Gear freaks The sailor

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Also known as: dinghy sailor, cruising yachtsman (non-competitive sailor), racing yachtsman or "winch gorilla" (competitive yachtsman), yachtie (a derogatory term which implies a greater commitment to sailing outfits than to sailing).

Numbers nationally: nearly three million people are regular sailors.

Favourite locations: the Island Sailing Club, Cowes, the Isle of Wight, during Cowes week (August); the English Harbour, Antigua during Antigua Sailing Week (April); Saint Tropez during La Nioulargue Regatta week (October); the Guinness bar, Earl's Court, during London Boat Show (January); Southampton during Southampton Boat Show (September); Royal Yacht Squadron at any time; at sea.

Magazines: Yachting World, Yachting Monthly, Practical Boat Owner, Yachts and Yachting, Motor Boat and Yachting, Seahorse (the organ of Royal Ocean Yacht Club).

Hazards: sea sickness; 40ft waves; the Bermuda triangle; barnacles; rubbish (plastic cartons and bags can take anything from 10 to 80 years to break down in seawater; cardboard, up to five months; orange and banana peel, up to two years); running into other vessels (particularly if sailing in the Solent on a Saturday afternoon); running aground; falling out with other crew members; falling off the boat (more people go overboard in calm weather than rough because they don't hold on as tightly; likewise, man overboard is quite common while having a wee off the side).

The kit: nautical style looks as good on dry land as on deck - or so say fashion gurus who have helped to launch a sea of deck shoes, Guernsey knits, blue and white stripes and a boat-equipment industry which is far bigger than boat building. The recent development of "breathables" - hi- tech foul weather clothing - has not only helped to keep the sailor warm and dry, market leaders Musto and Henri-Lloyd are enjoying healthy sales and cut-throat competition. Both launched their version of the latest snug, storm-beating outfits within days of each other and when the Whitbread Race authorities stipulated that crew members must wear one-piece survival suits, Henri-Lloyd came up with the C02-insulated Sisstemair (pounds 700) and Musto swiftly followed with its HPX Ocean Dry (pounds 649.95). Musto's latest research has focused not on waterproofing or safety, but on the call of nature. In June the "bog standard" Drop Seat Trouser System was launched. Competitors have yet to respond.

The gear: Henri-Lloyd Ocean Breathable Jacket with Gor-tex outer, taped seams, harness facility and two-way Riri zip, pounds 359, Henri- Lloyd Hi-Fit Bib and Brace Trousers, pounds 249; Musto Base-Layer thermal underwear, pounds 40; Musto Mid-layer Fleece Trouser System, pounds 70; Musto storm cap with Hard- top head protection, pounds 21.95; Douglas Gill 100 per cent rubber and Neoprene boot with non-slip deck-grip sole, pounds 39.95; Namron Neoprene gloves with Kevlar padded palms, pounds 28; Douglas Gill thick water-resistant socks, pounds 6.95; Church salt-water resistant deck shoes with Vibram soles, Kevlar laces and waterproof stitching, pounds 89.95

Accessories: Nautor Swan yacht approx pounds 150,000-pounds 1m (including a lifelong membership of the Swan-owners club); Crewsaver and auto-safety harness, pounds 119; Cassio Triple Sensor watch with built-in electronic compass, pounds 159; Vaurnet glare-absorbing sailing sunglasses, pounds 60; Traveleze sea-sickness pressure-point wrist strap, pounds 5.89.

Optional extras: Armolux blue and white Breton T-shirt, pounds 29.95; Secrets of the Titanic National Geographic Video, pounds 10.95; water-resistant headtorch on fully adjustable headband, pounds 32.50; Magdellan Nav 8500 electronic chart plotter with Navionics micro-charts and in-built Global Positioning System (stars, sextants and other more traditional means of navigation are still useful as a back up), pounds 1300.

Ultimate gadget: Joyton Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, pounds 155. Strapped to the arm (or worn in the Eperb compartment of Musto Ocean Jacket, pounds 269) this Eperb or personal beacon will, if you fall over the side, automatically activate an alarm on any passing aircraft and transmit distress signals via satellites to land stations. On the pull of a rip- cord the emergency services can pinpoint you, your yacht and your exact position - if you have programmed your Eperb correctly in the first place. Larger Eperbs, working on the same principal, are available for ships at a cost of pounds 600-pounds 1300.

Bare essentials: chartered yacht, pounds 200-pounds 500 a week; life jacket, pounds 60; boots, pounds 20; waterproof jacket and trousers, pounds 40-pounds 60.

Ultimate experience: hanging in a trapeze over the side of a dinghy; sailing through the roaring Forties in the Whitbread Race; drinking rum punches on deck in the Caribbean.