North Sails LOFT NEWS
CORPUS CHRISTI BAY IN LATE JUNE
Local Knowledge by Mark Foster
For the past 50 years, Mark Foster has raced and sailed in Corpus Christi, the location of the 2019 Etchells World Championship. Here are some of his experiences with the wind, waves and current patterns that normally occur during a June afternoon.
The sea breeze will be fairly consistent with small shifts. The pressure will build from the left side of the course. The normal SE sea breeze develops with the heating of the land and takes about 10 degrees of temperature differential to develop. Bay water in late June should be in the mid 80s. The sea breeze can start as far left as 90 degrees and as far right as 170 degrees, but it usually settles in around 125 to 140 and then builds to 15 to 18 knots, gusting to 20.
Pull out a bay chart and locate the Nueces Bay Causeway, the long low bridge with a small hump in it that you’ll see when sailing out of the gap. Looking upwind, the wind will build faster on the left side of the course, because it can blow over the causeway rather than into the downtown buildings. So, while the general consensus is to go right, it can pay to work the left side of the course as the winds builds from 8 to 15.
The wave pattern is consistent across the course. The bay averages 10 to 14 feet deep. With the SE breeze, the waves have 8 to 10 miles of fetch before they reach the race course. Big waves come in sets of three, and you are advised to try and avoid them at all cost. Going upwind, starboard tack is more into the waves and port tack is more across the waves. Set your sail trim for each tack. In general, you will find that port tack is faster than starboard.
What is the best way to sail around the waves upwind? My advice is to steer “downhill” by keeping the bow pointing to the next low spot, so that the boat is going downhill as often as possible.
The sea breeze will set up a wind-driven current that flows northwest towards the Harbor Bridge and returns up the bay inside Alta Vista reef. The current is consistent across the course and usually does not exceed ½ knot; it should not be a factor in the racing. The Alta Vista reef runs parallel to the shore, approximately ½ mile off the bay front, with two markers noted on the bay chart: Number 1 is a buoy on the north end and Number 3 is a piling with a day marker on the south end. The race course will be set outside the reef.
Hopefully this gives you some insight to the local sailing conditions in Corpus Christi.