Originally Posted by Sabreman
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.