Keeping you afloat

We look at some of the best buoyancy aids on the market
An essential feature in any dinghy sailor’s wardrobe is the buoyancy aid. Where other items such as wetsuits, gloves, drysuits etc are all based on personal preference, most sailing clubs and classes will not allow you to race in any event unless you are wearing some kind of PFD (personal flotation device). To that end, given you are to be wearing this item at all times when out on the water, it is essential you ensure your buoyancy aid is the right one for you. For a while now the trend in PFDs has been to get smaller, the reason for this clearly being, that initially they were very bulky pieces of equipment. Now, flotations materials have improved allowing buoyancy aids to become more compact, in so doing have removed one of the major problems with them – their bulk Recently there has been some debate about whether PFDs are actually as safe as we think. There is a section of the sailing community who say that as the PFD forces you to the surface it prevents you swimming out from under objects you might be stuck beneath and can also serve to increase tangles. These people often prefer to sail with no PFD maintaining a knife on your person somewhere is a better form of protection. This debate seems likely to continue for some time, however, irrespective of the relative merits on each side, currently wearing a PFD is unavoidable and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future. Many sailors and certainly the majority of high performance sailors now choose to wear a rash vest over the top of their Buoyancy aid once it is on. This is a significant help in smoothing bumps and preventing tangles. Some manufacturers now offer rash vests specifically for this purpose with reinforced holes in