SUNGLASSES FOR SAILING
Each sailing discipline presents unique challenges when it comes to choosing the most suitable eyewear.
The model that is best suited to you will depend on the genre of sailing that you specialise in, the strength of the wind, the water conditions and the prevailing weather conditions. The first two considerations relate more to frame choice and the last two are more relevant to lens choice. We take a look at all of these factors below.
Before taking a closer look at the disciplines within sailing and how they might influence your choice of sunglasses, it’s worth remembering that there are 6 key considerations for keeping your eyes happy and healthy on the water.
6 KEY CONSIDERATIONS
UV & SPRAY PROTECTION
If there is a route for UV light and sea-spray to get behind your lenses and into your eyes, it will be found!
With anything less than a full wrap frame, the gap between your face and the edge of the sunglasses frame is asking for trouble. Choosing an ‘8-base curve radius’ frame is essential to minimise the potential for lasting damage to your eyes.
GLARE & POLARISATION
When sunlight is reflected off a surface like water it can lead to distracting and blinding glare, particularly when the sun is at a low angle. This not only makes life uncomfortable but it can also be hazardous particularly in a fast moving environment.
Polarised lenses cut out this blinding glare and increase comfort and contrast, which in turn reduces eye fatigue.
The frame & lenses should have good impact resistance. This will be kinder to your pocket and protect you against eye injury.
The frame should be robust, capable of withstanding impacts and shatterproof. The lenses should be constructed of high impact resistant material like polycarbonate, nylon or NXT™(Trivex™). Mineral lenses should be avoided at all costs.
‘VLT’ (Visible Light Transmission) or “TV” rates determine what percentage of visible light (not to be confused with UV light) passes through the lenses and into the eyes.
Category 3 lenses are generally the most suitable for watersports, unless you’re located in a cloudy region where it might be more appropriate to consider a category 2 lens. Category 3 lenses let through between 8-18% of visible light.
You’ll want to ensure that your lenses have at least a hydrophobic coating so that water droplets do not accumulate on the lens surface, and better still an oleophobic coating too.
A hydrophobic coating repels water whereas an oleophobic coating repels oils, sweat, dirt and dust. It is the last layer on the lenses. Having both of these coatings on your lenses will add significantly to your visual awareness and enjoyment.
Give some thought to what happens when you get broadsided by a wave. Will the jolt catapult your sunglasses into the ocean? Sunnies going overboard happens all too frequently and it’s surprising how fast it happens.
There are two ways to mitigate against this:
● Use sunglasses that float, or
● Use a reliable retention system
Our three watershades are designed for watersports and sailing: (1) FLO, (2) Typhoon and (3) Surge.
The FLO is lightweight, strapless and unsinkable, and is incredibly versatile because it is at home on the ocean, at the marina or in the car. With no leash system to contend with thanks to its in-built flotation technology, it is a ‘plug & play’ watershade that is designed for the rigours of the ocean, but responds to any other environment you can throw at it. It comes with all the essential coatings needed for watersports and with a heap of lens options for different environments. In general, the FLO is suited to the more leisurely sailing disciplines in calmer waters and light winds. So, if you are planning on cruising the Med in flat water conditions or bay hopping in the Bahamas in light winds, the FLO will be a perfect companion.
The Surge and Typhoon models are recommended for all types of racing or more challenging conditions where the wind is stronger than 10 knots or where there is chop or swell. Although the FLO can be used in these conditions, they may be difficult to retrieve if they go overboard, especially if there are white caps or a swell. And if you are competing and carefully planning your next tack when a rogue wave knocks you off balance and your sunnies go overboard, the last thing you are going to want to do is turn around to fish your sunglasses out of the water.
Below is a quick reference guide for all three watershades.
|Model / Functions||Typhoon||Surge||Flo|
In practically all classes of dinghy sailing and especially dinghy racing, you are very close to the water and there’s almost always a lot of spray. The proximity of the water’s surface coupled with the relative speed of the vessel means that the FLO is unsuited to all but the lightest wind conditions.
We recommend either the polarised Typhoon or Surge for all classes of dinghy sailing & racing, perhaps with the exception of dinghy foiling in light wind conditions. An added benefit of these two models is the patented double vortex lens ventilation of the Surge and Typhoon which will counteract any lens fogging that might develop in cold water locations.
Being so close to the water means that solar reflections can be overwhelming in the mornings and evenings. Quality polarisation is therefore essential for overcoming this blinding glare. If the weather conditions are normally very bright and sunny in your local spot, then you will want to opt for a high category 3 polarised lens with a VLT (visible light transmission rate) of around 9-10%. See the Pacific Blue Typhoon or Surge Ice Blue lens descriptions below for lenses for bright conditions. For darker conditions, you may want to consider the Typhoon Rose Gold lenses which have a VLT of around 14% or Brown lenses which have a VLT of 15.6%.
CRUISING & BAY HOPPING
If you spend most of your time cruising in calm waters, there are no special needs for your choice of frame other than remembering that the frame should ideally be a ‘wrap fit’ to minimise the amount of UV light that enters the eyes. Without a wrap fit, UV and visible light reflected from the water surface will always find a way in, even if you are seated at the helm inside the bridge.
As you are unlikely to be suffering from significant spray and sudden jolts, the leash and necklace of the Surge and Typhoon would be surplus to requirements, so the most suitable model for this kind of boating is the FLO. It’s a lightweight 8-base wrap frame which has the added bonus of being floatable. If they are accidentally knocked overboard, they will be simple to retrieve from the water.
For those that spend a good deal of their time indoors looking at digital navigation instruments, you may want to consider a non polarised lens or a lens which is ‘screen friendly’. See below for details of our Zeiss multilayer red lenses for the FLO. If you’re spending more time outside and on the deck and especially in bright and sunny locations, you’ll be more comfortable with a polarised lens with a VLT rate of around 10-12%. A blue mirror coating would also be well suited to blue ocean environments.
COASTAL & OFFSHORE
If you are motoring or under sail in anything less than 10 knots of wind, any of our sailing sunglasses will perform admirably for you. All three models have an 8-base frame which will protect your eyes from rogue UV light and sea-spray. They are all made from an unbreakable frame material – TR90 – just in case the boom catches you unawares.
If your coastal and offshore sailing is regularly in wind conditions over 10 knots, we would suggest that the Surge or Typhoon is more suitable as both these models were specifically designed for sailing in windy conditions. They have a failsafe leash mechanism, and the Typhoon in particular has over-moulded rubber on the frame surround which will keep you comfortable under sail all day long.
There are going to be days when the wind whips up the ocean and you’ll need to be strapped in for the ride. The Surge and Typhoon will be a blessing on these days as wave after wave unload themselves over you. Without a strong and reliable leash system tethering your sunglasses, they will very likely succumb to the ocean – and it will happen fast. The Typhoon in particular is built for conditions such as these with a premium hydrophobic layer that will keep your vision clear and crisp so that you can concentrate on the tasks at hand.
On other days, the water will be so calm that you can see your reflection on the surface. You’ll still need your eye protection, but you may not need the retention system of the Surge of Typhoon. In calm conditions like these, the FLO is the perfect companion to keep your eyes in good health.
When spending extended periods of time blue water sailing, we advise having multiple backups of your sunglasses on board. You only need to spend one day on the water in bright sunshine without eye protection to realise that high performance sailing sunglasses are absolutely essential.
In any sort of racing environment, you will need to feel secure in the knowledge that your sunglasses are firmly tethered to you with a leash system that is not going to fail. Losing sunglasses to the wind or ocean spray during a race will mean they are gone for good as you will not be going back for them if you’re pushing for position.
If you are racing foils, wipeouts can be intense and incredibly rapid, and for this reason we strongly recommend that the best option is the Typhoon as this model offers the best impact protection with shock absorbing TPU rubber surrounding the frame. Crashes can catapult you into the water (if you are lucky) or onto any part of the boat (if you’re not so lucky) so you’ll want as much impact protection as possible.
The Grilamid TR90 unbreakable frame material used in the Surge and Typhoon has built-in ‘memory’ so that it can deform to absorb an impact and revert to its original shape once the impact load is removed. Coupled with strong and shatterproof lenses, this is the best insurance you can have against an eye injury in a high speed capsize event.
CHOOSE YOUR LENSES
Once you have chosen the frame most suitable for the discipline of sailing that you specialise in, consider next the lenses that are ideal for the weather conditions that you expect to experience. You can follow the broad guidelines detailed below for choosing the right lenses for the right weather conditions, but it is important to remember that not everyone perceives light in the same way, so ultimately the choice boils down to comfort and your personal preferences:
TYPHOON, SURGE & FLO
The smoke (grey) polycarbonate lenses for the Surge & Typhoon offer a neutral tone, and are both category 3 polarised lenses. If you like a natural representation of colours, then this is the lens for you.
The Typhoon has two options for ‘methane smoke’ lenses from ZEISS: 1) Polycarbonate material, and 2) Nylon material. The PC lenses have a visible light transmission rate (VLT) of 10.2% and the nylon VLT is 11.1%.
For our Surge and Flo models, the VLT is exactly 10%. At this VLT level, the lenses will be able to handle strong sunlight and significant glare. However, for cloudy days and sessions when the sun is well on its way down, they may not be the ideal choice.
All lenses are equipped with a hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
POLARISED (& NON POLARISED IN FLO MODEL)
TYPHOON & SURGE
The brown base colour lenses for the Surge & Typhoon offer more enhanced colours, and are also both category 3 polarised lenses. As the base lens colour has a red/brown hue, this tends to lift or ‘pop’ all colours (but especially reds and greens). This in turn increases contrast.
The specification for the methane brown Typhoon lenses was recently upgraded from polycarbonate to nylon material. The Zeiss nylon methane brown lenses have a VLT of 15.6%. For the Surge and Flo models, the VLT is 10%.
There is a noticeable difference in the performance of the brown lenses in cloudy / darker conditions. Owing to the increased contrast afforded by brown base lenses, it is noticeably easier to see details when the light levels drop. This is not to say that the brown lenses do not function well in bright light. In fact, they perform admirably in bright conditions. Brown lenses are versatile all round lenses for all types of conditions.
As with the smoke lenses, both are equipped with an advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
SURGE & FLO
The Ice Blue polycarbonate lenses for the Surge & Flo offer yet more enhanced contrast and colour perception than the brown lenses. The base colour of these lenses is rose. Our VIVIDE lens technology controls light transmission into the eye by filtering out blue light and enhancing red and green light. If your local sailing environment is awash with hues of blue (e.g the Caribbean or Indian Ocean) these category 3 polarised lenses will bring the visible light back into balance.
The VLT for the Ice Blue lenses is 8.35% which is right on the lower end of a category 3 lens. It is therefore a lens suited to very bright sunny conditions. However, as with our brown lenses, there is good performance of these lenses in cloudier conditions owing to the increased contrast afforded by the rose lens base colour.
As with all our watershades lenses, the VIVIDE Ice Blue lenses come equipped with an advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
TYPHOON & FLO
Similar in performance to Ice Blue lenses noted above, the violet base colour of the Pacific Blue lenses by ZEISS provide enhanced contrast and vivid colour perception. Available in both the Typhoon and Flo models, the lens material is polyamide (nylon) which offers super crisp vision with an Abbe value of 52.
The Pacific Blue lenses subdue the amount of blue light entering the eye and enhance the reds and greens. The blue mirror coating also reflects blue light. These category 3 polarised lenses are perfect for bright sunny conditions in environments with deep blue ocean colours like the Pacific or Atlantic.
The VLT for the these lenses is 9.95% which is also at the lower end of a category 3 lens and so are perfectly suited to bright and sunny conditions.
The Pacific Blue lenses come equipped with Zeiss’s advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
ZEISS Rose Gold nylon lenses have a brown base lens colour which is coupled with a rose gold mirror coating. This lens option is available only in the Typhoon.
The brown base lens colour provides good contrast. The VLT rate for these lenses is 14.2% which while still squarely within the category 3 range, is a bit higher than many of our other watershades lenses which fall in the 8-12% range. This lens is therefore well equipped for lower light conditions and cloudier days, but may not be the ideal choice for super-bright sunny conditions.
These lenses come equipped with Zeiss’s advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.
ZEISS multilayer red lenses are category 2 polycarbonate lenses with a VLT rate of 26%. The base colour is smoke (grey). It is a true tone lens with a progressive red multilayer coating with red/yellow hues.
Available only in the Flo model, these lenses are suited to medium / low light conditions. As they are not polarised, they are not suitable for handling significant glare. They are however suitable for cloudy days with intermittent sunshine or dawn dusk sessions when glare is not a concern.
As with all our watershades lenses, these Zeiss lenses come equipped with an advanced hydrophobic coating to repel water, an anti-smudge oleophobic coating and a hard coating.