Good Gear: Winter Sailing Wear

If you must go down to the sea again, you might as well keep warm, safe and dry. Robin Barton kits out in the best gale-force gear
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Rivalry on the open waves is nothing compared to the fierce competition to clothe sailors, fought out principally in the UK by three family-run firms and a 125-year old Norwegian company, Helly Hansen. We selected an outfit from each of the four manufacturers, all of them designed for specific types of sailing.

In winter weather, being wet means being cold. Musto's MPX Gore-Tex outerwear is a keenly-priced range (the HPX range is the more expensive kit) with jackets and trousers for coastal and offshore yachting, and is both breathable and waterproof.

The key to staying dry is not only the fabric but also the fit around the neck and wrists, and it is essential to check this when trying on any jacket. The Musto, designed to be worn with a base layer and a fleecy mid-layer, proved to be the most popular clothing.

The Key West jacket and trousers featured from Douglas Gill is a lightweight outfit from their Offshore range, suitable for racing and offshore sailing. We particularly liked the fabric's flexibility, although would it be as hard-wearing as the Musto?

The jacket is cut long and has a high collar to offer as much protection from foul weather as possible; as one experienced transatlantic sailor noted, on a bad day the weather encountered in the English Channel can be the worst in the world.

Indeed, a different solution to winter weather is the drysuit. With tight rubber seals around the neck and wrists and built-in rubber feet, the idea is to keep water out completely. Divers use drysuits, and it is possible to stay alive in water for longer if wearing one.No leaks were detected in this Helly Hansen model. It's not exactly cheap, but has durable panels on the knees and seat and is suitable for a range of watersports, including winter dinghy sailing.

Dinghy sailors have different priorities to yacht sailors. They need to manoeuvre around a small boat, so bulky wet-weather gear like the Musto and Gill outfits won't work. They are also likely to be dunked into the water on a more frequent basis.

Few dinghy sailors venture out in the winter, but if they wait until spring's warmer weather, the Sprint Salopettes and Smock from Henri-Lloyd would be ideal waterproofs, and they are also suitable for coastal sailing and racing. This outfit allows a wide range of movement and is both light and breathable.

Helly Hansen

Breathable Drysuit

Good buy for serious sailors. Stockists: 0115 960 8797,

Price: £400

Musto MPX Gore-Tex

Coastal Jacket and Trousers

Excellent mid-range outfit for coastal sailing. Good value. Stockists: 01268 491 555,

Price: Top £200, Trousers £175

Henri-Lloyd TP2 Sprint

Hooded Smock and Salopettes

Great for smaller boats. Stockists: 0161 799 1212,

Price: Top £150, Bottoms £170

Douglas Gill OS2 Key West Offshore Jacket and Trousers

More flexible fabric than the Musto, suitable for offshore. Good value. Stockists: 0115 946 0844,

Price: Top £150, Trousers £120