Sailing in cold weather or when it rains has nothing to do with being a tough sailor, it is about bringing along the right equipment for the weather and task at hand. All good sailing equipment is build around a layering system. These layers all have different properties and combined they provide warmth and comfort, while being windproof and waterproof. It also allows you to tune the layers to your activity, when it gets warmer, you can open up a zip for additional fresh air or remove a layer; easy-peasy.
The first layer is the base layer, it is the first layer on top of your skin. It is designed to drive out liquid moisture (sweat!) and keep you warm and comfortable. On itself this layer provides not good protection, an extra layer is required to protect this layer from the outside elements. Without a second layer, moisture from outside can creep back in. Non-absorbing, insulating synthetic fibers are top choice for the base layer. They drive the moisture out. The classic cotton is actually a poor choice; it is known to hold moisture which in turn does not keep you warm. Make a distinction between sailing clothing that drives moisture out (also called ‘wicking’) and clothing that has a good ‘breathability’. The first actually drives moisture out, while breathability means moisture vapour can escape. Both do a good job in keeping you warm, though the mechanism is slightly different.
The layer that goes over the base layer, is referred to as the insulating layer. Simply put, its role is to maintain a layer of air surrounding you which helps in keeping you warm. This layer should fit snugly, ensuring you keep the warm air inside; otherwise you will face ventilation heat losses with every move you make. Good fabric choice for the insulating layer are synthetic and woollen fabrics, they don’t act like a sponge when exposed to moisture and their insulating properties remain even when they do get exposed to water and sweat.
The outer layer is for the weather protection, it is also referred to as your shell. Its role is to be windproof and waterproof, but also to keep out the cold. The main characteristics of your shell is that it should offer total waterproof and windproof protection, but still be breathable. These properties will ensure that outside weather will not get to you, while allowing sweat to escape. Also in this case: dry = warm and comfortable.
The total package of these layers make up your sailing clothing clearance in Australia, the same applies for both your jacket as well as your trousers, gloves and shoes. Obviously they differ on small details, but the layering system remains. When looking for sailing clothes, make sure to check for these layers and what the different options are. Some are designed for summer sailing, while others have layers that can keep you warm during the cold winter weather! In the end it is not just about looking good, but also being (not too) warm and comfortable.