TROP­I­CAL SAIL­ING

There’s more To sail­ing in The Trades Than gen­tle run­ning down­wind, punc­tu­ated by a cool­ing shower. chris Tibbs ex­plains

Yachting World - - Wolfhound -

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 tradewinds

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

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