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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation > Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?
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Thread: Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating? Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
07-16-2012 07:15 PM
Cruisingdad
Re: Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
We read lots about the dangers and challenges of heavy air sailing. But what about light air sailing? Which do you consider (and why) to be more challenging?

For purposes of this discussion, I'll define heavy air as sustained 25-35kts and the sea state that often accompanies it. I do not mean survival conditions (35+). I'll define light air as 0-5kts.

For my part, I find light air sailing the most challenging because if the infinite amount of patience involved. Especially light air racing. In heavier winds, there is always something to do to improve the boat's ride. I can even fool myself into believing that motion (mine) equals progress (improving the boat's performance). But light air? Makes me want to scream.
As a cruiser and Live aboard, heavy air is more frustrating! I can motor through light airs. But in heavy air, I have legos going everywhere and inevitably, someone gets sick! Plus, you can grill in light airs!!!

See the two happy faces below? THat is light air sailing (motoring). THe unhappy face is because he didn't want THanksgiving dinner twice in a row!!

07-16-2012 07:06 PM
svzephyr44
Re: Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

Heavy air - veering and backing - gusting (which can add 50% to your wind speed) while clawing close hauled at "0 points free" up a leeward coast. Even better if the coast is rocky and its at night with no moon. Light air is an annoyance.
07-16-2012 05:23 AM
Andrew Troup
Re: Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
We read lots about the dangers and challenges of heavy air sailing. But what about light air sailing? Which do you consider (and why) to be more challenging?

For purposes of this discussion, I'll define heavy air as sustained 25-35kts and the sea state that often accompanies it. I do not mean survival conditions (35+). I'll define light air as 0-5kts.....
Hmm - there are two different pairs of questions here (one in the title, one in the OP)

I don't find either sort of sailing frustrating, unless I'm in a boat which simply won't respond in those conditions, so I'll address the "challenging" question.

Or try to -- I find it really hard to compare, because the challenges are so different. I really enjoy both sets of conditions, incidentally....

In light air, I'd rather be on my own or with a few like-minded people. Unless on a heavy boat with few crew, it's so important to have your weight in the right place, and that place might be completely different at different phases of each puff... and you need to move smoothly and stealthily from place to place, as well as changing the sail settings smoothly. I tend to treat the breeze like a scared animal, or a langurous lover....

Some people (whether because they're goal oriented, impatient or just ungracious) find light air puts them in a bad mood, and if I find anything frustrating about light air, it's their palpable disinterest, or even (at worst) non compliance with the very reasonable needs of the boat to breathe and dance ....
or sulky, flouncing compliance at best!

If there's one message I've taken away from sailing with those who really know how to make a boat move in a zephyr, it's HEEL the boat. Enough to get gravity to hold the sails in their designed shape. Offshore in a slop this can be a trial : depending on circumstances you might consider towing a paravane(mobile flopper-stopper) on a reaching strut to leeward, like a sword-fishing boat.
AND heel the boat, transferring fuel or water or ballast if need be.

The most delicious moments on offshore trips (provided the boat doesn't have any diesel addicts in executive positions) are the first few hours of a building breeze after a long enforced holiday.
When sufficient calm-time has elapsed over a large enough region for the seas to flatten off, this can be better than anything on earth.


Challenges of a stiff breeze I see more as visceral rather than sensual: perhaps more like dancing with (and attempting to seduce) a stroppy, muscular and unpredictable partner.

One of the bigger challenges, I reckon, is to be prepared well in advance. Stowage, gear prep, maintenance, clothing, food supplies, passage plan ... these sorts of things are easy to do when conditions are peaceful, and sailing in a breeze when they haven't been properly done can be a challenge.

Because the secret, as I see it, as in all conditions, is to find the delight in it. I remember as a teenager making a discovery about riding a bike in the rain. If I scrunched my face up and rounded my shoulders - my habitual response - I could be as wet and miserable as I looked. Whereas if I opened up my face and posture to the rain like a parched flower, I could have a really pleasant ride in exactly the same conditions.

In the same way, I find it helps if you can somehow convince yourself that the amount of salt in the water which is hitting you in the face is exactly the right amount.
07-06-2012 01:10 AM
Sabreman
Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

I take the boat into open water in the Potomac to clean it. Nettles don't like the open water as much so I can usually find a spot where there aren't any and dive.
07-05-2012 03:21 PM
PalmettoSailor
Re: Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyquest37 View Post
Might want to re-think the swim home option - sailing over the 4th of July (hot, but we had some wind) we saw many very large sea nettles. They're back!
Yes, these reports have me in a quandry over how I'm going to get the bottom cleaned before the Gov Cup. I hoped to be able to just dive it myself but if the nettles are "large and in charge" as seems to be the case this year, I may have to find some bucks for a diver or short haul.
07-05-2012 02:57 PM
johnnyquest37
Re: Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabreman View Post
Oh yeah - blistering heat and crunching humidity - I haven't been near the boat for two weeks because there has been virtually no wind and 100 degree heat. If that happens during Gov Cup, I'll leave the boat to the crew and swim home.
Might want to re-think the swim home option - sailing over the 4th of July (hot, but we had some wind) we saw many very large sea nettles. They're back!
07-05-2012 02:34 PM
Sabreman
Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

Oh yeah - blistering heat and crunching humidity - I haven't been near the boat for two weeks because there has been virtually no wind and 100 degree heat. If that happens during Gov Cup, I'll leave the boat to the crew and swim home.
07-05-2012 02:31 PM
Sabreman
Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

That's it exactly, Palmetto. Our first year with the race we drifted backward several miles waiting for the wind to fill. While we would ow set a tactical anchor, drifting in the heat is maddening.

When I speak of sailing in light air, I meant actively sailing (vs. drifting and fishing or motoring). To me, it's extremely difficult for a variety of reasons.

60-70 kt wind isn't heavy air, IMO. That's survival conditions and outside the scope of my query.
07-04-2012 08:21 AM
PalmettoSailor I suspect I know why the prospect of light air is on Sabremans mind. Light air (often accompanied with blistering heat and morale crushing humidity) are the norm in our area this time of year and it's drawing close to a distance race we both take part in. Some years, anchoring has been a strategy in this race due to light air and foul current.

Last year (my first overnight race as skipper) the thought of having to retire due to light wind loomed in the forefront of my mind, but we were fortunate to have winds closer to 20knts for the majority of the distance. At the finish however, very light winds played an important role at the finish. As it has in past years, when the wind filled near the finish, it filled from the back. Nothing more painful than watching your sails flutter near uselessness while boats behind you are enjoying more than double your wind, so I'm in the light air is more frustrating camp.
07-04-2012 04:04 AM
St Anna
Re: Light Air or Heavy Air - What's Most Frustrating?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lajimo View Post
Beer, music, and an asymmetric spinnaker can help with light air. Maybe even a fishing pole.
In my experience, you have summed it up perfectly.

Light air can be managed well. No deadlines and you will get there safe enough. Motor if need be. I can motor ~1000nm if I must.

However heavy air - every one has their own definition and limits. Less experienced always seem to over exaggerate the strength of the breeze. I heard a guy today talk about recent 'gale force' winds when it was only about 25kn or half the force of a gale. [~10kn extra is roughly equivalent to double the force]

So when I hear of heavy winds, I remember a 36 hour period of 65-70kn whilst in the Capricorn channel, with huge, loud seas generated by the breeze. I vote for quiet air thanks. Actually I just love a constant 15kn from one direction - no gusts, no variables.
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