Thursday, March 30, 2006


I was rereading Buddy Melges' Sailing Smart this week, an excellent source for all kinds of go-faster advice. Buddy is big on awareness of and sensitivity to the surroundings and to the feel of your boat, including this piece of advice.
I don't like to wear gloves, for I lose the touch of the helm and the feel of the sheets -- and these are inputs that tell me when I am in the groove and when I am not. I recommend sailing with bare hands, because you get a better sense of what the boat is telling you. Working a piece of rope back and forth in your hands while you are ashore is one way to toughen them up.

On the other hand Live Sail Die had an article recently about a Laser Radial Sailor whose hands bore the marks of damage from sailing.
The torn and blistery skin was a pale white with prominent salty stains and wrinkles, a soft, yet rough surface which would crumble if manual labour were called upon. These sailor's’ hands were the victim of a 20 knot southerly and a mainsheet that took no prisoners.

And I'm sure I remember an article a few years ago by a medical doctor and top Sunfish sailor, Len Ruby, who recommended wearing full finger gloves all the time while sailing because of the risk of severe long term consequences caused by those apparently temporary blisters and sores.

I'm in the middle ground on this issue. I'll wear gloves when frostbiting because it's so frigging cold. And I will wear gloves in heavy weather otherwise I will damage my hands. But in lighter winds I do like to sail bare-handed to be able to feel the tiller and sheet better as Melges recommends.

What do you think? Are you a "bare hands at all time" kind of guy? Should I be more like Buddy and find a piece of old rope and start toughening up my palms while watching TV?


EVK4 said...

if it's a light wind, light load on the sheets day, no gloves. If it's blowing 25, I need the gloves. Since I generally handle the mainsheet while helming I sometimes wear my gloves and it looks silly when I see pictures. Like those guys in Nissan Ultimas who wear driving gloves.

did that answer your question?

Litoralis said...

I wear gloves all the time when I am crewing on the Star because the jib sheets are only 5mm line and the backstay lines always have the same load on them when tacking regardless of wind. I wear three finger gloves so it's possible for me to get good feel on the tiller extension in light air by holding it with just my finger and thumb. I really like the carbon extension that we have on the Star because the "feel" it provides is great because it is so stiff.
In college I didn't wear gloves because the loads on the lines were not high enough to rip up my hands.

Anonymous said...

I never wear gloves. Can't bear them.

Anonymous said...

I'll generally wear gloves as I don't like rope burn. The loads on the line on a larger boat are enough to get a nasty one, especially if the lines are wet.

I also find that the gloves help me grip the line better, and as I've been fighting off carpal tunnel for almost twenty years, that really helps.

Anonymous said...

I always wear gloves because my hands wouldn't last long if I didn't especially in heavy winds, they're not very tough you see! I find gloves are needed especially in heavy winds for gripping the small jib sheets and spinnaker lines so that they don't dig in and give me rope burns. However as I crew and use a spinnaker I wear gloves that have no thumb or 2/4 finger (which ever one it is!)so that I can easily pick up the tiny rope that runs the length of the spinnaker pole. I find that with full finger gloves I can't get hold of this rope easily because the ends of my fingers are too big with the gloves on and this makes me slower. I also find that full finger gloves limits what you can do, especially the fiddly jobs that may need doing on the water such as getting a knot out of something. However in the winter, when it's cold or when I am on a rib I always wear my full finger gloves (and just have to put up with the fact that I will be a little slower at getting the spinnaker up and down), so I don't get cold hands because when my hands get cold they don't work effectively!

Claire (UK)

Anonymous said...

I like the gloves when I'm racing. In the past, I have always raced shorthanded, so I had to drive and handle multiple lines, often in emergency situations, so they saved my palms. This year I have a full crew, and since I'm driving, I just might ditch them. When I'm out for a fun sail, or cruising, I only wear them if it's freezing balls cold, or blowing 30.

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