By Wally Cross
Sailing Fast and in the Right Direction
Stated simply, the goal for the Bell’s Beer Bayview to Mackinac is sailing north as fast as possible. It sounds easy, yet every minute wasted in the wrong direction or with the wrong sail can be a big setback. At this point in this series, I am assuming we all agree that sailing point to point is VMC and we need to sail a fast angle. In order to accomplish this, we also need to make sure we are using the proper sail.
Use a Crossover Chart
A crossover (or sail selection) chart is a tool to help you decide what sail to use when. Usually wind speed is along one axis and true wind angle on the other. Each sail has a different color. This information will help ensure the right sail goes up at the right time, saving you precious minutes. If you don’t already have a crossover chart for your sail inventory, I strongly recommend making one. Check with your sail maker, they may already have one based on your boat.
Read the Weather Clues
There is a lot of good weather and wind information to be gathered from the Internet that will help you determine the best direction. I like using the Sailflow website and app from a week out through the entire race to track wind speed and direction. Another good site for trends is the National Weather Service.
Weather information from online sources will provide clues as to what could happen to the wind direction and speed, yet you will still need to put the pieces together.
For example, if the wind during the day is a light southerly, yet an easterly thermal develops because of warm weather, you should look at what the upper wind direction will be at night. Our water is cold, if the gradient high has any westerly direction, the shore will be good. If any easterly, the lake will be a better option at night. Again look for clues to get the best results.
If you have the ability to run a laptop computer thru your instruments, and you have either the Expedition or Deckman navigation software, use routing to help put the pieces together.
An optimal route is a combination of your polars or VPP’s and the predicted weather to give you a guided map on how to sail the race. The concept is this: based on the speed of your boat and speed of the weather, an optimal route will be predicted for the most