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Where you sailing near any bridges or cliffs or other landforms that could change the course of the wind or create eddies in the air? Close to land you'd also expect different wind at different heights (why sloops are so tall). That would explain why it changed as you got further from the land.

Also, how was the sail trim? Such a difference in the wind direction should have made it difficult if not impossible to trim the sails so that they weren't luffing at any height... maybe with lots of twist. If trimming was straightforward then I would look to instrument problems.

Also, what about signs on land? What direction were flags pointed, etc.
 
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