Weather preparation for offshore sailing

Libby Greenhalgh has navigated around the world twice with the Volvo Ocean Race; and her experience has given her an exceptional eye for weather.

Greenhalgh sat down with North Sails to share her steps for planning a trip offshore. 

NS: How far in advance do you start checking the weather from when you cast off the dock?

LG: When I’m approaching racing or delivering a boat, it’s an ongoing process, I’m looking at the weather from at least ten days out. The main reason being that it gives you a concept of how things are moving and how consistent the models are. It will also help you build confidence in the forecast as you approach that day.

How confident you are can affect your decision making. You will know if you have to cover a specific wind range or just take a certain set of sails out for the day. 

NS: Talk us through your process in the days before heading offshore. 

LG: I’m looking at the weather every day from ten days to about two or three days out, and then I’m checking in the morning and evening to see how the models have changed as the time frame gets more narrow. I’m looking for crossover in the sail package and the potential percentage of time that we might be in different wind zones.

If we are only going to see 25 knots for half an hour, I’ll make the call to tough it out with whatever sails we have up versus gearing up to be perfectly prepared for that. You’re always making decisions and compromises. And I ask, what sail set up is going to cover the most dominant wind range? 

For more, see: https://www.northsails.com/sailing/en/2020/03/preparation-why-checking-the-forecast-matters-north-sails

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