Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Wind and Weather Permitting

Saturday during the first day of our anniversary regatta in Langweer I had a big dilemma. The weather forecast predicted a stormy day with force Beaufort 4 to 5 from the west and occasional showers. When we went out on the lake on the committee boat, the wind was already that.
 Langweerder Wielen; Friesland, The Netherlands

I like to go out at least an hour before the first start to get a feel of the wind and conditions. Our lake is not that big, so we have plenty of time to find the right place to lay out our starting line and 'report'-mark and check all the buoys and marks.

During that hour a big squall came trough and in front of that the wind increased even more. We measured Beaufort 6 (about 25 knots). That made me decide to at least leave the youngest - least experienced group - ashore. With the appropriate signal hoisted at our regatta office, the Flits C could stay in - for now.
I was still hoping it would settle down during the day.

But it didn't!. It got worse. Only after a rain shower (or dark cloud) had passed, the wind died down a little and came below 15 knots. But later that day we measured wind speeds up to 30 knots, that's Beaufort 7!

A lot of sailors decided for themselves the wind was to strong and did not go out at all.
We ticked off 110 boats sailing passed the blue 'report' mark next to the starting vessel. Out of 175 entries.
More then a third decided to stay ashore. Well, that does not help in any way to build confidence in a Race Officer, I can tell you that three times.

Of those 110 we started in 18 classes, only half (55!) finished. Either because they themselves decided it was to much or because of capsizing or because of gear failure, they went in without finishing the race.
Mind you, we could see some crews having the time of there lives, with full planing and vibrating hull, 'screaming' across the water. But for others it was just survival.

Consulting the weather guys and seeing the conditions, made me decide soon enough to leave the Flits C ashore and not start them that day. But I doubted the whole day if we should have gone out - or postponed or ... well you know.
With less then one third finishing, I still have those doubts.

My three rescue boats (besides the six of the youth classes) had a very full day. And even the finishing vessel (a converted fishing boat - with a nice flat deck to work off) stayed out after finishing to help to recover a sunken G2.I tried to get a feel from the sailors but received very mixed signals....

Sunday was - fortunately - a perfect sailing day. Nice breeze between 10 to 16 knots and only one rain shower which lasted all of five minutes.

According to the rules I did nothing wrong - but still.....


  1. I think you did the right thing. If a third of the boats finished then the conditions were clearly suitable for experienced sailors in well-prepared boats. I bet most of those guys really enjoyed the day. As you know the RRS make it very clear that it's up to the sailors to decide whether to sail or not.

    There's another issue. If a sailor hasn't had much experience racing in 30 knots how is he ever going to get that experience if race officers never run races in those winds? Doing it on a relatively small lake with plenty of rescue boats is an ideal opportunity.

  2. Hallo Jos,
    Our daughter was sailing 'downstream' at Lemmer last weekend. The Race Officer sent the Optimist C's ashore instead of starting on Saturday as the dark clouds and wind squalls arrived. A good call - safety first. The A's and B's got three races in and, as you wrote of your fleet, some thought it great and some would have rather been asore.
    Sunday brought plenty of wind too, but without the dangerous situations the Optimist C's got in three short races to wrap up the year's series.
    You can't please all the people all of the time but it sounds as if you also made the right choices balancing racing and safety aspects.
    Regards, Andrew

  3. Thanks Tillerman & Andrew,
    I'm happy to hear that the Combi at least sailed as well.
    And your argument about getting some experience in difficult circumstances, Tillerman, is one I hadn't yet considered. Very true indeed.

  4. Another perspective would be that of the support boats.

    If there were capsized or sinking boats whose crews were not rescuing themselves and were too many for the support and safety boats to rescue in a reasonable amount of time, that might be a clue to get people off the water!

    The age and preparation of the sailors would be a factor, as would be the nature or "personality" of the class. Some boat classes are more prone to being damaged by high winds. Some classes attract more fit athletes than others.

    And, water and air temperatures with a greater or lesser risk of hypothermia and cold shock immersion would have to be a factor -- 10 deg C water and air temperatures with distant medical facilities would make for a much more conservative race officer than 25 deg C temps.


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