Pinky protection

We take a look at some of the many sailing gloves on the market

Wednesday January 30th 2008, Author: Toby Heppell, Location: United Kingdom
Sailing gloves are traditionally a love them or hate them item. There have always been and will always be those who choose not to wear gloves. However, we feel gloves form a vital part of the sailors kit and can, in many respects improve performance by a significant margin.

There are many different styles of glove on the market but in essence there are two main types. Firstly you have summer gloves designed for flexibility and grip predominantly and offer little additional warmth. Then there are winter gloves designed with warmth in mind as well as flexibility and grip.

The most important thing we discovered when talking to sailors was the amount of grip a pair of gloves has. Many feel this is simply a case of the more grip the better as this allows you to expend less energy holding onto ropes. However, there are those who say if gloves are too grippy they may get in the way of sailing, not allowing a tiller extension to slip through your fingers for example. The other big debate seems to be over fingered or finger-less. Here some say that gloves without fingers are best as they leave you the ability to tie ropes and do up shackles. Others say that if you have good preparation then this should not be needed and full fingers offer better protection. Finally there are some who go for a halfway house and use gloves with three full fingers and a short thumb and index finger.

In truth which gloves you use is all about preference, your style of sailing and what position you sail in. A 49er helm may well wear gloves that are not too grippy but are warm as they don’t have too many ropes to pull. The same person crewing a 49er may well use gloves with the best grip they can find as they will be constantly pulling sheets and halyards.

Most sailing wear companies make several summer and winter gloves and below we have listed some of the more popular ones.

Super Gloves:

These gloves have had a sudden rise in popularity in recent years. They suddenly started popping up in the sailing bags of pro-sailors around four or five years ago and have increased their market share dramatically over this time. They were actually made as gloves for builders but have been picked up by sailors and now continue to be worn by many of the top sailors in the world.

The gloves primary feature is exceptional grip, allowing the wearer to save energy and grip small sheet diameters more consistently. However, some who have used the gloves feel they are too grippy not allowing ropes to slip through the hand when wanted. The other main advantage these gloves have over other pairs is their price.

Super Gloves do not last as long as other types of glove that are specifically designed for sailing, but then they cost a lot less too. Where other pairs of gloves are usually between the £20 and £30 mark super gloves can cost around £40 for ten pairs. Typically, however, the cheap cost of the gloves and the shortened life span equal each other out. So you end up spending less more regularly with these as opposed to more less regularly.

Henri Lloyd:

Henri Lloyd brought out their new range of gloves at the very end of 2006/start of 2007. Incorporating 'Maxgrip' material for the palm – a material used by rock climbing companies and sourced by Henri Lloyd for their gloves. The gloves are available in short and long finger varieties as well as a neoprene winter pair. With Kevlar stitching throughout these look like gloves that will definitely take some abuse and the Maxgrip material does seem very grippy.

The best pair, in our view, are the Stealth Winter Gloves, which feel warm and comfortable. They also have a very nice cuff system where one cuff goes under your wetsuit and another goes over, leaving a nice effectively weather tight seal.

Gill Deckhand Glove Short Fingers:

These gloves have been designed by Gill for use in a wide variety of water sports. They have a contoured fit to offer maximum protection and are said to be extremely durable.

The Gloves are made from Amara (synthetic leather). This means the gloves do not hold as much water as those made from natural materials and also allows them to be fast drying, while remaining soft. There is a seamless wrap-around reinforcement on the fingers and the palm which should increase their life still further by preventing tears. Like many gloves on the market they also have a Spandex back and an inside Velcro wrist closure.

Harken Frostbiter and Full finger Gloves:

These Harken Gloves come recommended to us as particularly hard wearing and grippy. The Full Finger summer gloves offer double thickness palms and also incorporate three full fingers, leaving the index finger and thumb free for flexibility.

The Frostbiter glove is our favourite of the two and comes with a sticky ‘black magic’ palm material. They also feature neoprene over the back of the hand for warmth and stretch softshell fleece panels for mobility and insulation.

Gul Summer Gloves:

The Gul range of gloves is, again, fairly standard fare. They are Spandex-backed and have the typical soft Amara Palm. They feature an adjustable wrist strap and have an extra grip patch specifically pre-shaped for superior comfort.

What we particularly like about the Gul Summer Glove range, however, is that they are all exactly the same, with the same specifications whether you go for the full finger, three finger or half finger versions. This gives the potential buyer plenty of options without having to worry about other differences between the pairs.

Magic Marine:

Magic Marine make a number of standard short finger gloves (the Pro Racing Glove being our favourite) which include many of the features listed on other pairs of gloves. In addition to the flexible Spandex back and Amara-reinforced palm and fingers, the gloves also have ‘SuperFlex’ wrist material to help increase manoeuvrability.

Although we like the Pro Racing Glove our favourite Magic Marine gloves are actually their winter ‘Dry Glove’. These gloves are made from 3mm ‘SuperFlex’ neoprene, have a dry wrist seal and additional Velcro wrist strap. The dry glove also features a rubber printed grip on the palms which we feel would be very effective, though do have some concerns about how hard wearing they may be.

Helly Hansen Gloves:

Helly Hansen make a pair of Amara Gloves principally these come in two different forms, three long fingers or all short fingers. The gloves are both reasonably standard fare and are made almost entirely from Amara.

At a glance these products do seem to lack some of the features of other gloves. However, they come highly recommended to us by those that use them.

What they wear:

Simon Hiscocks 49er Silver and Bronze medalist:

“I use the Super Grip Gloves which offer superior grip compared with other products I have used. There are cheaper imitations out there, but I don’t think they are as good.

“I got lazy recently and I am now going through a pair a day. At £4 a pair that is about £20 for a week so comparable to a pair of standard sailing gloves which I used to trash in a week. “Obviously if it is light they last longer and they often get some more use later in a training session.

“I suppose one downside is that it is not very environmentally friendly using that many. I wonder if there is a recyclable option?!”

Graham Vials ex-Olympic 470 campaigner and top Moth sailor:

“I wear builder merchant Super Gloves. I started using them when I was crewing the Tornado and found them excellent. They are not perfect, if you want to let the rope slide through your fingers, but they have really good grip qualities.

“They are also the best product for ‘twisting’ the tiller extension on the Moth when foiling, unlike any of the traditional gloves. Nice and cheap too!”

Richard Stenhouse Musto Skiff World Champion:

“I use Helly Hansen’s long fingered gloves. They are particularly good for singlehanded skiff sailing, particularly as ropes often need to slide through your hands, the full fingers give extra protection. This is also useful when you are wire to wire tacking as they provide more protection

“The index finger and thumb are left free which means you can still tie knots and do fiddly things.

“I think gloves are one area all the manufacturers could get better at designing and making. I think the back of the glove needs to be windproof or waterproof-type thing as that bit keeps your hand warm. Also many of them tend to wear out quite quickly. Some I have had I went through in a couple of weeks.”

Rick Perkins Musto Skiff UK National Champion:

“I use two different pairs of gloves. I use the Harken Full finger Gloves in the summer and the Harken Frostbiter gloves in the winter. These two pairs will last me a whole season which I think is pretty good.”

“I find they have just the right amount of grip. Those yellow builders gloves I find to be too sticky and they do not allow much chance to slide a tiller extension through my hands when wire to wire tacking.”

“I tend to use full finger varieties of glove, if I have done my boat preparation I should not need to fiddle with anything out on the water. Currently my summer gloves only have three full fingers but I think I would be happy if they were all full fingered. It does make it harder to open cereal bars on the water though.”

Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in


Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top