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Is it safe to put your money on a westerly or south-westerly wind regime?

Love it or hate it, El Nino is delivering a lot of wind to the upper North Island at the moment, and it’s good news for entrants in the famous PIC Coastal Classic yacht race from Auckland to Russell.

If the pattern holds, it means a fast ride up the coast for around 100 nautical miles followed by a section of tacking into the wind for arrival on the finish line.

“Given the strong El Nino in force in the tropical Pacific Ocean, and the fact that the long-range forecasts agree on enhanced westerlies during October across New Zealand, my money is on a westerly or southwesterly wind regime for the Coastal Classic this year,” says Georgina Griffiths of MetService – Te Ratonga Tirorangi.

MetService is also forecasting a colder-than-average October, including for Northland and Auckland, so crew should pack an extra layer – this year, you’re going to need it.

“It’s obviously impossible to forecast conditions this far out says Commodore of the New Zealand Mulithull Yacht Club Adrian Percival, “but these could be good fast conditions that will make for a race that is both exciting and physically and mentally challenging.”

“Easterlies provide optimal conditions, with speed all the way up the coast and into the Bay of Islands, but Westerlies and South Westerlies are fun and fast. Northerlies tend to mean longer, more difficult races.”

The 1996 race took place in South Easterlies and went down in history as records across almost all divisions were set – and retained for more than 13 years when supermaxis and faster, lighter multihulls started to make an appearance on the race scene.

Around 150 entrants are expected to race in eight divisions, reflecting size and relative speed of each boat. The race can take as little as five or six hours for the very fastest boats, or as long as two days for the slowest boats in light conditions.

For those watching the race start from ashore when it starts at 10am on Friday 20 October, the best spots are Devonport Wharf, North Head, Orakei Wharf and the race website, which will be updated regularly with photos, commentary and radio positions throughout the race.

The ECMWF model forecast for the ‘average weather map’ (anomalous mean sea level pressure pattern) for the week of the race (Monday 16 October to Monday 23 October 2023). Blue colours show more lows than usual, pink colours more highs. Over New Zealand, you can see an unsettled southwesterly regime. Graphic provided by Metservice


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