Brad Van Liew Previews Leg 1 Weather
Pre-race weather Outlook: Rhumb Line or not; Always the big debate!
The weather for this year’s offshore leg from Charleston to New York is going to prove a fun chess match but a dicey one with luck being a part of the equation. The good news is that it looks to be an interesting leg with a predominantly southerly breeze and aside from a periodic thunderstorm doesn’t look to be a boat breaker of a Cape Hatteras rounding.
In a nutshell, high pressure dominates the western north Atlantic weather outlook as the predominant weather feature. The weak cold front that just departed the US east coast eastbound is being weakened by the high pressure area to the east and the one on its way for later in the week will do the same thing. The trick is to know when it will move on to the race course and when it will intensify the southerly wind flow and when it will dissipate and leave the swath of light and variable winds in the wake of its dissipation. The transition time frame with the light breeze should be a limited window but if it develops, needs to be handled carefully with the boat being ready for the breeze to fill in from the west at an advantage. The toughest part of the first half of the leg will be to time the gybes in the south westerly breeze towards Cape Hatteras to be ready for the transition.
The weather models seem to disagree a little on when and what will fill in for the second half but it will remain southerly in nature off the west side of the prominent north Atlantic high. Grabbing the fresh wave of southerlies after Cape Hatteras first will be key, but also realizing that as the system moves offshore, a more westerly shift will occur. With a finish in New York on Tuesday any easterly wind component will probably not be a factor but needs to be watched because as the high continues a slow move to the east with a morph of a ridgeline towards the northeast in the general direction of Europe it is possible to have an easterly fill in. If that occurs setting up for a hot angle from the New Jersey coast towards the entrance to New York and the Verrazano Bridge would be an advantage but the light air transition period may also prove to be a time not to sacrifice getting too far offshore.
So in summation. A straight line (Rhumb Line) is always the shortest but not always fastest way from point A to point B in offshore racing. This leg will involve the tricky debate as to when leaving the shortest distance between 2 points is worthwhile. I can guarantee you on this leg the winner will leave Rhumb Line. What I can’t guarantee is when and by how far.
Brad Van Liew is the only American to complete three solo races around the world, having completed the 1998/99 Around Alone event (third place Open 50 Class), 2002/03 (first place Open 50 Class) and the recent Velux 5 Oceans (first place Open 60 class). He swept all legs of each of his past two races around the globe.