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Bump's World - September 2021
September 2, 2021

MODELS

May 1991 - my brother Rick was camped at the South Col of Everest. It had been a white out and blowing over 60 for the past 4 days. His team managed to fix some ropes toward the summit but they were mostly pinned down. 10 PM Rick and his team headed up the fixed ropes toward the summit. Again 60 mile per hour winds and almost zero visibility. Rick had hired a team from Hanscom Air Base in Bedford, MA to predict weather conditions. They said between 2 and 3 AM the wind would die down and the skies would clear. By 2:30 Rick saw and incredible sky. It looked like he could touch the stars. The wind died and he stood on top of Everest by 2 PM that afternoon. Rick says he has spent many a day on Mt Washington where the weather was much worse.

Was on my C&C 25 heading out to do a weekend MORC race. I have a regular radio on and waiting for another weather forecast. Forecast for the day was for winds over 25 gusting to 30. It is blowing about 14 and I'm thinking about which jib to use. I have a 170, 150, 130, and 95. I put the 95 up. The first leg is upwind about 2.5 miles. I am way under powered and fall far behind. Most other boats have 150s up and are going great. 3 hours later the wind increased to 20ish and the 25 did not come until the race was well over. I asked one of the better skippers why he chose a 150 genoa when the forecast was 20 plus. He said the weather forecast does not matter only the wind in the exact time you are racing. I remember that to this day when the weather terrorists are scaring my crew.

2003 - I'm heading out to race my Aerodyne 38. Several members of my crew are talking about SailFlow. Sailflow says wind will be 10 to 12 and turning to southwest from South. After the race I ask what is Sailflow. It's a really cool web site that shows you the wind speed and angle in hourly predictions. I'm like wow that's amazing. So I started looking at Sailflow all the time. But I quickly realized Sailflow was not right all the time. I also realized that everyone I'm racing against is also watching Sailflow. Now I know what they see and what they are thinking. I can use that against them.

I talked to Jud about Sailflow and he said he has several wind models he looks at and tries to pick the best. He also said do not lose your local knowledge The models cannot account for all local conditions.

Now we have Predict Wind and several other models. The crew has something to talk about often days before the race. What sails we will need and lot of other stuff which often is not what happens. As we all know the weather is constantly changing.

Thanks to the wonderful world of technology, you can get models for a whole race. These are used a lot in distance racing. You give the course and time of the race to the model and it gives you the best way to go etc.

A good friend of mine was just telling me about a distance race he just did and he totally picked the wrong model?? Really??

In the Mentuck Regatta Jud and I were talking to the owner of a close competitor, and he was asking what model we used since it is contrary to his model. He said that he just did not see why we did what we did. We also passed him and went on to win the race. Jud said he went below and got some sleep and when he came back up we were ahead. When Jud went below his instructions were sail as fast as you can. I don't know what that model was thinking but I was glad we did not use that.

Sailflow is broken down into hourly reports. Jud has programs that get down to 15 minutes. Now we need to be up all night planning our race based on the different weather models.

We just had a near miss hurricane. I was talking to a friend on Friday before the storm and he said the weather models all agreed that this was the big one. Direct hit on Marblehead harbor 70 knots of wind out of the east, worst case scenario.

As we all know it missed.

One thing I love about sailboat racing is that it is not a video game. It's real boats sailing in real wind and real ocean. The race is constantly changing and is a constant challenge.

Maybe the models will get better and we will just be doing what they say, but not yet.

Please mail comments to me at Bump@newwaveyachts.com

Bump Wilcox