Gearing Up for a Night Race

Next weekend is the Solomon’s Island race.  It’s a feeder race to get boats from Annapolis to Solomon’s Maryland in advance of the following week’s Screwpile Lighthouse Challenge regatta.


This will be my first night race of the season.  So, it’s time to go through my sailing gear and make sure that my essentials are in order for night sailing.  I consider the things below to be necessary for night sailing — partially because stuff is more difficult and takes longer at night when visibility is limited by darkness.  In reality, these pieces of gear can be good things to use any time sailing.

PFD – Of course it’s important to have a good PFD for time spent on the water.  I prefer the Mustang version that is hydrostatically activated.  That way, I don’t have to rely on pulling the inflation cord myself; or take the risk of accidental inflation when the aspirin tablet gets wet and dissolves in the other type of inflatable PFD.  If you think these PFDs are expensive, just remember how much your life is worth.
Tether – Your tether is the thing that will keep you attached to the boat in rough waves and storms.  I like to use a tether that has two attachment points.  That way,  I can have the new point clipped in before I unclip the old point.  Also, make sure that your boat has jack lines rigged to provide additional spots to clip into.
Strobe – This is the thing that will help people find you if you go into the water.  Make sure that it’s attached to your vest in a way that will be secure and visible from above when your PFD is inflated (don’t just clip it to your belt).
Whistle – This might be the simplest cheapest piece of equipment that you have; but it will also help people find you if you go into the water.  Make sure it will be easily accessible when your PFD is inflated (and tether it to your harness so you don’t lose it).
Multi-Tool & Quick Knife – I get a lot of use from my Leatherman.  It’s amazing how much the screw drivers, different knives & fid come in handy.  However, it’s not always the quickest thing to get open in an emergency.  I recommend also having a quick knife if case you need to cut yourself out of rigging in an accident.  US Sailing offers a harness rescue tool at an inexpensive price.
Flashlight and / or Head Lamp — I use my head lamp with the red lens cover (protects night vision) a lot during night races.  However, we also use a more powerful flashlight to shine on the telltales periodically to check sail trim.
Snacks to make the sleep deprivation easier — Some of my favorites are Clif Bars, Sweet & Salty granola bars, Red Bull, and hot chocoloate (especially if it’s cold).


I also make sure that I have appropriate clothing layering combinations depending on the forecast.  This preparation will go a long way to making for a great racing experience.  Gear up and have fun!!!