RUGGED WATERPROOFS

The big­gest storm should be wa­ter off a duck’s back in these rugged off­shore oil­skins. The YM team put them to the test

Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS - Words Theo Stocker Pho­tos Gra­ham Snook

A high-end set of oil­skins is a se­ri­ous in­vest­ment. We put the top makes to the test to find the best

Long gone are the days of plas­tic oil­skins and the steady trickle of wa­ter leak­ing down your neck. Top-end off­shore waterproofs are se­ri­ous busi­ness these days, and you are spoilt for choice if you want a suit that will her­met­i­cally seal you in against even the foulest weather, so that you can stay dry and, more im­por­tantly, warm, wher­ever and when­ever you are sail­ing.

Tech­nol­ogy keeps ad­vanc­ing as man­u­fac­tur­ers send their oil­skins hurtling around the South­ern Ocean on the backs of the world’s top sailors. The most no­tice­able changes in the waterproofs we tested were in the ef­forts made to re­duce weight, bulk and slowdry­ing fab­rics. Gone, on the whole, are the lin­ings, re­placed in­stead by durable lam­i­nated fab­rics. Gone are the thick, cosy fleece lin­ings that soak up wa­ter, re­placed by lighter-weight mi­crofi­bre fab­rics. The outer shells have also lost weight whilst gain­ing (so the man­u­fac­tur­ers claim) im­proved wa­ter­proof­ing, breatha­bil­ity, dura­bil­ity and flex­i­bil­ity.

New brands are also en­ter­ing the mar­ket and shak­ing things up a bit. De­cathlon, the French one-stop sports shop, has made an as­serted foray into the bud­get end of the mar­ket, and with im­pres­sive re­sults. Zhik, on the other hand, grew out of an Aus­tralian Olympic cam­paign and is bring­ing plenty of in­no­va­tive ideas to the ta­ble.

All of this comes at a price. We set an up­per limit of £1,000 for this test, and it would have been pos­si­ble to go over bud­get on this. Most of these oil­skins don’t come cheap, but I’ve never met a sailor who wasn’t glad of ev­ery bit of pro­tec­tion they could get in the face of a cold and spray-lashed watch on deck. But do you re­ally get what you pay for?

HOW WE TESTED THEM

On test were six sets of oil­skins, in both men’s and women’s ver­sions. As with our coastal waterproofs test ear­lier in the sea­son, the only way to test them is to don a set and re­ceive a soak­ing.

That’s ex­actly what the

YM team did. To put them through their paces, we ex­am­ined each of them for fea­tures and new ideas. We then wore them out on the wa­ter, both on our test day for side-by-side test­ing, and through­out the sea­son in good weather and bad, to get a good idea of what we liked and didn’t like.

For most, an in­vest­ment of this kind will be ex­pected to last sev­eral sea­sons, not some­thing we could eas­ily mea­sure, but we did pay at­ten­tion to qual­ity of con­struc­tion and prac­ti­cal­ity.

Fi­nally, we sub­jected our­selves to hav­ing a large bucket of wa­ter dumped on us from one me­tre above head height, and a thor­ough hos­ing down un­der pres­sure to the front and the back for sev­eral min­utes. That done, we checked the grey t-shirts worn be­neath for leaks.

Jacket £170 Salopettes £170

A rel­a­tive new­comer to the ma­rine cloth­ing mar­ket, De­cathlon has hit the ground run­ning with their top-end Tribord Ocean 900 out­fit. They may be £400 less than the near­est com­peti­tor, but these are not some flimsy im­i­ta­tion.

Jacket

The fab­ric is slightly lower rated than other prod­ucts, but not by much. The weather can be sealed out with a high fleece­lined, elas­tic-edged col­lar and a novel face guard that is in­te­gral to the body of the jacket – very se­cure, though it didn’t roll away quite as neatly. The hood in­cludes vol­ume and side ad­just­ment, a re­in­forced peak and a drip gut­ter.

The jacket closes with two storm flaps over the dou­ble-ended zip and an­other storm flap in­side. It is re­in­forced over the seat and in­cludes printed re­flec­tive patches. The Vel­cro tabs for the in­ner and outer cuffs are joined to­gether via a slot in the outer sleeve, giv­ing a sin­gle ad­just­ment for both cuffs; very easy to use, but not quite such a good seal. The jacket has only chest hand-warmer pock­ets. The women’s jacket we tested has a slightly dif­fer­ent de­sign with sep­a­rate cuff clo­sures, and no face guard, but the col­lar can be snugged in with an ad­juster.

Salopettes

The women’s salopettes did not have a drop seat, but they do have the op­tion of high-waisted trousers. These had a small cargo pocket on the thigh, but no other pock­ets. We liked the re­mov­able pad­ding in the seat and knees; great for deck work and for com­fort on watch. The men’s ver­sion fea­tures a dry-suit zip, elim­i­nat­ing the need for a water­proof gus­set. The in­ner face of the an­kles are rub­berised to help en­sure a good seal to your wellies.

test VER­DICT

The suit had an amaz­ingly solid feel­ing given the low price point and would be well worth a try. The suit per­formed well in the wa­ter test, although there was a slight leak at the cuffs. De­cathlon has ob­vi­ously worked hard to in­cor­po­rate the fea­tures of the more es­tab­lished brands into their cloth­ing as well as com­ing up with some of their own in­no­va­tive ideas.

The team re­ceives a thor­ough dous­ing to finds any chinks in their aquatic ar­mour

great pad­ding, but we found it lim­ited flex­i­bil­ity slightly

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