What's the ideal sailing weather?
10th June 2022 Elena Manighetti
Ideally, to sail in absolute comfort, you’d head out on a sunny, warm, breezy day. The weather is dry, the wind anywhere between 5 and 15 knots, and there’s no swell or current. As a rule of thumb, this makes for the best sailing conditions, on most boats.
However, the type of vessel you’re on makes a big difference. For example, a heavy older sailboat will deal well with some roll and swell, while she won’t likely be able to make much progress under sail in less than 12-15 knots of wind or so. On the other hand on a modern lightweight yacht, you could probably have a great day out in anything over 5-7 knots. Finally, on a sailing dinghy, a novice should not go out in anything over 8-10 knots.
Other factors are the wind direction and your route. Sailing upwind in over 20 knots can make for a wet and adventurous ride, while going on a broad reach can be comfortable and relaxing even in 25 knots.
Most elements can’t be controlled: swell height, wind speed and direction, currents, and more. You can adjust your course, but you can’t change the weather, which can sometimes improve or deteriorate. So it’s up to you to decide when to head out and when to stay put.
You’re also in control of your vessel kind. Choose her based around your local weather patterns, as well as when you’d rather be out on your boat. Do you enjoy sailing in 25 knots or do you prefer trimming often in 8?
Having a yacht you can take out in the conditions you enjoy and planning the right route for the weather give you a certain degree of control.
What is too windy for sailing?
Generally, anything over 20 knots can be too much to handle for many sailors, especially if they’re in a gusty area. More experienced sailors will head out in up to 25 knots (gusting 30-32).
You should decide when to stay at the dock based on a variety of factors. These are:
Your sailing experience and confidence
The boat’s capabilities and characteristics
Any deadlines you may have, such as a hurricane approaching
The area you’re in - are there places where to shelter?
What is the best season to sail?
It completely depends on where you are in the world. In some places, sailing in the summer is safest, as the winter brings storms and heavy weather - think of Australia, the Northern United States, and Europe. In other areas, dangerous weather, such as tropical storms, happens in the summer. This is the case for the North Atlantic.
Make sure you research weather patterns in your area or wherever you’re headed to. Choosing the wrong time to go sailing can be extremely dangerous. Inexperienced sailors should stick to calmer, dry days only, no matter the season.
If you’re fairly new to sailing, the ideal sailing weather is a light breeze on a sunny day. The sea should be calm, with no high swell or currents. Choosing a day like this will help you achieve a very enjoyable experience. Once you gain confidence and skills, you will find the ideal weather for you, your boat, and your crew.
Always check the marine weather forecast, including wind gust speed, before you decide to head out. Take into account various models to prepare for the best and worst case scenario. If the conditions in real life don’t look like those predicted, don’t leave the dock. Need help interpreting the weather forecast? Check out this article.