the boom, leading to a capsize. If that’s in cold water, that could lead to hypothermia. So, US Coast Guard approval doesn’t necessarily mean safer. Meanwhile, the Zhik P3 Buoyancy Aids are approved by the Coast Guard equivalents in many other countries.
To keep you from getting caught under the boom and capsizing in cold weather, put something on over your lifejacket. I have a Rooster Race Bib.
You’ll probably notice that I’ve emphasized a lot of Rooster Sailing gear. I don’t get paid by them. I simply like a few things about them:
- Their founder is a sailor, who actively races Lasers. This drives an imperative for all the gear to be well-designed and durable.
- I’ve found their gear to be reasonably priced, in addition to being functional.
- They’re based in England, so they know a thing or two about bad weather.
A lot of my links point to West Coast Sailing. I don’t get paid by them either, but they support our sport with a ton of regatta sponsorships and they have great service to boot.