Buoy racing is considered to be day racing on keelboats in either protected or open waters. The sailing is athletic, sustained and fast paced. Gear needs to perform well, managing moisture while being lightweight and durable.
Buoy racing gear is designed with these features in mind:
- Easy to move about the boat in with the least amount of bulk and restraint
- Highly breathable to move perspiration out of the gear
- Keep water out – waterproof materials with water shedding seals and zippers
- Light weight to reduce fatigue
- Durable – reinforced substantially in the seat and knees, and construction techniques used to withstand wear and chafe effectively in critical areas
The gear in our buoy racing category is foremost designed to be worn for day racing on keelboats of any size. This covers a wide range of sailing, from weeknight racing on a PHRF keelboat, weekend regattas on a J24, racing on a TP52, to day-sailing on a cruising boat and a whole range of sailing in between. If the majority of your sailing fits that description, this category of gear is going to be a great choice for you. We find that the items in the buoy racing category are the go to foul weather gear pieces for a lot of our customers.
If you do other types of sailing too, this type of gear still might be a good choice for you. Most all of the buoy racing gear uses high tech waterproof fabrics, and as a result can hold up and keep you dry in very wet conditions. If most of your sailing is day racing, but twice a year you do an overnight race, this gear will probably work great for you. Some users will even wear it on longer offshore races, however, the lower collars and minimal hoods found on most buoy racing gear won’t keep you as dry offshore if the seas are rough or there is sustained rain. Ideally you would have two sets of gear for these different types of racing, but if that isn’t an option for you, consider getting buoy racing gear and adding accessories like a neck gaiter or a waterproof hat to keep dry and warm.
The Overall design of buoy racing gear is fairly minimalist. Extra features and pockets are kept to a minimum to keep the gear light, easy to move in and from snagging on boat rigging. Higher performance materials like Gore-Tex or other microporous materials (in a three layer laminate) are generally used to increase breath-ability and durability. These three layer laminates do not require a hanging nylon liner inside the gear which further reduces weight and bulk. They are referred to as ‘unlined’ for this reason. Some jackets and smocks have stretch panels built in that allow the tops to stretch as you bend over or cross your arm in front of your chest to increase your range of motion. While some dinghy tops and bottoms can be used for buoy racing, you will not experience nearly the performance from gear specifically designed for this type of racing.
Salopettes are unique to buoy racing. They have a ‘vest’ type chest construction that eliminates suspenders, simplifies the fit and offers better weather protection with their high over-the-shoulder coverage. Overall the fit through the chest is more body conforming and less bulky. In light spray and rain, wearing just salopettes alone without a waterproof top is an option due to the extra coverage they provide. Stretch panels in the shoulders keep them easy to move and bend in. Substantial seals at the ankles to keep water out are a real plus – especially if you are hiking with your legs over the side most of the day with waves hitting. Going to the head will require a bit more work than suspender trousers, but most all agree salopettes are worth it.
Pants are a less protective style of protection than the salopettes, but if your position is in the very back of the boat or the conditions you sail in have less spray and rain, this option is lighter weight and offers maximum ease of movement and will be lighter weight. If your jacket or smock rides up in the back, you may at time expose your lower back to a bit of weather when leaning over. Not all manufactures offer pants, but some options are available.
Smocks offer the most protection in terms of keeping water from going down your neck and are most popular with those crewing towards the bow of the boat where spray and waves will be more intense. The neck seals are available in two types – adjustable and non-adjustable. The most popular are the Velcro adjusted polyurethane (PU) seals that can be opened to vent heat and maintain comfort. They do a good job of keeping the majority of water out, but over time some water may work through. Next are nonadjustable neck seals made of either neoprene (wetsuit material) or latex (rubber). These do an excellent job of keeping all water out. The down side is that they can make your top hot as you cannot open them to vent out excess heat. Neoprene seals add insulation/heat and are durable; while latex seals do not insulate, are extremely flexible but can nick and tear more easily. The wrists will all have adjustable PU seals to keep water out. Waists will have adjustable seals too – those with stretchy neoprene seals with double adjustments are especially effective.
Jackets for buoy racing are unique in a number of ways. First, they have a shorter cut such that you don’t end up sitting on the tails, making bending forward more difficult. Collars are shorter and less protective, but offer ease of head turning or craning. Hoods are basic, but offer an open line of site and great peripheral vision. Wearing a baseball cap under it provides a protective bill to help keep spray and rain out of the eyes. Hoods on these jackets are also often removable to further reduce encumbrances. Zippers are usually water resistant and don’t require the bulk of a fabric/Velcro zipper cover. Wrists will have Velcro adjustable seals to keep water out.
Fit is important to insure gear is not overly baggy, but also not restrictive. Ease of movement is important to increase comfort and reduce fatigue. When buying new gear follow the manufacture’s sizing chart. Before going on the water, try it out at home by doing the following:
- Put on all your insulating under layers you would wear on a cold day (wicking base and mid layers)
- Put on your buoy racing gear, including boots or shoes and cinch all adjustments for wet weather.
- Simulate your sitting position on the boat and go through all the range of motions possible (especially both hands over your head).
- Be sure you are not overly restricted. If you are you may need to move up a size in one or more pieces of your gear.
How to Care for Your Gear
Care for you gear by rinsing it with fresh water after use, and allowing it to thoroughly dry. This helps remove any salt (crystals) which retain moisture and abrades materials over time. It also serves to help remove any chemicals that could have been floating on the surface of the water and where picked up when you were sprayed by a wave. Store you gear hanging, out of the sunlight in a dry place to prevent sun damage and mold.
DWR finishes (durable water repellent) make water bead up on the outside of your gear and prevent ‘wetting out’ of the surface material. This is important since materials that are ’wet out’ get cold as water evaporates (stealing body heat) and makes your gear heavier, although still waterproof. DWR treatments wear away as you use your gear and need to be replenished at least once a year. There are easy to use treatments available to do this. NOTE: DWR finishes have nothing to do with your gear’s waterproof properties, it only serves to keep the surface material from saturating.