get a grip
Those that trim highly-loaded, small-diameter lines without winches, especially in puffy conditions or when short-course racing, have an absolute need for the best grip they can get. More grip means more power, faster trims and hoists, and less energy expenditure for every second you hold a line. If you pay any attention at all to high-performance sailing, you’ll have noticed that ubiquitous "gardening gloves" have replaced traditional sailing gloves for nearly every top dinghy, skiff, and sportboat crew.
Originally the domain of Atlas Gloves, the nitrile-dipped throwaway gloves have so much more grip than even the most hard-core ‘racing gloves’ sold at your chandlery that even fully apparel-sponsored Olympians wear their blue Atlases rather than their brand’s gloves. Gill and Ronstan even offer branded versions of the gardening gloves for sailors, though all the gloves have the same tradeoff against their $40 sailing-specific competitors: They don’t last very long. Cutting the fingers off for increased dexterity (a necessity) reduces their lives to a few race days. Dogs-off-chains days on arm-wrenching spinnaker sheets on an A-Scow or Melges 24 have reduced my Atlases to tufts of fabric and rubber scattered on the cockpit floor in three races. Still, for the price (somewhere between $2 and $8), their increased grip makes it an easy call for mastmen, bowmen, trimmers, and dinghy sailors that value their performance more than their yachty look.
In the four or five years since I was introduced to gardening gloves, I’ve probably tried 100 different brands. Most are made in the same factory or are knockoffs of the Atlas, though Atlas themselves rebrands their gloves to fit other company’s look; John Deere and CAT Diesel both have their color-appropriate sets to complete the outfit of the well-dressed white trash sailor. You can find every color you can imagine, with widely varying palm materials, glove materials, thickness, insulation, and even floral patterns (to go with your douchy Hawaiian shirt). There are winter gardening gloves, summer gardening gloves, waterproof gardening gloves, and ladies, mens, and kids’ gardening gloves.
Until a couple of months ago, I was happy with the status quo. But a short trip to the local hardware store before the first of my trips to the Caribbean to sail aboard the First 40 Smile and Wave introduced me to a funny looking gardening glove that looked different from all the others. Called "MadGrips", they use a different kind of rubber than the others, and rather than the goppy, textured finish on the classic gardening gloves, the MadGrips had an aggressive, v-shaped raised pattern on all the likely grip points.
I snapped off two fingers on the gloves before the Heineken Regatta, and the MadGrips looked vaguely cool, in a slightly dorky moto-cross kind of way. But dorky or not, they had twice the grip of any glove I have worn. Spinnakers halyards were no match for my tree-frog like hands. Takedowns were a joke – the downstroke was like velcro, the kites sticking to my hands when necessary, but releasing on the upstroke easily. Trimming was a bit of a problem – I kept wanting to trim the big kite with just a wrap on the winch, and I could; but the highly loaded line took its toll on my new gloves. Still, even when beaten up, the seamless design didn’t let blisters develop like can happen when an Atlas starts to fold in on itself at the end of the fingers.
It took four days of racing to kill them; a life twice as long as the typical Atlas knockoff in my hands. For around 10 bucks, you can have four (or a lot more) days of incredible, super-glue grip in your racing hands. A small price to pay for top performance. All in all, this is the glove that anyone who wears gardening gloves to sail should now wear. And if your job aboard requires grip, you should try a pair in place of your sailing gloves. You might find you are a gardener, after all. Carhartt is now selling their own brand, but they look like rebranded Mad Grips, and you can find them on Amazon, and probably in a hardware store near you. And no, we have no idea who makes them, or any affiliation with them. But we do thank them!