Gloves are an essential item in my kit bag and can have a big impact on sailing performance. Wearing the wrong gloves can ruin a sail, whether it’s not being able to grip the sheets, blisters from poor protection or blocks of ice for hands in the middle of winter! There are also loads to choose from, different types, different brands and some that look good online but are useless on the water. Fortunately, Sailing Chandlery has a great range of sailing gloves and has recently increased their range to include my new winter favourites.
Fortuitously someone worked out that traditional gardening/builders gloves did a really good job in boats that needed high levels of dexterity and grip whilst remaining cheap enough to not worry when they wore out. Showa gloves have proven themselves to be above the traditional cheap garden variety glove and have a massive range traditionally aimed at building and manual handling which, is equally at home on the water. You can see gloves like the Showa 330 on the hands of many of the top Olympic teams, particularly in the 49er.
Personal preference and intended activity are probably the biggest factors here. The gloves want to match the type of sailing you’re doing and the types of conditions you face.
If you like lots of feel through the sheet you may well want something thin dexterous like the Zhik grip gloves or the Showa 341 especially if the sheet loads are lighter or you sail a boat like a laser with lots of sheet to move.
If the sheet loads are higher, the mainsheet is less forgiving or you’re looking for more protection then the Showa 330 or a more traditional glove such as the Zhik G2 maybe more suitable.
In the RS600 and RS800, both with centre mains, sheet loads can be high but grip on the sheet is essential, I have favoured the Showa 330 for a good few years now and usually get most of a season out of them before them get relegated to work gloves! It also seems obvious but checking the size charts and measuring your hands before you buy a pair so you get a comfortable fit will make a big difference.
In double handed boats the crew tends to have more ropes to pull and more work to get through (sorry helms) they also want to get lots of feel for pressure in the spinnaker sheets so need something dexterous and with high levels of grip when hoisting and dropping the spinnaker.
Cold hands can ruin a sail and be downright painful. Traditionally winter gloves are made from slightly thicker neoprene sacrificing feel for warmth. For those that get exceptionally cold hands then the Zhik Superwarm gloves offering maybe the solution you’ve been looking for.
For the RS600 and tackling the harsh conditions of the Sailjuice series, I was impressed enough by the Showa 306 to recommend that Sailing Chandlery should stock them. They are both dexterous and water and wind resistant so keep the worst of the wind-chill out whilst maintaining high levels of grip and feel. The fleece lined Showa 451 are also a good value winter glove especially if feel isn’t the top priority.
This article has been written by George Smith, RS600 and RS800 sailor and Sailing Chandlery sponsored sailor.
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