There’s more To sailing in The Trades Than gentle running downwind, punctuated by a cooling shower. chris Tibbs explains
Between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn lie the tradewind belts, separated by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) known to many sailors as the Doldrums. The extent of the tropics is defined as the furthest north and south that the sun is overhead at the solstice – over the years it does move a little and is currently at 23°26’14’’ north and south.
For most of us the idea of tropical sailing is the tradewind passage across the Atlantic, followed by a time reaching between the islands in perfect sailing conditions. The stories of days of downwind sailing, occasionally punctuated by a short cooling shower, have become legendary and the passage is often classed as champagne sailing, or the ‘Milk Run’.
Some passages may be like this, but there is rather more to it than trimming the sails, setting the autopilot and getting a book out before lunch or having an afternoon snooze.
The heating and spinning of the Earth naturally forms semi-permanent cells of high pressure sitting north and south of the Equator. The wind revolves around these highs (clockwise in the northern hemisphere and anticlockwise in