In the last few years I've had a bit of "sailing to windward" experience -- returning to San Francisco
a few times, and attempting to sail north from San Francisco
. This is definitely less comfortable than going downwind!
is an exercise in VMG and sail trim. You have the tradewinds and the big tradewind swells coming in from the NW, and you are trying to head
north (you've got to get around the Pacific High before turning east). Your crew probably doesn't have their sea legs yet. I typically foot off a bit to the west, which doesn't lose any VMG and makes the ride a bit softer as it brings the seas off of the bow. I also usually reef down more than necessary for a couple of days, which does
slow us down, but makes everyone less miserable. We can't reduce sail too much or the waves stop us dead.
After a few days or so, the wind
and seas lighten up and start moving aft. Once over the top of the high we begain aiming for San Fransicso. The winds and seas can pick up dramatically as we approach the coast (this is typically a "squash zone"), but unless things get really hairy the sailing is much more pleasant. 25-30 Kts of wind, 10-15 ft seas, but they are on the port quarter and with the boat properly trimmed the motion is quite tolerable.
Heading north to Seattle
was brutal -- Wind 20-25 kts, 10-12 ft seas, both on the nose. Broad tacking angles (I could only dream of 45 degrees to the wind), and very slow VMG. White water
was constantly across the decks and sloshing around in the cockpit
. After a couple of days I gave in and started motorsailing, but it was still tough. I turned around before we got a third of the way. We could have made it, but the approaching weather
would have compelled me to wait it out in port at Eureka, and my schedule wasn't going to tolerate any further delays. Running south, downwind in the exact same conditions was a joy! Fast, comfortable, and dry.
I guess that's why gentlemen don't sail to weather! I'll do it again if I need to...