Nick Gill has written the following comprehensive article to help you select the proper gear if you are participating in the Newport – Bermuda race. However the information is valuable for any sailing adventure.

I became involved in the technical sailing clothing business back in 1975 because at the time there was so little choice, particularly for the competitive dinghy sailor. Thirty years on things have gone to the other extreme, there is literally so much choice, from so many brands that chances are you will end up confused on what is right for you. The danger is you will leave the decision making for another year and end up cold wet and uncomfortable.

A few key headline points to consider which emphasize the need to have the right clothing.

  • Being cold and wet makes you tire easily and reduces your reaction time
  • With the right choice you should never have to be cold again
  • Cotton clothing absorbs moisture and up to 25% of its own weight, once it is wet it will stay wet for the duration
  • Wet or damp materials transfers heat 20 times quicker than dry fabrics do
  • Cotton should remain onshore and be replaced by technical quick dry polyester materials


The race can begin in cold and windy conditions, and end in the sweltering heat and light airs, and probably most things in between. Night sailing is always a lot colder and depending on the size of boat could be between three and six days. These diverse conditions mean your kit bag will need a wide range of gear.

Layering – A Personal Climate Control System

I believe it is best to look at your options in terms of layers. Hot or cold, the layering system makes enormous sense and functions as your personal climate control system.

The Base Layer is vital.
One of its main purposes is to keep you dry next to the skin and it does this by wicking moisture away from the body. In an hour of moderate exercise the body gives off half a liter of water – it has to go somewhere – and if you are wearing cotton it literally absorbs the water much like blotting paper. Once wet or even damp, it will transfer heat from your body 20 times faster than dry fabric. Remember that sailing is a sport where you can be sitting still for long periods then along comes a sail change or requirement to put a reef in and all hell breaks loose for a few minutes. You then sit down again. If you are wearing cotton clothing next to the skin it will absorb the moisture and suck the heat out of your body, leaving you feeling cold and clammy and tired.

Base Layer Options

For the cooler part of the journey I recommend Gill i2 Lite. There are many choices of long or short sleeve, Crew Neck or Zip Polo as well as Leggings and Boxer Shorts. Don’t forget the boxers as damp cotton underwear is no fun!

For warmer conditions, Gill has introduced technical long and short sleeve shirts. They are very fast drying, highly wicking and have a UV SPF 50 sun protection factor, essential for the latter part of the ARC rally. This new Technical Apparel range has a natural feel, is not tight fitting and is very comfortable for long periods.

The key elements of the Technical Apparel range are;

  • Fast Drying
  • Fast Wicking
  • UV Protection to SPF 50
  • A Natural Feel

All garments adhere to these principals and also feature a water repellent finish so water beads off rather than soaks in. However warm and dry it is on a boat it is inevitable there will be damp decks and spray around at times.

The Mid Layer is the insulation or thermostat control.
Just as Gill has a simple classification system for durability of the outer layer fabrics, our base and mid layers also have a straightforward classification system. It is known as the i37 body temperature regulating system – 37 degrees centigrade being the natural body temperature. The i series goes from i2 to i5 increasing in warmth as you go up the scale.

Gill Mid-Layer Options

i3 Micro Fleece Mid Layer: A lightweight fleece. This is a super soft and close fitting fleece providing warmth without bulk and comes in a top and trousers. In predominantly mild conditions but with cooler nights it is ideal under foul weather gear.

i4 Fleece Mid Layer: This range is made in Polartec Classic 200 mid weight fleece and is available in a Zip Jacket, Zip Smock and Salopettes. It is slim fitting and flat seamed which is ideal as a mid layer and for wearing under the outer layer. As with all technical fleeces the i4 is quick drying. I particularly recommend the i4 Salopettes, as these are great to sleep in too.

i5 Shelled Mid Layers: I believe the ultimate mid-layer is the Crosswind Jacket and Crosswind Salopettes. The outer layer is a lightweight waterproof laminated fabric. It is highly breathable. The insulation is an ultra compact material giving exceptional warmth without bulk. It is hydrophobic (water hating) meaning it can still keep you warm when wet. Combine these materials with a taffeta lining and the garments become so easy to slip on unlike a fleece lined garment. An added bonus is the garment has taped seams and can be worn on it’s own in moderate conditions.

Another relatively new concept is Gill Softshell. A sandwiched lamination of different materials giving warmth, wind and water resistance with stretch, giving appareled comfort in sailing wear. The Gill Softshell race jacket and pants are perfect as a mid layer or in warmer conditions as an outer layer.

The Outer Layer is the protection.
There are three suitable options in the Gill range depending how much you want to spend. Regardless of which you select, you will need a Jacket and Chest High Trousers.

The main difference between the garment options is the height of the collar and the durability of the materials. There are two types of material available, 2-layer and 3-layer.

2-Layer Fabric is generally lighter and because the coating is unprotected requires a lining in the garment. It is also less expensive and slightly less durable.

3-Layer fabrics are a sandwich with the waterproof membrane in the middle. The outer fabric gives the texture and the abrasion and snag resistance whereas the inner is a scrim and this protects the coating from wear and tear. Our 3-layer garments are the most durable, do not need a lining but are also more expensive owing not just to the fabric cost (more than 50% higher) but also the taping costs both in materials and labor.

Outer Layer Options

Key West: Our most suitable 2-layer garment is the Key West Coastal Offshore Jacket and Trousers. It is mid-weight, packed with features, has a collar that ends just at the top of the ears and is the most suitable suit for a wide range of conditions. If most of your sailing is coastal cruising with the occasional offshore passage, then Key West will do the job. It is reasonably priced, comes in Unisex and women’s specific sizing and the women’s trousers have a very useful drop seat.

Atlantic: As its name implies, the Atlantic is perfect for the job. It is made using a 3-layer fabric, heavier and more durable and it has a much higher collar. If you do a fair amount of offshore sailing and the occasional race then this would be my recommendation. Atlantic is made in our 5-dot Ocean grade fabric and was restyled for 2006.

Ocean Racer: If budget is less of an issue there is the Ocean Racer Jacket combining the superb features of the Atlantic suit but with many innovative design systems that reduce weight and improve the garment breathability but without sacrificing performance.

This is achieved by material selection; reducing flaps and overlays to a minimum and a cut that makes the garment so comfortable to wear. This is the range that Gill developed during the last Volvo Ocean Race with the crew of Illbruck, the overall winner. The performance to weight ratio was key to them.

Hands and Feet.
The most common injuries on boats are to the hands and feet. Stubbing your toe because you don’t have shoes on is one thing but slipping and ending up overboard is quite another.

Footwear Options

Last year Gill launched a new shoe called the “Gripper”. As the name implies, the grip is outstanding. We test all our footwear on a slip rig at an independent footwear testing house. It tests in wet and dry conditions, on varnished wood and glass fibre decking – the latter was something I had to supply as it was not in their usual manual! The slip resistance on the shoe went off the scale and surpassed anything we had tested before. It is achieved through a very soft rubber compound and a flexible sole. The sole is also very flat on the ground so you feel very secure as it literally wraps around the deck.

Glove Options

Gloves are also important, not just to protect from rope burn but also from getting fingers caught or trapped. There are many options but I would strongly recommend long finger gloves. The Gill Pro-Glove is probably the toughest on the market using a material known as Proton Ultra as opposed to the thinner Amara.

I cannot say that I have done the Newport-Bermuda race, but who knows one day I may get the opportunity. If I did this is what I would take from what I guess some people would see as an envious amount of choice. A mere 50,000 pieces of technical sailing clothing just a few feet away from me at any one time.