Conditions at the Annapolis Show
Well hopefully you've all read our last article explaining the reasons to come to the Annapolis NAs. The great town, all the boats, friendly people, great social yada yada. Imagine you are here, its a sunny morning and your boat is in the water, the lunches are stowed and your crew is anxiously awaiting your return from the port-a-john to go sailing. I'll try to explain some things that Annapolitan's think about which help them get around the racecourse. I claim NOT to be a "weather guru", but have sailed lots of dinghy regattas on these waters and can hopefully mention some things to help you think correctly. Just remember you WILL have fun on and off the water.
Annapolis conditions are very challenging and I guarantee you won't see many drag races. We will have a lot of fast boats and great sailors stumped at why the left paid off on a certain beat. Sometimes a seabreeze develops from a morning easterly and clocks steadily to the right, settling at 180. You may not think about current because you're pulling your hair our deciding on the persistent wind shift. Sometimes the breeze is a steady 170 and going left puts you in more "bay current", going right puts you in "Severn River current" and staying in the middle gives you more clear air to play the shifts. We won't figure these things out now but lets start somewhere.
We predict the racing area will be in the general vicinity of area A (see diagram). Although this is a huge area and gives the Race Committee much space to chose a specific course location, they may go elsewhere (say B) to give us the best racing possible.
SIMPLE THINGS FIRST
if you have to jump down to the boat in the morning its probably low tide, and there's a good chance water will move up the bay that day (and vice versa). Current can be a big factor in racing here. The Chesapeake Bay is a "tidal" body of water with about 6 hours and 1 to 2 feet between highs and lows. The best thing I can suggest is to review the tide table each day and get a feel for the time of transition. To complicate things a little more we sail near the intersection of the large "Severn" river and the Chesapeake. And yes, current does flow up the Severn.
Look at the freighters parked out in the bay to see how they're anchored. If you forgot to notice the water height they will tell you whether water is flowing north or south. When the ships look kooky, or skewed sideways then a "transition" may be occurring. Beware, we also have crab pots in shallow areas, but they are great to see your VMG relative to land. If you're real sneaky you can take with you a "current stick", throw it in near a crab pot or mark and watch its direction of travel over 30 seconds. Sometimes you'll see some weird angles depending on your position. Don't worry about the angles but just determine whether its going in or out and develop your overall plan. Be aware of the "depth shelf". Inside of this line will put you in 10 feet of water and significantly less current. From this line outwards will give you fairly uniform current with depths from 20 to 80 feet.
Try to determine whether current or wind is the primary factor. Here's a few examples: If the course is set way out in the bay and its a southerly, left or right will put you in the same amount of current - then go for breeze, or less chop. If its a "northwester" and the course is near the west shore or "depth shelf" (see diagram) then going left may put you in less current. In all conditions current will always be a factor when finding the layline and starting. Be aware of "over standing" or "under standing" marks because of current.
We do! and if you don't know how to sail it then you'll learn at this regatta. The good thing is Sunday's the only day of power boat hell. The rest of the week will have much smoother water. The worst case we will have is Sunday's Qualifiers when you're getting through a series of wake from two 40 foot cruisers that entered the bay two miles away. Set your boat up for constant but small irregular chop and be ready to punch through the random big waves. By constant I mean that it's always present, and irregular means that it's from all sides. You may have to "change modes" (power up) regularly during a single weather leg to get through particular nasty spots, then get back to flatter mode. It will never be the constant chop of Detroit or Pontchartrain. We rarely sail with constant "zero-backstay" and "overcompensated jib wire". It's usually a wall of wake from the 30 ft. Scarab that you just punch through and return to form for the constant/irregular/small chop.
The summer standard in the general direction of 180. As the bay heats up over the summer the thermals become less and less. Only mother nature knows how strong the seabreezes will be in August, much of which depends on affecting pressure systems. It is possible to achieve over 15mph out of the south but 10 to 15 is more likely, or 5 to 10. The swells out of this direction can be fun fun fun. No chop, just beautiful rollers that make for great surfing. The problem arises when a system stalls overhead and won't let the seabreeze kick in. Or when a three day old front is dying and predicting a CW or CCW progression to the south takes an act from above. Our expert race committee is prepared for these yucky transitional breezes and we shouldn't be racing in them anyway.
We get em. The occasional front will bring cool weather and strong offshore breeze from the west or northwest, which often clock right very slowly. This puts the weather mark close to shore which makes for big shifts and challenging weather legs. Some of our summers best sailing are in these conditions, offering great excitement and opportunity for those teams who connect the puffs. Current factor is often negligible because big gains are made from the big puffs and shifts. If the wind is from the NW or N and the current is ebbing (south), then going left makes sense. This "double effect" of backed breeze under the shore and less current is obvious. In the same NW breeze and current flooding (going north), then left or right may be equally favored. Right puts you in beneficial current and left may give you the lift—tough choice huh?
We hope this quick summary helps each of you in your races. Just know that the regatta and conditions will attract all types - the pro's and the first time district qualifier. We have our hands full trying to put on the best show possible. This regatta has been and will continue to be a big learning process for Fleet 329 as the weeks go by. Its amazing how time flies when organizing an NAs and this is the last pre-NA's article we will write.
We anxiously await your arrival in Annapolis.