Don’t Abuse Admiral Beaufort

Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort 1774-1857
Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort 1774-1857

I’m increasingly seeing gross misuse of the Beaufort scale. Here’s an example:

Last night the mid-fleet took a pounding as a depression passed to their north and they were blasted by its associated cold front. During this one of the most northerly boats…saw sustained winds in the low 40s and one gust of 59 knots (i.e. Force 11/violent storm on the Beaufort scale)…

A single 59 knot gust in a cold front does not constitute Beaufort Force 11 or even close.

The conditions described above are Force 9/strong gale. That’s a lot of wind, no doubt, although probably not that dangerous to a well found and handled yacht because the winds were short lived and so would not have built a really big sea.

Force 11 means steady winds of 55-63 knots and wave heights of 37-52 feet. The key point being that in a Force 11 storm the winds do not drop below 55 knots.

Force 9 is a fairly routine gale at sea for a well found yacht, Force 11 for any sustained period is a full survival storm—as bad, or possibly worse, than the ’79 Fastnet storm.

Let’s not abuse a good system that has served mariners well for over 200 years just to sound salty and tough.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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