Read­ing the signs

Yachting World - - Front Page -

If, dur­ing a Syd­ney-ho­bart, we know that there is low pres­sure to the south and a cold front ap­proach­ing, there are a num­ber of things to watch for. A roll or cigar-shaped cloud is a clear in­di­ca­tion of an ap­proach­ing front. There may well be thun­der on its lead­ing edge and a close eye on the wa­ter will show the ap­proach­ing squall line.

Sta­tis­ti­cally, close to Syd­ney, the buster is most likely to ar­rive late af­ter­noon, be­ing driven by high tem­per­a­tures and the ef­fect of the moun­tains. Fur­ther south the tim­ing is less in­flu­enced by the land and more by the speed of the de­pres­sion and cold front.

This does make it im­por­tant to pick up syn­op­tic charts as well as GRIB files to un­der­stand if a front is ap­proach­ing. Bear in mind that GRIB files tend to­wards av­er­age wind speeds and so the ac­tual wind on the front will be con­sid­er­ably greater than the wind in­di­cated be­hind the front. Lo­cal coastal fore­casts give a good ex­pec­ta­tion of max­i­mum wind while coastal ob­ser­va­tions po­si­tion the front.

Although the roll cloud is the best in­di­ca­tor, it is not al­ways there and I have been caught out with no real sign of the ap­proach­ing change be­fore the spin­naker was wrapped around the forestay. We had man­aged to miss all the other signs of its ap­proach, and the sub­se­quent beat in strong wind was not much fun!

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