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Choosing a children's lifejacket

Sailing with children can be amazing. That massive grin on a broad reach and the screams as you heel over that bit too much for comfort are moments to cherish.

The sea is a fantastic playground, but as all sailors will know, the sea must be respected and keeping your child and budding ocean sailor safe is every parent’s priority. A lifejacket is an essential bit of kit for everyone on board, but in particular for children.

All lifejackets should be checked regularly, and certainly once a year to ensure that cylinders and mechanisms are within date, that all stitching in the webbing remains secure and that the certification date has not been exceeded. It’s also worth checking each season that your child has not outgrown it!

We have a full guide to checking your lifejacket here.

We recently guided some friends, a professional superyacht captain, his sailing wife and their very bouncy young daughter through the range of children’s lifejackets options available.

It was clear that there are few things to consider, not least, choosing a suitable lifejacket that your child is keen to wear!

Here are a few observations that we thought worth sharing.

1. You and the child are likely to have quite different views on what makes a good lifejacket. It’s most certainly a case of striking a balance of style and function! Forward planning as to colour and style helped as it led the young lady straight to her new designer lifejacket, with all involved telling her how amazing it looked. So much so, she hardly takes it off!

2. The mini sailor on this occasion spends most of her time in port, hopping on and off yachts, as such, she is very confident on a boat. At sea, there was a concern of her over-confidence so the harness attachment was a subtle but vital addition.

3. When spending any significant time on the water, automatic lifejackets are not only more comfortable but will help to encourage the child to keep the lifejacket on. However, for day trips or summer holidays on-and-off the water, a conventional lifejacket may be the more economical option.

The choice of junior lifejacket on this occasion? You will not be surprised to learn, it was the least traditional and most stylish in a tasteful pink (blue was considered but rejected for her outfit).

The Spinlock Cento Junior Lifejacket was the winner. At just shy of £100 it was the not the cheapest lifejacket but represented good value for money when considering the features, harness attachment, ergonomic fit and crotch strap.

Crucially thanks to being adjustable it is suitable for an age range from 8 to15 so unlike school uniform, this is not a one-season wonder. It can also be adapted to add a pylon light and AIS - both important on a future transatlantic.

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