As The Ocean Race is now effectively an “indoor” sailing event, where its legends concentrate on their slipper choice, us mere mortals still have to rely on gear that will protect us from the harshest elements our sport has to offer – here are the best offshore sailing jackets.
With the ocean trying to enter at every possible opening, combined with the moisture produced within, there is a lot of attention to detail required to keep you dry.
Whatever your position onboard, if you are comfortable then you can concentrate on the task in hand a lot better than if your kit is causing some rubbing, or damp issues to the skin.
Even tacticians can get a little sweaty from driving and have been known to help out onboard in a crisis – yes honestly! – so a good offshore sailing jacket is essential kit for all, a your standard workaday sailing jacket just won’t cut it.
As the only line of defence and the seriousness of protecting the wearer against the worst of elements, the best offshore sailing jackets can be relatively expensive. But when it’s 4am and you are huddled on the rail with your hood up, waves washing over you, how much would you pay to be warm and dry?
So to avoid you setting up your own fully kitted up game of twister whilst someone points the garden hose at you, we have looked at what’s on the market and picked out what we believe to be the best offshore jackets available right now.
Note: The current Ocean Race crews closer to slippers on this edition than in any previous race, (except the legendary tales of the old “traditional” navigators who were rumoured to finish a Whitbread leg with their wet weather gear still sealed in the wrapper).
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4 of the best offshore sailing jackets and smocks
North Sails Southern Ocean Jacket and smock
The best offshore sailing jacket you can get
Reasons to buy
– No stone unturned in producing the best kit possible
– Racing movement and comfort prioritised in the design for top performance
– Great range of sizes
Reasons to avoid
– Towards the top of the price range – but what cost for the best?
The name North Sails in the yachting industry is synonymous with performance and quality. A titan of a sailmaker with every sailing trophy in their cabinet, their focus on delivering results and dependable products is what the company thrives on. So why not supply kit also… And what a great job they have done!
In a rather niche market they have simply decided to create the best offshore sailing jacket possible and they have succeeded. With a vast array of test pilots as their employees, combined with the unparalleled knowledge of Nigel Musto, they have produced the best kit to date.
Made with Gore-Tex pro, still considered the best best fabric in outdoor clothing, the attention to detail in every aspect is vast and effective. A unique upgrade is the hardwearing seat and elbow pads, now constructed from North’s own 4DL cloth, which does not absorb water and is bonded to the jacket.
This eliminates the need for the tough reinforcing pads to be included in the seams of the jacket and thus makes the whole thing lighter, less bulky and the panel seam stitching smaller.
In fact the whole jacket seems less cluttered – the pockets, although big, are not the size of the saddle packs so often seen on some of the best offshore sailing jackets, and have plenty of room for the essentials. This means less snagging as you move around the boat.
The hood and forward storm flap do a great deal to cut out the weather, but without removing all of your senses. The longer length of the jacket helps to stop the waves flowing up the jacket, but without hindering movement.
Even the cuffs of the sleeves are scalloped to match the curve of your knuckles, to avoid any hindrance of your grip when grinding, driving or trimming. Minimal signage leaves room for boat names and sponsor branding, which is a nice touch with teams in mind.
The smock boasts a double entry chest pocket and Duraseal neck seal (a bit like a modern wetsuit material), which is waterproof, comfortable and great for those with latex allergies.
The rise in female participation in offshore sailing has led to a rise in women’s specific clothing, and again North Sails have nailed it with a women’s specific jacket and smock which is comfortable and proportioned.
Buy Men’s jacket at North Sails
Buy Women’s jacket at North Sails
Buy Men’s smock at North Sails
Buy Women’s smock at North Sails
Musto MPX Gore-Tex Pro Offshore Jacket 2.0
The old favourite
Reasons to buy
– Great kit with long track record
– Nice selection of colours
– Widely available
– Competitively priced
Reasons to avoid
– Bulkier than others
– Pockets so roomy they can promote carrying a bit too much kit
– Less competition has meant development has stagnated a little
Musto have been designing some of the best offshore sailing jackets for a long time, and so there is a certain amount of reliability associated with one of the leading specialists in the field.
The MPX series uses the heavier and sturdier Gore-Tex cloth. Musto have been involved directly at the top level of offshore racing for a very long time and have leant lots from various top end ambassadors. The hood and storm spume guard can be sealed down in the nastiest of conditions for full protection.
Ample pockets mean room for the essentials (torch, strobe, personal EPRIB and knife) as well as lots of fun-sized chocolate snacks and empty wrappers! Luckily the flaps do a good job at keeping the waves out.
Some of the pockets are fleece-lined, which are great for cold hands on those crisp spring mornings when still waiting for the nice warm mug of tea. A nice big seat pad will also help keep you comfortable and dry when sat on the rail.
Buy men’s version at Musto
Buy women’s version at Musto
Helly Hansen Aegir Ocean Racing Jacket
A great alternative
Reasons to buy
– The removable hood on the smock is inspired
– Mid skirt for extra protection
– Rubber cuff seals
Reasons to avoid
– Not Gore-Tex – jury still out on Helly-Tech
– Cuff seals can be restrictive and require care, also not good for those with latex allergies
Heavily associated with ocean racing in recent years, Helly Hansen have certainly been making a push at the top end of the sport. Using their own waterproof system, Helly-Tech Professional, the jackets do seem waterproof and breathable – a must for all the best offshore sailing jackets.
The fluorescent hood boasts additional clear side panels to help your vision when you have fully enclosed yourself in your hood and have the waterproof face visor deployed.
Another nice feature are the rubber arm seals – to really stop water ingress up the sleeves. The Aegir Ocean jacket also has good length on the back of the jacket, which helps to stop the water rising.
The jacket also has a waist skirt, which also adds a barrier to any unexpected waves heading up your jacket. Helly Hansen are a supplier to the RNLI, so the kit is certainly good enough for the harshest conditions.
The smock version has a removable hood and collar to improve its versatility. Its latex neck seal will stop water coming down your neck. You also get a double-entry chest pocket and a waist-level zip, which aids ventilation and gives access to your salopette pockets.
Mustang Survival EP 6.5 Ocean Racing Jacket
The new (old) kid on the block
Reasons to buy
– Great track record with the likes of NASA and US Coastguard to name but a few!
Reasons to avoid
– Not fully globally available just yet, but expect this to change
Although lesser known globally, Mustang Survival have been supplying kit to some of the biggest services in North America since the late 1960s.
Now with a concerted push of kit in the ocean racing scene, the EP 6.5 Jacket is their top-of-the-range offering. Manufactured in Canada using Gore-Tex technology, this black offshore sailing jacket looks smart.
With two lower pockets and a chest pocket, there is plenty of room to keep personal survival equipment on you. Also a handy pocket on the upper right arm, perfect for a single personal strobe or knife.
The bright hood folds neatly in the collar, the adjustment on the back of the hood really helps to get a great fit on the head, the face guard makes a great barrier and the fleece lining to the collar adds a lovely level of warmth. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mustang associated with a lot more high level pro teams in the future.
Buy at Mustang Survival
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated sailing page for more marine products.
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