Force 8 Sailing | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Force 8 Sailing

Last weekend the Baltic had one of its summer gales! Much of our time here has been in quite light winds but every few weeks a front passes over and the winds get up. In this case it was even higher than the predicted 35 knots. We were sailing along the south coast of Sweden, and the wind was forecast to come from the northwest.

Sailing in a Gale

We were tied up in a secure harbour on the Sunday morning. The wind was already blowing in gusts over 30 knots and it looked like nobody was going to go out sailing. The weather service on the VHF was forecasting a gale warning. But I saw an opportunity to give the new boat a decent test in strong winds! Looking at the chart I saw a harbour just 25 miles down the coast which would mean we could sail with an offshore wind on the beam. So we wouldn’t be in big seas and would have a chance to try out the boat in strong winds for just a few hours. Perfect...

We battened everything down, untied, and headed out from the tiny harbor of Gislövs Läge. I had planned to sail with a double reefed main and reefed job, but there seemed to be more wind than forecast so we just partially unfurled the jib (no mainsail). The wind gusted over 30 and we scooted along at more than 8 knots - hitting 9. As soon as we got further out the wind stabilized a bit at 25-30 with gusts 35-40. But I had been right that we would have a nice comfortable ride since the wind was offshore - we never saw waves bigger than 1 meter.

The image doesn’t show it so well but you can see the bow wave being blown off in spray in the gusts. But also you can see the waves weren’t high.

We averaged over 8.2 for the 3 hours it took to reach Ystad. The boat was perfectly balanced and easy to steer. Dry decks and a comfy ride! The longer boat at 49 feet really does make for more comfort. During the whole sail we saw one other boat - a 40 footer close-hauled and motor-sailing west (the other way). Incredibly he was towing his dinghy - which naturally had flipped upside down. He must have been having a bad time since he just ignored it and kept on going with it upside down.

The only other boat we saw was just as we approached Ystad - the local Search and Rescue cutter came out and zoomed past in a cloud of spray. Winds gusted here at 40 knots - occasionally higher. We sailed right up to the harbour at Ystad and came in to find a dock. Thankfully the winds were lower close in shore since the harbour was quite full. But friendly cruisers grabbed lines as we came in to raft up. Praise to our big fenders and bow thruster so maneuvering in these tight conditions was no problem.

As a postscript to this story I found a news item the next day that 4 sailors had been rescued by Polish SAR in that same gale just over a hundred miles to the southeast.

We had a great sail however. It felt good to have tried the boat out in these conditions when it would have been easy to just stay put. Now we have more experience with how our new boat handles in strong winds so if we’re ever caught out in bad weather on a passage we now know that she handles winds up to 35-40 knots quite nicely with just a reefed jib. We filmed this in Episode 86 Distant Shores downloadable here in Vimeo - click on Episode 86

For more on stormy sailing check out our other blogs on Storms

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