A Quick Guide to: Layering - How to create your Sailing System

A Quick Guide to: Layering - How to create your Sailing System

If you're heading out on the water it's important you remain safe at all times. No matter what the circumstances, rough weather should not keep us from enjoying ourselves on the water. Rough and heavy weather days can be the most memorable and certainly the ones we share with others. However, poor quality clothing and out of date fabrics can ruin the day, especially for the novice boater.

Wearing lighter weight, less restrictive garments which are highly waterproof and breathable is key to staying warm, dry and comfortable, even in the worst and testing conditions.

Genetically our levels of tolerance to cold climates are unique to each person. Suffering from the cold or extreme heat detracts from peak performance or simply enjoying the day on the water - so hope for the best but always plan for the worst conditions.

Getting wet and cold is preventable with a good layering system - here's a quick guide to understanding layering.

So what Is True Layering?

It’s easier to say what it’s not and that is just a bunch of clothing that we peel off throughout the day. For the best results treat your clothing as an exact science.

Base layer – Next to skin

The base layer is often considered a piece to keep you warm, but in sailing its true function is to keep the skin’s surface dry by moving moisture away from the skin surface (known as wicking). A base layer is essential for not only staying warm in cold conditions but is as important for staying cool on hot days especially when wearing waterproof breathable outer garments. Often overlooked, if you are wearing cotton tees, jeans or an old washed out base layer, a more technically enhanced base layer can be a ‘night and day’ improvement in performance and comfort.

With moderate exertion our bodies give off about a quart of moisture vapour in one hour. This is the body’s natural cooling system. To prevent discomfort this moisture should not just be absorbed by fabrics next to the skin but to be able to evaporate or wick to the next layer so the skin remains dry.

Cotton clothing can absorb up to 20% of its weight in moisture. Damp fabric and moist air transfers heat away from the body twenty times faster than dry fabric. 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, clammy leading to early tiredness and fatigue.

Remember that base layers don’t just cover the top – leggings, socks and headwear should not to be overlooked.

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Mid Layer

Traditionally worn over the base layer, the mid layer is the heat trap of the system. There is no hidden magic to staying warm, the aim is to trap dry warmed air close to the body, and the body in turn then heats this air. The warmed air can be trapped in fleece or lofted styled garments. The trapped dry air is like double glazing in a house, therefore keeping you warm.

Similar to the base layer, it is crucial that the mid layer is constructed from materials that are non-absorbing. The garment must be highly breathable to allow moisture to pass through referred to as MVT (Moisture vapor transfer). Mid layers are designed with sport and sailing in mind so are high wicking as well as warming. Our Kennedy Polar Fleece Jacket is made from Pro-Fleece™ 2-Layer bonded fabric with greater moisture wicking function that will rapidly move moisture away from the skin for greater comfort.

Outer Layer (The Shell)

The outer layer is where the real protection against the elements takes place and it must be completely water and windproof and highly breathable.

The principle purpose of the outer is to stop water getting in and to also contain the warm air within the mid layer. Another important aspect of the outer layer is to ensure that moisture can transfer from the base and mid layers out to the open air.

Dependent on the end use, there is a choice of jackets or smocks, hooded or non-hooded. In our Southerly Offshore and Pacific Coastal ranges you will find key safety features including hi-visibility hood, reflective tape and .

We also have a range of trousers and salopettes designed for sailing in serious conditions.


Important design aspects should also include; protective flaps over the front zip, adjustable inner cuffs alongside outer cuffs and safety features including reflective strips. Pocket placement is also important to keep your hands warm, dependent on your position within the boat.

Our fabrics are consistently refined making them lighter, more flexible but also more durable than ever before. This allows greater freedom of movement and less tiring when worn for extended periods enhancing the on the water activity.

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