Monday, February 24, 2014

What I Learned from the British Sailing Team Meteorologist

Last Thursday evening I participated in a webinar on Wind Strategy, hosted by Javier "Rulo" Borojovich, the head coach at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete and featuring as guest expert, Libby Greenhalgh, who has been the Skandia Team GBR British Sailing Team Meteorologist since 2007, including at the last two Olympics. Libby is also the founder of Weatherwhiz which offers a range of sports weather forecasting and support services. 

Libby's presentation was in three sections…

  • Gradient wind and stability 
  • Topographic effects on the wind 
  • Sea breeze 

The discussion of gradient wind and stability gave me a lot more appreciation of how mixing in the lower layers of the atmosphere affects the winds we experience at the surface, how to predict in advance the direction and speed of the wind at the surface and what kinds of shifts it will have, how things can change during the sailing day, and the signs to look for to predict what will happen. Rulo chimed in to give us some tactical advice on how to sail the beats in different conditions.

Much food for thought.

I even learned tephigrams are, where to find them, and how to read them.

If nothing else I can confuse the hell out of my opposition by flashing my tephigrams at them.

The discussion on topography and how it impacts the wind and what that means for sailing strategies was even more enlightening. I had read the theory of all that stuff about frictional effects and wind bends and convergence and divergence and compression before, but I had never really absorbed it.

Maybe I never really understood it.

For whatever reason, it all became clear to me when Libby explained it. Maybe I'm an auditory learner after all?

In fact, as Libby was talking, scenes from my past life flashed before my eyes. All those scenes in which I went the wrong side of the beat and saw 80% of the fleet coming in from the other side ahead of me and I had no idea why.

Duh! I could now understand what I had been doing wrong all these years.

It's not just that I'm slow. I'm also dumb.

The final session on sea breezes was mainly about "quadrant theory" and how the direction of the gradient wind will impact the development and persistence of the sea breeze and also the characteristics of the sea breeze we will experience. I may have read this before but, once again, never really internalized it or retained ideas on how to use it. There were definitely some pointers on how thinking about the sea breeze this way will influence race strategies. The winds at the Buzzards Bay Regatta will no longer be such a mystery to me.

And dotted through the webinar were insights from Libby about the winds at Hyères, the location for this year's Laser Masters Worlds. Very helpful!

And so I was inspired by Libby's webinar to get more serious this year about studying the weather and the wind and using the data available to make better choices about wind strategy at regattas. It really is a weakness in my game right now.

This year will be different.



Baydog said...

Geeze, these tips really could make me a better sailor. I'm hungry all of a sudden. Better go see what's in the fridge

Tillerman said...

Good point Baydog. I wonder when Rulo is going to arrange a webinar with the British Sailing Team nutritionist?

O Docker said...

Only late in life did I realize that most of our problems arise from not knowing which way the wind is blowing.

Tillerman said...

Bob Dylan said you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but apparently you do.

Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals

Pandabonium said...

I got a tephigram once at a fancy hotel. It was delivered by a young man in a suit with gold braid and a pillbox hat...

Tillerman said...

I really miss the tephigram boys. Even though the tephigrams often brought bad news.

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