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Jester Azores Challenge 2020

zoidberg

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12 Nov 2016
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3,734
It may seem premature, but queries are popping up already. Some info will be posted here from time to time, Due to the nature and ethos of the events and the characters, expect a certain degree of 'attempting to herd cats'.... but it all works out on the water.

Next year is the Jester Azores Challenge and unless there are strong reasons against I am suggesting a start at 12 noon on Sunday 31 May. High-water Devonport is at 1339 BST which is about as good as we can get.

The list has been open for some time (all JC lists into the future are open all the time) with, currently, eleven potential entries. So, now is the time to get planning.......................

I hope everyone has fine moons'l weather for the rest of the 2019 season. Ewen
 
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scruff

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2 Mar 2007
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Over here
Just left the Azores (by aeroplane) and I can confirm the Caipirinha's from the naval club of horta, over looking the marina are very good indeed!

If only I still had a jester eligible and offshore capable boat!
 

zoidberg

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12 Nov 2016
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Those interested in heading down Azores-way next June.... and coming back later in the season..... might fruitfully examine the weather system being shown in Windy.ty on Sunday 28 July in and around the direct route Azores - Falmouth, and step the progress forward every few hours....

https://www.windy.com/?51.484,-2.770,5,m:eVuafQD

Then consider what the sea state will become in the vicinity of the Continental Shelf drop-off to the west of Brest/Ushant.....

Several of our brethren had the foresight and forecast to divert into La Corunna. There are others who didn't.
 

lampshuk

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10 Sep 2013
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Solent
Can anyone recommend a decent book about passage planning for the Azores, or experiences of passages there?
There seems to be plenty on line (it was some of these that put me on to Jester in the first place) but just wondering if there's any paper-based reading matter on the topic.
 

Yellow Ballad

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10 Oct 2013
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Shropshire - Sundance, Bristol Channel
I've got some preperation "notes" somewhere from Tony Head that he gave out on a fantastic talk he did at our sailing club on Jester preperations. He doesn't really want them published online but was happy for me to email a copy to potential participants. If you send me your email address I can forward these to you. I believe there's a youtube clip running through the same notes somewhere.
 

hrchivers

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13 Nov 2008
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99
If you also plan to cruise the Azores then 'Atlantic Islands' (RCC) may be of interest. It does have brief passage information - but only a short paragraph to/from UK. This might be all that is justified. Cornell has little more, Reeds has brief details of the ports but no passage information.

General advice seems to be rhumb line there, unless conditions suggest via Ireland, or perhaps Spain. On the way back head North-ish until at least 45 before turning for home. Expect calms N of the islands in summer.
 

lampshuk

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Solent
Thanks, hrchivers. Short but sound advice. Very much in the Jester spirit!
I suppose you have to assume SW'ly on average, so looking at the track of individual weather systems will be key to whether you go West (get past the continental shelf early) or South
(head towards the Northerly Portugese Trades).

I guess the question is whether they extend far enought west to be any help going to the Azores.
And if they exist in early summer.
Or indeed, at all, any more.
There must be some "routing chart" sites that cover it.

Thanks also to Tom for the prep notes. Much to think upon.
 

Pye_End

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N Kent Coast
There are charts available that you can use on OpenCPN which show average speed and direction per month. However, it wont be like that on the day you leave.

The only recommendation I have seen is the rhumb line the way down, and go more north on the way back as per post 6, but this was not possible in 2016. As far as I could tell, quite a few boats headed off west to try to get the other side of the lows, and some went south first. Really you need to take a view on it as you leave - look at the low tracks and wind strengths. Also bear in mind shipping density when choosing as it is so much easier to sleep when you only see a ship every couple of days, rather than several during the night.
 

ScallywagII

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11 Jan 2012
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Southampton
I would just add to work with the weather you get. It is not uncommon to find a ridge of high pressure from near the Azores heading roughly NE towards the channel. If that is the case it could be very simple. Stay to the east of the ridge for the trip down to the Azores or stay to the NW of the ridge for the return journey. In both cases you will have wind on the starboard quarter and a nice easy time while it lasts. Keep checking the charts before you leave. I use weatherfax for updates while at sea and found them very useful with forecasts for the next 4 days. Avoid the centre of highs if you possibly can as you will be rolling around on the swells with no wind to steady the ship.

If the weather is being dominated by lows, it can pay to pass keep them on your left and shape a course to the north and west of them. Again that will give you a good boost in the right direction with quartering winds. Keep an eye out for what is coming to decide your strategy for dealing with the next low. In a small cruising boat your upwind performance offshore is likely to be very disapointing compared to coastal cruising, so any downwind sailing is a gift too good to refuse.

Fair following winds

Len
 

lampshuk

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10 Sep 2013
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Solent
Thanks, both. Very sound advice, to be adapted as the situation dictates.

I found this report from a US blog http://www.svsarah.com/Sailing/AtlanticCircle/SailBermudatoFlores.htm

Obviously, starting from the "wrong" place, but still interesting as regards weather routing.

And, perhaps more relevant, his onwards trip to Portugal. Very useful to have a blog written by a retired weather forecaster!
http://www.svsarah.com/Sailing/AtlanticCircle/SailtoCascais.htm

The website also has some useful pages about the islands themselves.
http://www.svsarah.com/Sailing/AtlanticCircle/SailAzores.htm

I've not got a good weather forecast delivery setup yet. I rented a Garmin from GTC for the Baltimore trip, but the weather reports didn't work. Adding SSB seems like overkill.
 
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ScallywagII

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I've not got a good weather forecast delivery setup yet. I rented a Garmin from GTC for the Baltimore trip, but the weather reports didn't work. Adding SSB seems like overkill.
Fortunately for weatherfax a full SSB setup is not required. I have used a portable SW reciever. It does need to be able to recieve upper side band USB. On normal reception it is also useful for radio from BBC world service and a host of other stations. Then there is a laptop/notebook/tablet which you probably already have on board, and an audio cable to connect them together. If you use a tablet without an audio jack, a USB adapter is available. The software to convert the audio squeaks to weather charts is widely available. It takes about 10 minutes to download each chart, but they are free. The program I use saves the last 20 recieved charts by default and deletes the older ones but you can save them if wanted.

The NASA target HF reciever is not very user friendly for normal radio reception, but is optimised for weatherfax as it has a fixed audio output. The signal strength coming into the software is important; too much volume and the chart is grainy, not enough and it is washed out. It may be the other way, but as long as the signal strength indicator is in the right place, I have had good results, though not always delivering the right message. With a portable reciever you may have to adjust the volume controls to compensate for an unsteady radio signal. Of course the quality of the radio signal will determine the quality of the chart, but I have had good results with the NASA using UK charts on three trips to the Azores. I may post some images when I get back from holiday and see if they are on the computer I used.
 

lampshuk

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Hmm. That's a nice little receiver. Not quite sure if the P or W version would be appropriate EDIT - it's the W version. P doesn't have the direct output.
Linking to a tablet rather than a laptop would be preferred, I think. Though maybe a little netbook might work.

Your comment about the "right message" presumably differentiates between the quality of the forecast document, and that of the weather it predicts :) ?
 
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hrchivers

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13 Nov 2008
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Your comment about the "right message" presumably differentiates between the quality of the forecast document, and that of the weather it predicts :) ?
Yes, the detail is often wrongish but forecasts will usually give you 3-4 days warning of nasties, and even in a small boat you can cover some distance in that time. Weatherfax is cheap and useful, although you should be aware that it may take a while to get a useable schedule, and you may therefore need to think about computer/tablet power consumption. I simply wire the antenna to a shroud. Nothing complicated.

PS - Regarding Pilot Charts, they are available online, for example see: https://www.offshoreblue.com/navigation/pilot-charts.php
They are interesting to ponder, but little help for the Azores.

Howard
 

lampshuk

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Thanks, Howard. That's a super resource, many thanks!
I like the comforting words about "The weather in the North Atlantic is usually very pleasant in June"
Of course, averages are exactly that.
Also note that the wind charts seem to be for 2002. I wonder if the recent averages have moved.
Still, as you say: something interesting to ponder.
 

ScallywagII

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Your comment about the "right message" presumably differentiates between the quality of the forecast document, and that of the weather it predicts :) ?
Correct. I was thinking of our return from the Azores last year, when the reception was particularly good and the forecasts completely accurate, but they predicted 10 days of closehauled.

With no other information I would have been tempted to tack every day or so and zigzag across the rhumb line. The forecasts showed it would pay to stay on starboard tack as the winds would moderate as we went north, allowing better progress with improved sea state, and this is what we found.

You can get an idea of the sort of chart by looking at maps and charts on the met office forecast page and selecting surface pressure / black and white. https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/maps-and-charts/surface-pressure The weatherfax ones are often a bit simpler as they show the fronts that are of significance to mariners, but not necessarily the multiple fronts that may be found on the general met office charts. Both are generated from the same UK Met Office model, so agree on most other details. Fronts are not normally found on grib files or most of the free websites, as they are added by a human forecaster.
 

lampshuk

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Good old Met Office!

They even do forecast for the Azores.
https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/forecast/eqggh08wf#2019-10-26

Though I dare say there are plenty of others.

Looking at the current charts and GFS out for 10 days or so, it looks like we have an inversion of the usual Azores high, UK low during the weekend, followed by re-establishment of a more regular pattern.
Makes Azores-> N Spain look like an inconvenient route, at best.

Capture2.JPG
 

ScallywagII

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Makes Azores-> N Spain look like an inconvenient route, at best.

View attachment 81182
This is an excellent illustration of the benefit of up to date weather charts. Following the GC route from Terceira to the tip of NW Spain would be a broad reach. A degree further north would be the other side of the trough and there be headwinds. Of course this is just one chart and you would need to consider your likely daily positions and the winds there. A 10 day GFS forecast is ok, but beyond the first 5 days is a bit speculative. Don't confuse precision with accuracy.
 

scruff

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2 Mar 2007
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Interesting thread. Does anyone use a satphone + email to download GRIB files / get weather data? Is sat phone still prohibitively expensive?
 

Gargleblaster

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16 Dec 2003
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Medway, Gillingham Reach
I use a satphone for communication but not for weather.

I have an Inmarsat which has worked for me in all latitudes up to 73degN despite the dire warnings about geocentric orbits not doing the poles. I bought the handset second hand and pay about £90 for a three month pay as you go contract as and when I need it. Last year I extended for a small fee by a month to give me 4 months in total to cover a return from Newport, Rhode Island.

I don't bother getting external weather as I like to deal with what occurs and have found forecasts in the ocean to be largely inaccurate. I was using GRIB files in the North and South Pacific and found they bore no relation to reality. I think they are more accurate in the North Atlantic based on anecdotal evidence.
 

hrchivers

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13 Nov 2008
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I've used Iridium for the last few years (as well as weatherfax), initially to allow communication with others who might worry about a long slience. I usually keep to email to minimise minutes used. Given a satphone/email setup then you can get gribs by email without adding to the time you are online provided you are careful with the area and resolution. You need to be able to interpret your own weatherfronts but the big changes are easy to spot. I find them helpful in the Atlantic.

Gribs and viewers are free. You can get them (and weatherfax) on a pc via the web and spend a productive winter doing comparisons. We'd be interested in the result :)
 
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