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.
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
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.