Local Knowledge for San Diego

Left or right? It's an easy question but the answer is never straightforward. Luckily, Quantum Sails' George Szabo has the local lowdown for the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series San Diego.

March and April can be our windiest months in San Diego. They can also be quite cold, so bring a ski hat just in case! I’ve laid out some tips for sailing the Ocean and South Bay courses at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta since each presents different conditions and challenges.

Ocean Course

When sailing on the ocean course, the conditions and your strategy will vary based on the wind direction. Here are a few common True Wind Directions (TWD) and other variables to consider.

Southerly 180° TWD: Before a storm, we can get strong southerlies this time of year. In this condition, the left typically tends to pay out more often than the right. Be prepared for big waves and adjust your rig tune, trim, and crew weight placement accordingly.

220-230° TWD: From this direction, you might experience a local phenomenon called the Catalina Eddy. Be sure to tune into the morning weather brief for greater detail if this wind direction is in the forecast. These conditions may break down later in the day and shift west.

250-265° TWD: This direction can be one of the most challenging. Often accompanied by gray overcast weather, you’ll see the pressure and shifts roll through the racecourse all day long. Sail for pressure and stay on the lifts all day. One side is not typically stronger than the other.

Westerly 270° TWD: When the seabreeze begins to fill in, the left side of the course often has more pressure, but you need to watch for that slow shift to the right. If you are on an outside course, further away from Point Loma, the left can hang in there a bit longer, and being left of the fleet going right can often be a regatta-winning move. If your course is closer to Point Loma, you’ll notice the increased wind and stronger right shift near the point. Getting up to an early right layline can be critical.

A note on waves around 270° TWD: When the wind is around 270° TWD, or shifting a bit further right, the waves on port tack come abeam and make steering challenging. Chasing your telltales in this wave state is slow. Rather than steering up and down each wave, sail inside the jib telltales as the crest of the wave hits the boat, then sail slightly over-pressed on the jib telltales as the trough passes under you. This should keep you powered up through the tricky waves.

280°+ TWD: With this wind direction, you’ll want to head right, especially if the course is closer to shore. Better current is near shore and significant right shifts usually roll out from the airbase.

Current – typically runs from North to South, is stronger outside, and lighter towards shore. There can be a reverse eddy very near the shore, but the RC does not sail us that close to shore. With an Ebb Tide, you’ll want to watch the current line coming out of the bay (often marked by extra kelp in the water).

Kelp – yup, there’s plenty of it out there. You absolutely need a kelp plan onboard. Kelp sticks are not enough; assign a crew to look for the stuff constantly. Nothing is slower than backing down on a windward beat to remove kelp.

South Bay Course

While the same macro weather scenarios play out in South Bay, this racecourse has some added geographic nuances.

Southerly TWD 180°: The left still works well in these conditions.

Westerly TWD 270°: The wind is heated over the Strand, which seems to make it “jump” and be more unstable than out in the ocean. The result is good puffs and often shears where boats to weather of you will be able to point higher than you. Typically, these are not persistent shifts; you can wait it out to get the next shift and puff from the other side. That said, in a Westerly, the top left of the course can often be more powerful than the right.

If it is a seabreeze day, and the wind begins to shift to the right, coming from the bridge in the end, you’ll be torn between the great left pressure early in the beat and often strong right pressure towards the end of the beat. In this condition, you must be heads up and paying attention to what’s playing out on the course. If the current is going out, it will be stronger in the channel and may become a factor if the wind goes far enough right.


This content was originally published on Sailing World.

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