Skip to main content

Bluewater Jackets: Cruising vs. Racing

In terms of cut and detailing, different sailing styles require very different approaches. A cruising-style jacket (or a jacket designed for more casual offshore racing) will typically feature a longer three-quarter length, or hip-length, cut.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

In terms of cut and detailing, different sailing styles require very different approaches. A cruising-style jacket (or a jacket designed for more casual offshore racing) will typically feature a longer three-quarter length, or hip-length, cut reaching halfway down the thigh to keep water from sneaking up around the tops of your bibs. It will also include a fully zippered front, to make it easier to take off and put on.

For our complete foul-weather gear guide, click here.

An excellent example of this approach can be found in West Marine’s Trysail Jacket, which is expressly designed for bluewater cruising or coastal cruising in heavier conditions. Read more about the Trysail jacket and bibs, and see our video review here.

Note that the zippered front includes what West Marine calls a “double storm flap” to keep water from penetrating the zipper and a robust double cuff, which can be sealed up on the inside with an elastic Velcro flap to keep rain and spray from finding their way up your arms. The external portion of the cuff can then be sealed around a pair of waterproof gloves.

Racing style jackets, on the other hand, will often employ a waist-length “smock” cut with no zipper. The result is a jacket that is easier to move around in when, say, prancing about the foredeck in a gale. Because there is no zipper, a smock will also be more capable of withstanding the “firehouse” the conditions that racers often encounter in the heat of battle, albeit at the cost of being harder to put on and take off.

Helly Hansen’s Ocean Drytop smock is an excellent example of this kind of top. Like the Trysail, it is constructed with unlined three-layer fabric, in the interest of comfort and weight, but it is waist-cut to promote ease of movement. To keep the water out, it includes a velco-adjustable waistband and wetsuit-style neck and wet seals, which again, can be a bear to pull on and off, but are the only thing that will do when you’re out grinding winches or changing a headsail in extreme conditions.

Other examples of this kind of cut include Gill’s OC Racer Smock or the Musto HPX Pro.

One thing in common to all these jackets (and all top-quality bluewater tops) is a comfortable, well-built collar and hood combination. No flimsy protection here: in all cases the hoods are constructed with the same rugged three-layer fabric and taped seams as the rest of the jacket.

West Marine’s Trysail “Optivision” hood also includes a narrow fleece lining across the forehead in the interest of comfort, while the Helly Hansen Ocean Drytop has a reinforced visor, as befitting those forced to keep a constant eye on sail trim in the dirtiest weather.

Most important, the hoods on both these jackets come with a number of adjustments to ensure they not only fit snugly, but don’t block your view by flopping down over your eyes when deployed—a serious problem back in the good-old days. These include adjustable elastic cords along the sides and back of the hood. The Trysail hood can also be synched in at the top to fit the size and shape of your skull—a nice touch.

The collars on both jackets are also tall enough to reach the ears, fleece lined for comfort and double sealed along the front with a pair of flaps, one of which is elastic. Anyone who has stood a dirty night watch or spent hours doing rail meat duty in dirty weather knows that a good collar and hood are key to your happiness. Even if the rest of you is toasty warm, a rough seam chafing against your forehead or shots of cold, wet air sneaking around the back of your neck can leave you chilled and less able to concentrate on sailing.

A point of difference between the two is the number of pockets: while the Trysail has no less than five—including a lined pair on the chest that do double duty as hand warmers and a small pouch on the left arm for holding things like a phone or small GPS—the Ocean Drytop has a single “kangaroo” storage pocket on the chest. The reasons for this include weight and breathability: the former is increased and the latter decreased with every pocket you add.

Related

fa70b13c-8eec-4c35-b30f-f89e497b469a

Crowdsourcing Age-of-Sail Weather Data

Although big, multi-million-dollar projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the human genome project with their legions of PHD’s tend to grab headlines, there’s still a part of play for the “citizen scientists” of the world. Amateur birders have long contributed to an ...read more

01-LEAD-Ultime-race-Yvan-Zedda,-OC-Sport-Pen-Duick

Ultims to Race Solo Around the World

For years now, maxi-trimarans, both solo-sailed and fully crewed, have been racing the clock on their own around the world in an effort to set ever faster records for the world’s fastest circumnavigation under sail. Back in 2000-01 there was also a no-holds-barred ...read more

P1-01-LEAD-018_CARYNBDAVIS_AMISTAD

Juneteenth on the Water

Discovering Amistad and Mystic Seaport Museum have partnered to organize their third annual Juneteenth festival, featuring concerts, speakers and a reflection on the lasting legacy of racial injustice in America. Declared a National Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the end ...read more

Lead-2021-01-17-vue-03-34-av-tb-01

New Multihulls for 2022

Lagoon 51 In keeping with many of the more recently launched models created by French multihull builder Lagoon, the Lagoon 51 is all about comfort, “en plein air,” in particular, as the French might say. Topside, a whopping 80 percent of the boat’s flybridge is given over to ...read more

bermuda

How to Spectate on the Newport Bermuda

The biannual Newport Bermuda Race starts on Friday with the first warning signal at 1 pm. Whether you’re tracking a loved one’s progress or just spectating an event that draws pros and weekend warriors alike, there are plenty of ways to stay up to watch. The starting line will ...read more

03-Hyeres-220429_SOF2022_SAILINGENERGY_1933_3184-copy

US Sailing Strikes Gold in Hyères

After being skunked or nearly skunked at multiple Olympiads, could the US Sailing Team (USST) now under the direction of Olympic veteran Paul Cayard, be finally turning it around? If its performance at the 53rd French Olympic Week regatta in Hyères, France, where the team posted ...read more

P1480042

New York City’s Newest Fleet

120 children enrolled in Brooklyn Boatworks’ STEM and life skills-focused program launched their hand-built optimist prams on June 14 from Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The launch is the culmination of years of student work, with boats in process before the pandemic caused the ...read more

AdobeStock_197518370

Charter: Off the Beaten Path

So, you like to charter in the Caribbean with its warm waters, swaying palm trees, steady trade winds and strong rum drinks. What’s not to love? It can be easy, though, to get stuck in a rut when chartering year after year in the same place. Sure, the British Virgin Islands are ...read more