Thursday, 5 August 2010

Cowes Week 2010: Boating Clothing for Smart Yachting

It's been a long time since I visited Cowes but I have fond memories of this small coastal town on the Isle of Wight. At the time of my last visit, I was a guest of the Royal Yacht Squadron, who generously put me up at their club overlooking the sea. I felt very privileged because I wasn't a member - or ever likely to be.

Some of the action from Cowes Week 2008, courtesy of Flickr user 'Murky1'

The invitation had come about because Hackett was involved in sponsorship of a sailing class of boats called Etchells which are extremely sleek, fast and manoeuvrable. Being a bit of a landlubber, I contented myself with surveying the sailing from the safety of dry land, where one yacht in particular stood out - it was the magnificent boat belonging to Donald Gosling, with its navy blue hull exuding a sense of restrained luxury.

As with all these established British occasions there is a dress code, which unless you are visiting the Royal Yacht Squadron is pretty relaxed. Most people seem to opt for the classic navy and white co-ordinations with touches of orange or red. Guernsey sweaters abound, worn with Breton-type stripe t-shirts, polos or rugby shirts. A dapper selection of classic shorts feature heavily, of course, as well as all sorts of technical sailing jackets usually emblazoned with the name of a boat or team. All this kit is 'beaten up' and weathered like a true tar.

However, the Royal Yacht Squadron is somewhat different. Known as "smart yachting", the dress code here consists of navy blue blazers or reefers worn with a tie, faded red trousers and boat shoes or plimsolls.


After an exhausting day watching the yachting from the battlements of the club, I joined the members for drinks on the lawn behind the ancient castellated walls. It was a sea of navy blazers and red trousers with a beautifully faded appearance that can only come from years of sailing, sun and saltwater combined. Originally, these trousers would have been made from genuine sail cloth and the colour is often referred to as Brixham Red, though in America they call it Nantucket Red.

After lolling about in the sun all day, I was certainly a brighter shade.

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