Thursday, February 01, 2007

Not-the-Beaufort Wind Scale

Over a few drinks in Cabarete earlier this month, we were chatting about the different abilities that racing sailors have to predict, read, and react to the wind. We decided there are five types of sailors...

1. "I know what will happen." These are the sailing superstars who seem to have a sixth sense for what the wind is going to do, way before we mere mortals have any clue. They just know that the left side of the course will be favored or that the sea breeze will kick in at exactly 1:50 pm.

2. "I can see what will happen." Blessed with excellent eyesight, these are very good sailors who can look up the course and see that a big righty shift will be here in seven minutes.

3. "I know what happened." These are the average sailors with little ability to predict the wind, but at least they know what to do when the wind changes. They can recognize the difference between oscillating and persistent shifts, and know whether to tack or not on a header. They can change gears when the wind velocity changes.

4. "What happened?"

5. "Something happened?"

Where do you rank on the 5 point scale?


EVK4 said...

I'm a 3.

But I have a unique gift...always being near the back of a fleet. So, I can become a 2 just by looking at the boats that are beating the crap out of me..."hmm, they're pointing lower, must be a header coming"

Carol Anne said...

I used to use the evk4 method of being a 2. Now I have to learn to be a 2 for real, since a lot of the time there's only one boat ahead of me.

Of course, since he's a 1, maybe I do still have clues from the other boat.

Pat said...

No. 2 is hard to achieve on mountain lakes because the relationship to what the wind is doing on land and what it'll do on the water isn't always obvious. Because we're often sailing near the shore, we may only see a change in wind patterns on the water very shortly before they arrive.

Because of the surrounding mountains, hills, and cliffs, some of the wind doesn't reach the water's surface to give us a reliable telltale clue -- but does sometimes reach the top of our high-aspect main -- if not at the same angle it would have reached or sometimes reaches the surface. Wind shears can be tricky.

And, the wind is sometimes channeled in strange, three-dimensional directions by near-shore topography. Last Saturday we were sailing with Zorro on Constellation northnortheastward under spinnaker with a moderate following breeze. As we passed the Elephant, however, suddenly we were hit with a eastnortheast headwind that plastered the chute against the forestay. Then, in a few minutes, we again got a southerly following breeze.

When conditions are stronger, we can get sudden changes in wind direction and partially vertical downdrafts coming from the Elephant. We call these "Elephant Farts". They can be annoying, as when they force us into endless tacks on headers -- or dangerous, if they catch a crew unprepared.

clairesgarden said...

thats so funny, I'm and 4 and 5.
I have my level 2 dinghy, but that was all the sailing I did, very enjoyable but a kayak is more portable.

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