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Winter series session 2: Using Wind Shifts

Last night seven of us tucked into a generous helping of jargon to decode the mysteries of the shifting wind, so we could use it to our advantage on the race course.  Chapter 13 of Walker’s book us just a few pages long, but there is a lot in there.  To bring the lesson home, we watched some raceqs videos, remembered the kinds of things we’ve seen out on the water, and looked at some specific examples sketched out on paper (and laid out in tape on a table!).

At the risk of oversimplifying, the main takeaways were:

  1. If the wind direction is constant, then you sail the same distance to the windward mark no matter where you tack (so long as you don’t overstand the layline).
  2. The wind direction is never constant.
  3. Sometimes it changes to a new direction during the race (Persistent Shift)
  4. Other times it shifts back and forth in direction (Oscillating Shift)
  5. The way to take advantage of this is quite different, as summarized in this table
Upwind Downwind Comment
Persistent Shift Sail toward the shift Sail Away from the shift Start your leg on the disadvantaged tack or jibe to position yourself for better gains later in the leg
Oscillating Shift Tack on the headers Jibe on the lifts Wait until the wind direction has oscillated through the median direction before tacking

And to try to cement the lessons we had a few ‘races’ on the ping-pong table as the wind oscillated randomly. Great fun!

The good news is that we’ll come back to each of these kinds of wind shifts another time, diving deep for a whole lesson.  See you there!

One thought to “Winter series session 2: Using Wind Shifts”

  1. Rob puts a lot of time into prepping these lessons and discussions and we are actually having fun while we learn. Great seeing the guys off season!

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