New Semidry Suit is a Good Fit for Water-sports Fanatics

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Cruising sailors often need a wetsuit to clean the bottom of their boat or clear a fouled line from the prop-not to mention the added fun of snorkeling the clear, cool waters of the west coast or granite ledges of Maine. Neil Prydes new Elite II semidry suit answers these needs and then some.

Neil Pryde's new Elite II

Photos by Ralph Naranjo

Better known to many of us as a sailmaker, Neil Pryde is also one of the largest wetsuit makers in the world, catering to windsurfers, kite boarders, and other water-sports enthusiasts.

The companys latest offering, the Elite II is a unique product that combines a drysuit-style top with a regular wetsuit bottom. The tops “roll-neck” seal keeps the wearers torso completely dry, as a heat-locking liner improves heat retention.

The suits 5/3 designation means it has 5-millimeter-thick sections around the torso and 3-millimeter-thick sections at the arms and legs. This keeps the core insulated while allowing the limbs more flexibility and movement-a big plus for dinghy sailors or anyone who needs the protection of a wetsuit without giving up dexterity.

The Elite IIs through-the-shoulders entry design and smooth operating zipper facilitate donning and doffing. The suit stows in a hanger bag that protects it and prevents chafe when its hung in a sailboat locker. Its P-Skin neoprene sheds water like a duck, and its rugged stitched-and-seal seams are in place for the long haul.

Touted as an innovative, break-through product, the suit was put to the Practical Sailor test over several brisk November days in Annapolis, Md. PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo took the Elite II for a spin on a windsurfer, blasting along at 20-plus knots

Neil Pryde?s new Elite II

with 48-degree spray flying by. He reported that the suit fit well and kept him warm. The real test was his first miscued jibe. No water entered the upper portion of the suit, and his legs and arms had already warmed the thin layer of water next to his skin.

He then donned the suit for a dinghy sail and discovered just how well it allows wearers to move about freely while staying warm. The hour or two of tacking, jibing, and sitting in various positions proved that the Elite II is as much a friend to “sit down” dinghy sailors as it is to windsurfers.It acts like a pliable second skin, enhancing rather than impeding your ability to move.

Unlike many bargain-priced wetsuits, the Elite IIs unique design makes it a good choice to wear in heavy-weather sailing conditions, when even a good set of foul-weather gear isn’t up to the task of keeping out driving rain and breaking seas. Its thermal retention ability and hypothermia abatement is the next best thing to a full drysuit, but with the Elite II, mobility and dexterity remain unhindered.

With a suggested retail price of $530, its expensive. But its a high-quality suit that would be a good buy for those who would take advantage of its multiuse capabilities-sailing, windsurfing, bottom cleaning, snorkeling. For dinghy frostbiters, the suit lengthens the sailing season, adding fall and spring comfort to the mix, at just the time when the breeze is at its best.

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Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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