During your run-of-the-mill round the cans racing or a weekend event in your local waters, lifejackets are an oddity rather than a normality. It is generally only when the breeze reaches howling speeds or when the race comittee puts up the dreaded lifejacket flag that you see the orange and red buoyant-vests donned by racers.
However, when you begin sailing offshore, the entire model is flipped on it's head. Only on the calmest days of the duldroms should an offshore racer not be wearing a PFD, and even then, it is a risk that is not worth taking. Having spent over 60 days offshore, I have seen how quickly a head of lettuce or fender disappears behind the rolling waves of the open ocean, and though fortunate to have never experienced peril, I can only imagine a floating head would dissappear just as fast.
Enter the Mustang EP38 Offshore Inflatable PFD. This is, in my offshore opinion, the best PFD on the market. For starters, the vest is a single unit, with no clips, buckles, or zippers. Furthermore, the single unit PFD is incredibly safe, as there is not release point to break or fail. This PFD is donned similar to a t-shirt, over the head and shoulders, and sits comfortably on the body. There is absolutely no chafing on the neck, and the vest is incredibly comfortable, to the point I have forgotten I was wearing it and sat down for dinner. In terms of features, it is unrivalled in the field. The PFD inflates only under hydrostatic pressure, so splash and spray when doing a sail change or bow-work are a non-issue. The vest has built in leg straps, and an integrated flat-webbing harness for safety tethers and even rig-climbing. A spray hood is built in and deploys upon inflation, saving the wearer from mouthfulls of water. There is a pocket with a tether blade with a flat tip, to avoid punctures, as well as a pocket for personal M.O.B. transponders.
When it comes to offshore sailing, your PFD and harness is your lifeline, and I would not and do not wear anything except my Mustang EP38.
- Connor MacKenzie