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Grapefruit 2018 728x90
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The Laser Book by Tim Davison
The Laser Book by Tim Davison

Expected Weather for Leg Two

by Chris Tibbs, Meteorologist, Quokka Sports on 15 Oct 2000
Chris Tibbs previews what awaits the BT Challenge fleet on Leg Two.


Leg Two takes the fleet 6,000 miles from northern autumn to southern spring. On the way, the fleet will pass through interesting and varied weather conditions making this a very tactical leg.

Leaving Boston the yachts head around Cape Cod and across the Gulf Stream. Changeable winds are likely as depressions develop near Cape Hatteras fuelled by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream before moving off to the northeast. Heading south the fleet then moves into the Horse latitudes, an area of light winds and fine weather named after the practice of killing the horses on old sailing ships as they ran out of drinking water.
October is still hurricane season and there is the possibility of a late one affecting the fleet. The proximity of the U.S. ensures helpful forecasts and hurricanes are generally slow moving (although windspeed within the storm can be very high) and avoiding action can be taken.

If this is not enough to keep the crews occupied the course then takes them through the infamous Bermuda Triangle; an area associated with unexplained disturbances. Theories abound -- from aliens to underwater mud slides releasing gas, which affects the buoyancy of the vessel. Tropical squalls and the fast moving Gulf Stream probably account for many of the disappearances but it is unknown.

Once into the trade winds, fast and pleasant sailing is expected until reaching the doldrums. More often called the Intertropical Convergence Zone they occupy a narrow band to the north of the equator with light variable winds. Moving north and south the calms are interspersed with large squalls giving strong winds and torrential rain. Each crossing of the doldrums is different; sometimes the wind hardly stops while other days it is calm and rain can be experienced. In a steel boat it becomes very hot and airless below deck -- making sleeping and cooking difficult.

Crossing the equator has always been an excuse for a bit of fun -- with the crossing the line ceremony. King Neptune comes onboard and anyone who has not crossed before goes through an initiation ceremony. This usually takes the form of being punished for crimes against ones' shipmates. Some horrible concoction is then smothered over the person, the amount depending on how vigorously the charges are denied. Once cleaned up the crew becomes a son or daughter of Neptune and can help to initiate the less fortunate.

Through the doldrums and across the equator the trade winds of the Southern Hemisphere take charge. Weather maps are reversed as the wind goes around in the opposite direction, which confuses even the most experienced. Down the South American coast towards Buenos Aires, the trades give way to more variable colder conditions. There could still be a sting in the tail on the approaches to Rio de la Plata in the form of the Pampero. The Pampero can arrive with a severe initial gust of 70 knots (force 12) before moderating. Luckily the main season for the Pampero is over but a weather eye will be kept until safely in harbour.

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