By T.C. WORLEY
My hands were cold and stiff, clinging to the deck railing as I swayed like a drunkard. I had not quite earned my sea legs, but was still happy to be standing on the deck, face into the wind, sea spray showering my body.
Our sailboat was on a southwesterly run in the Kachemak Bay off a spit in Homer, Alaska. Though it was mild considering the time and place, the wind coupled with the cold water made for a chilly day at sea. But I was warm and dry inside my Helly Hansen HP Race jacket, a waterproof-breathable shell made for the rigors of the nautical realm.
The Helly Hansen brand, long known for its sailing gear, was started up decades ago when a Norwegian fisherman, Helly Juell Hansen, saw a need for better gear for working on the water. Much of what H/H has learned from its work line of clothing and outerwear has become crucial to designing its athletic and sporting lines.
As its name says, the HP Race jacket is made for the competitive sailing set, of which I am not a part. But the jacket was a great choice for my day on the glacially-fed ocean water near Homer. (I was on a weeklong trip through the state, and the sailing adventure was one of our stops.)
In addition to the waterproof shell material, the HP Race has sailing-specific elements that make it shine on the water, including a high collar and adjustable, double cuffs to seal the jacket at the wrists.
On my day-long sail, the collar kept wind and water from coming in at the neck. It is lined with fleece for warmth. A rubber cuff on the wrists performs similar to a dry suit — any water that got into the cuff area never made it down my sleeve. And the hip-length cut of the jacket gives good overlap to seal waterproof pants with the jacket.
Safety features include reflective patches on the shoulders and high-vis yellow hood. I don’t like to think of falling overboard, but thankfully H/H has — the jacket has D-rings sewn on to attach kill cords (to shut the boat down if you fall overboard).
For my day at sea, the jacket was perfect. With its high price tag this jacket is a commitment and honestly I don’t have much to compare this to — I am an occasional and very recreational sailor. But I have sailed many times on big, cold water in regular (non-nautical) waterproof jackets, and compared to those the HP Race was far superior.
Available in undeniably nautical white color or a dark grey. $500 at hellyhansen.com.