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cprebble 07-30-2008 01:23 AM

Recently I was cruising in the Marlbourgh Sounds at the top of New Zealands South Island. This is a beautiful sailing ground but notorious for sudden gusting wind shifts. At one point I was cruising along nicely on a broad reach with 10kts when suddenly without warning we were hit by a 25kt serious of gusts from astern. Fortunately we had a reef in the main otherwise we probably would have crashed as it took all my strength on the rudder to stop us rounding up. We surged from around 5kts to 11kts in a matter of seconds and held on for dear life.

Dose anyone have any suggestions for how to manage these types of situations.

MMNETSEA 07-30-2008 03:38 AM


Originally Posted by cprebble (Post 23942)
notorious for sudden gusting wind shifts.

It looks like you already answered part of your question - a reef in the main in an area "notorious for sudden gusting wind shifts" 2 reefs ??

In the Malacca Strait between Sumatera and the Malay Peninsula - Winds called "Sumatras" pounce on the unwary - at certain times of the year - when there are thunderstorms within the horizon - take care - less sail, crew near the helm. Check this site :- SUMATRAS


JeanneP 07-30-2008 07:18 PM

When Peter and I had gotten down to the last 12 months before we took off for our short cruising sabbatical I got quite serious about "learning" to sail for real. I thought that I should take a course and called an instructor who had been recommended to me. When he asked what area of sailing did I need the most help with, I replied "seeing the wind." He understood exactly what I meant, and his advice to me was that it was the hardest thing to teach. It required the most attention and lots of practice, and he wasn't sure that anybody could teach me better than I could teach myself, given a strong enough motivation. Although I was disappointed that there was no easy way to learn this, and a book wouldn't do, it was reassuring to hear that time and practice would get me there.

It's been my experience that different areas require different tactics for dealing with wind shifts, and different boats will require different tactics as well.

For example, off a mountainous island with a slot cut for an aircraft runway, or a deep valley, sailing across it will result in sudden winds howling through the slot that can lay a boat on its side. With experience, one can anticipate the sudden shift and acceleration of wind and be ready to ease the sheets and change the angle from a beam reach to either a broad or close reach to reduce the wind's force. Running before strong winds depowers them somewhat, but I don't like the risk of an accidental jibe, so I think that you would need to practice that tactic with your crew a lot before attempting it "in anger."

In general, easing the sheets is usually the first tactic in situations like that. Some places you can see the wind shift and acceleration on the water before it reaches the boat (or the boat reaches the wind) and you can be prepared to ease the sheets.

Racing sailors are probably better at this than the average cruising sailor because it is often the exploitation of these localized winds that can make the difference between a first place and an also-ran. Cruising sailors can hone their skills by seeking these places out and practicing the various tactics for easing pressure on the helm during daylight and fair weather. Spend time just sailing around looking at the wind on the water and learn to interpret the ripples on the water. Then turn your eyes to land to try to learn what topography causes the most trouble. It will stand you in good stead no matter where you find yourself.

MMNETSEA 07-31-2008 02:38 AM

JeanneP is spot on when suggesting that learning the wind is the criteria for understanding what is out there and what you will need to know to handle sudden changes in velocity and direction.

In the areas of Inter Tropical Convergence where storms play the major role in determining the winds, a real appreciation of Thunder storms , Line Squall and Sea Breeze Fronts is necessary.

See a note on the subject :- LINE SQUALLS

What is important here is to realize that these conditions are common at night , just prior to dawn and after sunset, and as one may not be able to see the wind on the sea - therefore what to look for is Lightening, and if it's product Thunder increases in volume - then reduce sail to a minimum, if necessary start your motor to keep control. Hatches closed, all loose equipment lashed or stored. Non-vital electronics disconnected. Crew alerted. Slow down head into the oncoming storm if there is no time to avoid it.

JeanneP 07-31-2008 12:09 PM

Richard's advice reminds me of one of our sails from Borneo back to Singapore. A bit of everything - oil rigs, nasty storms, dead calm.

cprebble 08-04-2008 09:08 PM

Thanks for the comments guys. In this case one needed to be looking astern as well. I still don't know where this gusting came from but a lesson well learnt.

Gallivanters 08-07-2008 06:56 AM

or try "Cheating the Wind" by rounding-up into it and keeping the sails just on the verge of luffing by hand steering until the squall passes.

Jeanne is correct about watching the wind by looking at the surface of the water.

And it makes a great impression when you can tell your crew to prepare for that gust that's gonna hit us in (count it down) 5 - 4 - 3 - two - one and BANG - you're heeling way over... sailing high into the apparent wind... without needing to reef.

Or gain confidence in the strength of your rig by riding it out with the leeward rail burried for a little while.

This is the stuff sailboats are designed for.

To life!


minefield 08-15-2008 04:07 AM

The sudden gusts is what the sounds are famous for and it's because of the high mountains that surround the sounds they act as a wind chute and have been know en to flatten many of a boat, Its one of the reasons I live there it's a challenge , good place to live and sail

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