Last year Lizzy Foreman took part in the Mini Transat and hopes to race in the Vendee Globe one day. In this series the experienced racer takes us on a journey through the lives of racing sailors looking at the challenge these men and women face. This month Lizzy is looking at preparing your navigation for racing.
IT has become the norm for modern sailboats to now have chartplotters, PCs and tablets running weather routing software with the classic chart staying tucked away under the table.
However, this has made many sailors extremely reliant on technological gadgets and less inclined to really study their navigation before casting off the docks.
In the Mini 6.50 class only a GPS and paper charts are permitted onboard. This meant I had to really study the race course before heading offshore, using a ‘road book’ to navigate my way around the course as often wet and windy conditions make it near impossible to do any chart work.
A little like a sat nav, a road book is basically a succinct document that outlines your route around a race course, highlighting any dangers, strategic options and the predicted weather conditions on route.
The first part of the road book clearly defines each mark of the course, including its waypoint position and the way it is to be rounded (picture 1).
The road book will then go on to split up each leg of the course into sections, stating what to expect between each mark of the course (see table 1).
To avoid having to do any chart work, skippers also often include close up shots of their charts including the latitude and longitude and GPS position of the marks (usually using a screen shot from software such as Adrena or Navionics). Once laminated, these little charts are very quick and easy to use alongside the GPS and can be written on with a chinograph pencil (picture 2).
Alongside this, the boat polars will also be included or displayed on deck (picture 3).
Finally, a road book will also contain laminated copies of the appropriate tidal atlas, with the time of high water and the coefficient clearly stated (picture 4).
PUTTING YOUR BOOK TOGETHER
There are many tools that you can use to put your road book together, for example:
– Weather routing software such as Adrena, Max Sea and Expedition
– Grib files (free to view on websites such as predictwind.com)
– Boat polars (a chart dictating which angle and in which wind speed you should use each sail)
– Google Maps to study the local topography
– Race instructions
race tracks (e.g. on the Yellow Brick website) and reading up on venue specific notes
CONFIGURE YOUR BOOK
Once you have collected all the relevant information, the basic process to follow to configure your road book is:
1. Write a list of your waypoints (for both the turning marks & dangers)
2. Plot your course, either onto a photocopy of the chart or onto a programme such
3. Identify areas of danger and strategic zones (rocks, strong currents, wind shifts around headlands, traffic separation schemes, strong currents)
4. Split up the course into sections
5. Think about local topography effects: wind accelerations, divergence and convergence and consider the tide on each leg of the course
6. Write down the predicted wind direction and thus your ideal sail
7. Laminate your tidal atlases and note down the times of high water and the coefficients
Finally, remember to put all of your waypoints into your GPS (make sure these are named sensibly and use the same names throughout your road book), and make a make a note of the best time to sleep and eat during the race – see my previous articles for some hints and tips on sleep deprivation and psychology online at www.allatsea.co.uk.