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What to do when 'Il Maestrale' visits

by Art on

For most yachts, when Il Maestrale winds come to Sardegna, they hunker down in some wind-protected anchorage to wait it out. Hoping it to last only a day or two while the winds take charge and blow at 35-45 kts or more, they swing along their anchorages with their captains losing sleep to check continuously that the yacht is not slipping off the anchorage and crashing into the many rocks that festoon these islands. Dawn breaks and the chart plotter shows no movement overnight. Ahhh… nice!

Il Maestrale is an event that occurs with great regularity here in Sardegna. The winds come from France and the Pyrenees in particular. It’s a powerful wind that roars across the Gulf of Lyon and outputs itself across the Mediterranean blasting directly into Sardegna and Corsica.

Reaching downwind in a strong Maestale in the Strait of Bonaficio When it comes, all you can do wait it out... or you can go out and sail in the glorious wind, taking it on and dealing with what nature hands you. For yachts that want to engage whatever Mother-Nature hands them around the world, it’s a great opportunity to test yourself, the crew and yacht to make sure you have the ability and skill to handle this kind of extreme weather.

Yes, we elected to brave the elements and take on the monster. Rather than sit at a nice, safe anchorage we go engage 'the beast'. We find ourselves in 30-40 kts of true wind with 2 reefs in the main sail along with our staysail. Despite our reefing we are still roaring along at 12 kts in 35 kts true. The sea state is about 1.5 to 2.0 meters and the wind is ripping the tops off the crest and peppering us with the spray. On the helm, the wheel is light and responsive, it's incredible how little the forces of nature affect the steering. All due to proper reefing, setting of the sails and the fabulous balance of the yacht. Of course you have to pay very close attention to the helm and anticipate what the next swell will do before it arrives but the reward is an exhilarating time.

We all relish being out in the elements; enjoying the experience of being able to handle the conditions.

Instead of hiding under the dodger in a vain attempt to stay dry, we all relish being out in the elements; enjoying the experience of being able to handle the conditions. As we finally drop the sails late in the day and motor into another anchorage we are all tired but happy that we didn’t just sit around complaining about the weather and wishing for perfect sailing conditions.

As far as we were concerned, this was a perfect sailing day!

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