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Guidelines for Winter Sailing - wind and temp limits

SailNC

New Member
Recently our group has been discussing minimum temperatures and conditions for sailing in the winter. Trying to take air and water temperatures and wind speed into account, we're hoping to come up with a formula to determine sailability.

Most of our members have wetsuits, but this being North Carolina, not many have drysuits.

How do your clubs determine if it is too windy or cold to sail?

thanks,
Rob
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
When winter sailing on J22's, (club racing) we had a 40 degree rule. If it was 40 or less and blowing more than 15-20 we had a no go.

However, we did not wear wet suits or dry suits. In contrast if you look at the frostbiters up north they cut through the ice to get their lasers out.

In the past I've done frostbiting with a wetsuit underneath covered by foulies on top and sailed in 20's temperature with 15-20 breeze. The spray was freezing on the deck of the Laser. No one had any problems.

Now I am going with my thick 3/4 SEA hikers w/a thick full length spandex pant underneath and using a 4 layer top, (spandex, lighter thermal top, polar fleece thermal top, covered with Gill spray top with neck and wrist seals) with a warm water proof hat.

So far I've been out in 50 degrees blowing 20 and did not get cold at all. Actually a little to warm off the breeze.

I believe you can play in most of the elements with the right type of gear. I do not think you have to have a dry suit.
 

StephenIles

New Member
We have a pretty sophisticated system whereby the race officer checks a number of forcasts on the internet which cover the sailing area. If all seems well he gets to the club in good time, sets the course and launches the rescue boat. He then goes into the club house, pours a cup of tea from his thermos and ........waits. If anyone turns up and there are more than three boats we race, and if not, we don't.
 

torrid

Just sailing
Regardless of temperature wind conditions, its important for winter sailing to have a committee/safety boat out of the water. If somebody gets in trouble, a safety boat near to pull them out of the water pretty much eliminates the chance of hypothermia. Also, sailing by yourself in the wintertime is not a good idea.
 

sailchris

Member
A rule of thumb I have heard is that if the temperature in Fahrenheit is lower than the wind strength in knots, then no sailing.

Of course in North Carolina there's no such thing as cold weather, so you could probably sail in wetsuits all year 'round.


Avg. High
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
48° 52° 61° 71° 78° 84° 88° 87° 81° 71° 64° 52°
 
A rule of thumb I have heard is that if the temperature in Fahrenheit is lower than the wind strength in knots, then no sailing.
So 20kts and 21 deg F ? Y'all are a hearty bunch!

I would say that here in the panhandle of FL it turns out our limit last year was probably 20kts & 50 deg F. Even then it took a couple of hot-shot college kids to shame some of us into going out!
 

gouvernail

Super Opinionated and Always Correct
If you stand on the shore and look at the water and it doesn't feel like something you want to go do, don't rig.

If nobody rigs and goes out...

No sailing

If the committee won't go drop buoys and then sit on a boat and run races...

No racing
 

RobKoci

New Member
One winter at the Water Rats in Toronto, I had to pull my boat across 100 yards of ice to get to open water. I had to dodge ice flows once I was out there. But the wind was light and the sun out out. The temp was low 20sF. On another occasion in April, we had 20k of wind, 34degree water and temps around 50F. I found it impossible to keep my hands warm enough to sail.

It is the hands that make all the difference. Even the feet are easy to keep warm enough. But the hands! Once they turn to ice, you are in tough.

At Cedar Point last fall, we waited for breeze while the boats were sprinkled with snow. We went out with about an inch of snow on our decks. Once we got on the water with temps somewhere around 20F, we were fine. Again, the breeze was light. It was no problem at all.
 
I would imagine it would have much to do with the availability of ability of rescue/crash boat staff.

I wouldn't blink at sailing in 20* weather in cold water and decent wind if knew that if/when I got in trouble someone would be right there to help. Now going out on my own in those same conditions with no crash boat, no thanks.

Remember it's all about personal ability and your own discretion, if you don't feel capable, don't go...
 

GeoffS

Member
Sorry, I can't resist... :rolleyes:

We have rule that below about 10F we don't sail. I was at a regatta just last Tuesday when we postponed an hour because the temps were around 5F (and the wind was too light).

On the other hand, we don't generally expect to get wet, either... :D

I've never soft-water sailed below freezing, but a friend regularly does (alone). He wears a drysuit with a neoprene hood. He reports the biggest problem is that the mainsheet freezes and makes it hard (impossible) sheet. This is in fresh-water, so that may be less of an issue sailing in salt water.

Cheers,

Geoff S.
 

RobKoci

New Member
I thought you were going to say that if the temp was HIGHER than 10F, you don't sail. But that thing you do with those boxey things on skates, is that sailing, anyway?
 
One of these days I'm going to brave the great north again in the winter to visit my brother in Dodgeville & would love to get out on an ice boat -- its always looked like a real rush!

Go Pack!!
 
Well I went out in 40 deg F & 15kts gusting to 20 and it was too COLD! Like RobKoci said its all in the hands - my fingers were so cold I couldn't grip the sheet and pull it in!

... good thing I live in the south
 
Any winter glove recommendations? I'm sailing with neoprene gloves but once they are wet and the wind hits them, my hands turn to ice!
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
I have found that while "racing" the cold is not an issue. It's the waiting between races where you get chilled. Same with practice. If it's blowing you get a good work out with lots of tacks/jibes, but if you sit around you'll get cold.

For my hands I use the rubber gardening gloves.
 

Krycek

Member
what it boils down to is a personl decision. I sail in a frostbiting fleet that tends to see a lot of decent breeze in this time of the year. Most of us do have drysuits. However, the decision is wheather or not you can sail if you get wet. I know a lot of guys who will go sailing in 30 degree weather in a wetsuit and hkers. However, if they go for a swim, chances are they are done for the day.

Winter sailing is a lot of fun. However, make sure you are adequately dressed and are close enough to shore to run home if you get cold

Jon
 

Capt Tony

New Member
Recently our group has been discussing minimum temperatures and conditions for sailing in the winter. Trying to take air and water temperatures and wind speed into account, we're hoping to come up with a formula to determine sailability.

Most of our members have wetsuits, but this being North Carolina, not many have drysuits.

How do your clubs determine if it is too windy or cold to sail?

thanks,
Rob
Use good judgement and know your ability. When I first started frostbitting in CT 20 years ago we had a 20 20 rule. don't go out Below 20 degrees and or over 20 mph.
 

GeoffS

Member
how much ice do you think you can, go through on a laser without damaging it?, or how much ice is it possible to sail in?
I've never tried it, but a friend regularly sails his Laser when the lake's partially frozen. I don't think he's ever been able to sail through ice (he usually drags the boat over the ice to the open water).

Based in my experience with checking ice for iceboating, I'd guess is that anything thicker than 1/8 to 1/4 inch of black ice would be impossible to sail though. You might be able to ram your way a couple of feet at a time, but it would be slow going (and probably not much fun). You might actually be able to sail through really thin "skim ice", and you could probably move through semi-solid slush, but the increased friction would probably slow you down quite a bit.

For the life of me I cannot understand why people like to sail in cold weather.
Desperation would be my guess (I know that's why I sail early/late season).

Cheers,

Geoff S.
 

SailNC

New Member
For the life of me I cannot understand why people like to sail in cold weather.
In central NC there there are two reasons really:

1) The winter is when the best winds are. During the summer we get a lot of drifters 0-5, during the winter 8-15 seems to be normal.

2) Why not? We have very mild winters here, if its 60 degrees out and blowing 12, why wouldn't you go out?

The problem comes when the conditions are "borderline", i.e. sub 40 degrees or blowing more than 20.
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
In central NC there there are two reasons really:

1) The winter is when the best winds are. During the summer we get a lot of drifters 0-5, during the winter 8-15 seems to be normal.

2) Why not? We have very mild winters here, if its 60 degrees out and blowing 12, why wouldn't you go out?

The problem comes when the conditions are "borderline", i.e. sub 40 degrees or blowing more than 20.
Well, have you read anything you can use in the replies to your thread?
 

Chris123

New Member
Our club (Boston, MA) applies the "20/20" rule -- if it's blowing harder than 20 knots, or the temperature is below 20 Fahrenheit, we don't go. We adjust a bit for other conditions: if it's sunny and the waves are small, we'll push a bit colder; if it's snowing hard and the waves are big, we'll stay in even though it's above our minimums. This is for a fleet of Lasers and Interclubs (Interclubs are not self-righting) with everyone in drysuits, and two crash boats on the water.
 
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