Every outdoor activity relies on an accurate weather forecast, though none perhaps as much so as the sport of sailing. Sure, skiers want to know when there will be fresh snow on the slopes, golfers want to avoid heading out to the course on an extremely windy day, and soccer moms want to keep their kids off the pitch in a thunderstorm, but without wind, a sailboat cannot function as intended. For sailors, knowing when, where, and how much wind there will be on any given day is fundamental to the activity.
Like sailboats, Saildrone’s unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) rely on wind for forward propulsion—the saildrone wing was born out of a 10-year pursuit of the land sailing record. High-quality weather data is essential to a successful mission. Our mission operators closely monitor conditions along the mission track to optimize the speed and safety of the fleet, similarly to how sailors leverage weather data to make navigational decisions to help keep their boats and crew safe and ultimately win races.
How wind forecasts work—and what makes a good one
Saildrone Forecast is the first forecast to combine conventional weather information with oceanographic and atmospheric data collected by saildrones to create a more robust weather forecast. To predict wind, Saildrone integrates coarse resolution models with local topography to create an ultra-high-definition forecast.
Standard resolution weather forecasts provide city-by-city predictions. In a growing number of select cities—including San Francisco, the Solent, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York, Annapolis, London, and Palma de Mallorca—Saildrone Forecast provides ultra-high-definition weather information to a scale of 200 meters. Off the water, this equates to approximately a block-by-block scale.
The beauty of San Francisco Bay is created by the mountains and valleys that surround it. Looking at a wind animation of a typical summer day in the Bay, Saildrone Forecast reveals not only the areas with the most wind but the unique wind shadows created by each land feature.
A good weather forecast accurately predicts the event—wind, temperature, clouds, precipitation—and the time it will occur. When it comes to wind, predicting the event includes wind speed, direction, gusts, and shadows. But that information is of little use if the event is predicted even a couple of hours early or late.
San Francisco-based pro sailor Will Paxton says racing or cruising, sailing is about planning ahead. “If you’re racing, you want to know a couple of days in advance how many crew you need, what gear to wear, and how many sails to take. If you’re cruising, you want to know if you should hide behind Angel Island for protection from the strongest breeze or cruise out into the main bay for a little more wind. Planning ahead, in detail, is the secret to sailing success. Having a weather forecast you can rely on is critical.” Paxton has won numerous regattas up and down the West Coast and across the Pacific to Hawaii, in boats large and small.
The creators of Sail Tactics, a hyper-local weather forecasting service developed specifically for sailors, joined the Saildrone team to work together on marine weather forecasting projects. The Sail Tactics service was rolled into Saildrone Forecast to offer the same trusted tools to water enthusiasts around the world. In addition to ultra-high-definition wind and tide forecasts for popular sailing regions, Saildrone Forecast also offers a global weather forecast, temperature, precipitation, and cloud conditions, the option to combine multiple conditions into a single view, map animations, and more. Standard resolution global weather forecasts are also available in the Saildrone Forecast iOS and web apps.
“What makes Saildrone Forecast superior to other available sailing weather apps is that it’s updated on a day-to-day basis with fresh high-definition forecasts available each morning,” explained Paxton.
Get the most out of Saildrone Forecast
Access HD layers
To access key map layers, like ultra-high-definition wind or currents, tap on the “Map” button or layer shortcuts (rain & snow, temperature, wind, current, and cloud icons). Toggle these layers to show the global and standard definition forecasts with the local ultra-high-definition forecasts on top. Press and hold the wind and currents layers to customize transparency and color range or choose between representing flow/direction as particles, wind barbs, or vector arrows (for currents).
Long-press to customize settings
Press and hold on any of the layer shortcuts to customize its settings—layer transparency, color range, particles, vector arrows, or barbs.
Precision pin mode
When you expose the map, you’ll notice crosshairs appear in the center of the screen. Touch and drag the map across your racecourse. Speed and direction will appear below the legend to reveal the best pockets of pressure to factor into your race strategy.
Saving favorite places
Tap on the map to precisely select key locations on the course. A box will pop up with current conditions. Tap “Go” to see a detailed forecast for that location. To save to your favorites, tap the star icon and create a custom name for that location. Swipe left on the forecast panel to easily hop between favorites and quickly compare conditions. This can be your different racecourses, your favorite racecourse, hotel, and home, or any combination of places you care most about.
Zoom in on a key area on the map and tap the layer shortcut a second time to enable Local Colors, which is the equivalent of the web app’s relative legend. Local Colors re-maps the color range to the range of values for the area of the map you’re looking at, instead of the global range. This will highlight the areas of highest pressure, so you can find even the slightest advantage over other boats in your fleet.
At Saildrone, sailing and ocean exploration is at the core of who we are and what we do. Our team is comprised of lifelong sailors, including founder and CEO Richard Jenkins and advisory board member and renowned navigator Stan Honey. Many of us are out on the water every weekend racing and cruising, windsurfing, or kiteboarding across the San Francisco Bay and beyond. Non-sailors might be satisfied to know if it’s going to be windy or not, but experienced wind and watersport enthusiasts can take our information and integrate it into a winning race plan.
Ultra HD weather forecasts are currently supported on iOS devices. Access to UHD weather on Android devices and on the web is coming soon.
Saildrone designs, manufactures and operates a global fleet of wind and solar powered ocean drones, providing in-situ data collection services, global ocean data sets and enhanced weather forecast applications.