Are you planning on charging to the top of the fleet in your first year of skiff sailing? Or maybe you’ve been in the boat for a while, but are looking to finally make the jump beyond the “flipping phase”. Either way you’ll need to wear the right gear sailing.
Super charging your learning curve requires a combination of good habits, good feedback, and the right equipment. It begins well before you arrive at the boat park every morning, and it all starts with… making your bed every day… But once you’ve done that, you’ll need to dress for success.
Packing the proper sailing gear will not only keep you comfortable on the water and focused on what’s important, it will help prevent injuries, allow for longer practices, and even help boat handling maneuvers go more smoothly. New teams especially should be sure to pack the correct clothing, so read up, and show up at the boat park ready for action.
The most important piece of sailing gear that you can have when learning how to sail the 29er is a high quality wetsuit with full length legs, and lots of mobility in the upper body. A lot of people like wearing “farmer john” wetsuits, or “skiff suits”, which have long legs, and cut-off arms to allow a lot of mobility, while offering protection for the legs, and plenty of buoyancy.
Do not wear wetsuit shorts! There are many fittings, and sharp edges which will bruise and cut your legs when you are learning, so you need full length legs on your suit to avoid this. When you are learning to sail the 29er, you will do a lot of swimming! Your body loses heat 25 times faster in the water than it does in the air, so it is very important to wear a suit that will keep you warm. In cold conditions, 4:3 wetsuits are recommended, and in warm conditions, 3:2 wetsuits are usually enough.
There’s a lot of great products and brands on the market to keep you warm and comfortable right now, but our top picks are the Zhik Microfleece skiff suit for all around conditions, and the Zhik Superwarm (women’s version here) for the cold days.
Low profile, strapless lifejackets are the name of the game in skiff racing, to increase mobility and give you a few extra inches to sneak under the boom. In the United States you’ll need a US Coast Guard Approved Life Jacket, but the good news is that more and more of the major international brands are getting their PFDs certified by the USCG (Zhik!).
Internationally there are a lot of good options ranging from Magic Marine to NOB, but if you’re looking for US Coast Guard Approved, options are a lot slimmer. If you’re looking for USCGA, check out the latest update to Zhik’s standard, strapless PFD.
While you are on the water, every part of your body should be covered! Big muscles bulging out of your life jacket might be impressive, but winning is more impressive... If you are going to be wearing a farmer john wetsuit, or something else that doesn’t offer full arm coverage, be sure to wear a rash guard or a sun shirt over the suit and under everything else that will keep the sun off.
When you’re covering up in sunscreen every day, our experience is that a physical block is much better than a chemical block, so try to find something with lots of Zinc Oxide that will stay on your face.
Training with no boots can be a great way to learn your footwork and feel the boat as you get better, but a good pair of boots will save your feet from a lot of cuts and bruises especially in the early stages of the learning curve.
Most dinghy boots are too thick for good mobility and make it harder to feel the boat. When you get good at trapezing, you will need to be on your toes almost all the time, so thinner surf boots are much better. Avoid split toe boots if possible so that the mainsheet can’t get stuck between your toes!
O’neil Superfreak. Enough said.
Life Jacket Covers
Life jacket covers are an essential item in the 29er to keep the straps and fittings on life jackets and harnesses from flapping around or getting caught in maneuvers. A rash guard over the top allows you to tuck everything in, and keep it tight during racing.
Lycra pinnies are a good option, as they keep your arms free and mobile, while keeping all of the straps and fittings covered.
For those baby soft hands, gloves are a must! Save yourself some pain, and speed up your sets with a pair of cheap gardening gloves with the finger tips cut off… Be sure to throw the tips in the trash when you’re done instead of letting them escape into the boat park!
Be picky here. This is one place where you want to find the best glove for you, and stick with it. There are a lot of brands that make similar products, but knock offs often melt in the sun or loose their grip on day one.
Atlas makes sturdy gloves that we prefer over other brands because they hold up well. The question is whether to go for the thin, slightly more slick Nitrile gloves, or to go heavy duty with the standard fabric gloves. Try both and see what you like as each has a time and a place, but we definitely like the thin ones whenever you can get away with it!
This is what a gold medalist skiff sailor looks like: