Abersoch has long been a popular race venue with many dinghy and small keelboat classes. Situated at the end of the North Wales peninsular, Abersoch offers great racing water with good facilities ashore, and excellent race management afloat. Access to the venue has greatly improved over the years, with the A55 dual carriageway now open all the way to Bangor from the M56. Accommodation in the area is good, with plenty of caravanning and camping in the area if required. The club facilities are great, and during a recent national championships, the hospitality of the members was terrific. Abersoch is another one of our most popular race areas for national events, book early so as not to be disappointed!!
Situated east-north-east of the town, the race area is exposed to the eastern wind sector, and protected from both the west and the north.
330-040 degrees: With the wind in this sector it generally pays to go left up the beat for the wind, as this is the convergence wind sector, so there’s more velocity on the left-hand side of the beat. There tends to be headers as you go in on starboard tack, with lifts on port as you come across, on or near the port layline.
040-160 degrees: This is the clear wind sector, when the wind comes from anywhere in this area it will give the roughest sea state. It goes without saying that the more wind there is, the rougher it is - as with any onshore wind. One other thing worth mentioning is that when you are standing on a leeward shore facing the wind, you will be feeling more velocity than there is at sea. Likewise, when standing on a weather shore there is more velocity at sea than there appears. When the wind is in this sector, it is at its most stable in both direction and velocity.
160-180 degrees: The wind in this direction is now almost parallel with the shoreline. This shore is a divergence zone, so there is more wind velocity left-of-middle on the beat. There may also be effects blowing downwind from the offshore islands. These can create mini-bands of convergence and divergence off the different sides of the island - but if you can pick them out from such small islands, you’ve done well! There is another complication which could affect your strategy - tide, which we will take a look at later.
180-250 degrees: With the wind in the south-west sector it normally pays to go right, even though there may be less wind on the right due to the divergence zone. I’ve found that there is a lot of starboard tack lifts off the relatively high shoreline. It may even pay to go right when the tide is favourable, as the starboard tack lifts inshore are often better than the stronger tide offshore.
250-330 degrees: This is the shifty sector. There are some significant shifts now coming off the higher ground. It’s crucial to know the numbers on your compass, or ensure that you have some good reference points on the shore for both tacks. Use the shifts up the beat, but only the larger ones (especially in heavier displacement boats), otherwise you will end up doing too many tacks. When approaching the windward mark with the mean wind coming from 280 to 290, look for the wind veering as it goes from the land to the sea and moving to the right.
The sea breeze potential is not so good, as the venue is on a peninsular. The land warming can attract a sea breeze from both the north and the south, canceling each other, so we end up with nothing. The best sea breeze is a west-north-westerly, and will only come if the mainland gets really warm, with towering cumulus clouds and a cool sea. This sea breeze is blowing onto, and being generated by, the main North Wales coastline to the east - so watch out for good sea breeze indicators for that coastline. Clear blue sky in the morning, with no wind or a light north-easterly, and the chances are that a good sea breeze will begin to fill in late morning to early afternoon. When they do fill in, they never reach any great strength, and they tend to veer as the afternoon gets older - if they last for more than a couple of hours. So protect the starboard side of the course mid-to-late afternoon. It normally pays to go right up the beat during the sea breeze.
The flood tide runs to the north, with the ebb running to the south, and it turns about one and a half hours before high water at Abersoch. If you look at a chart, you will see that as you progress to seaward, the sea bed shelves quite steeply. This has a significant effect on the strength of the tide. The tide is also accelerated between St. Tudwals Island and the mainland, both with the flood and the ebb. The weakest tide is closer to the shore in the shallower water. During your racing do not forget to allow for the tide on the laylines, especially when the wind direction is at right angles to the tidal direction.
Other Information Sources
1971 (large chart of North Wales coast)
Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlas Number NP256 (Irish Sea and Bristol Channel, no detail)
Tourist Information Office Abersoch, phone: 01758 712929
South Caernarnonshire Yacht Club website