Before they get out on the water, your child needs some basic safety equipment:
- Life Jacket
- Water shoes or Sailing boots
All right, Mom and Dad, let's talk for a minute about the importance of choosing the right safety gear.
Streamlined floaty goodness.
When it comes to life jackets, not all life jackets are created equal. In fact, life jackets are made for specific tasks and conditions. Water skiing jackets, for instance, are very hot and made to protect against a high speed impact with the water. For dinghy sailing, they are very uncomfortable and don't allow the maneuverability your child needs. You want something streamlined, without a lot of extra clips, straps, lines and buckles...these will get in the way of everything on the boat and can even catch on the sheets (another word for the ropes your child uses to control the boat).
Your child's first life jacket doesn't need to be expensive, just comfortable. The favorite life jackets carried by Todo Vela are made by Windesign, Rooster, Gill and Zhik.
"Sheeting in the mainsail," or hauling in the line that controls the sail, is hard work. Your child is literally playing tug-of-war with the wind...a pretty powerful force. Just like life jackets are designed for different things, so are gloves. Sailing gloves have special reinforced patches of leather that protect your child's hands in all the right places and won't fall apart after a few wet/dry cycles.
Gloves are a very personal item that will mold to your child's hands. They have to feel right. Make sure the fingers aren't too long and when new, the fit should be snug, because they will stretch in the water. Todo Vela carries top brand gloves made by Gill and Rooster.
In the beginning, a simple pair of tennis shoes or even water shoes might be enough. They'll need to have rubber soles and be grippy enough to keep your young Opti sailor firmly planted, where they want to be. There are few things quite as slippery as the wet deck of a sailboat, under sail. Especially, Optis.
An Optimist, being the simplest type of sailboat, has no keel, nothing heavy attached to the bottom of the boat to counteract the force of the wind on the sail. Without a counterbalance of some kind, the wind will push the sail over, until the boat is upside down. Or, at least on its side. In an Opti, the sailor uses their own body weight, plus the magic of physics, to act as that counterbalance. This is called "Hiking" or "Hiking Out." Your sailor will also use special hiking straps, to help right the boat, should the sail go in the water.
Once your child has gained experience and become proficient at hiking out, they'll need better footwear that offers more traction, support and stability. That's where sailing boots come in. They're specifically designed to grip a wet deck, provide critical ankle support and provide protection from chafing caused by the hiking straps.
Todo Vela Mexico carries a variety of the industry favorite sailing boots, including footwear by Gill, Zhik, Rooster Sailing and Windesign. You can check out our collection by clicking here.
Stay tuned for more installations of our Opti Parent Primer Series!