Reading the sky

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Learn to navigateusing weather data

Bill Biewenga’s new CD-ROM helps sailors

interpret and use weather information

Learn to navigateusing weather data

Bill Biewenga’s new CD-ROM helps sailors

interpret and use weather information

For a seasoned offshore sailor and weather router like Bill Biewenga, understanding weather changes not only gives him a competitive edge in a race, it also helps keep him safe.

“So many accidents happen because sailors don’t always understand the weather that’s looming on the horizon,” says Biewenga, 57, of Newport, R.I. “Whether racing or cruising, safety on the water applies to everyone, just on different levels. Determining where you’re going and how you’re going to get there is a mystery to many people.”

To help sailors better interpret and use weather information, Biewenga developed the “Weather Routing Wizard,” an educational CD-ROM he says walks boaters step-by-step through the weather routing process, just as he has done over the years both for clients and his own racing campaigns.

“My objective is to help people acquire, interpret and apply weather information into whatever sailing project they have going,” he says.

Once a sailor chooses a sailing objective (offshore racing/cruising, round-the-buoy racing or coastal cruising), Biewenga says the Weather Routing Wizard will help him or her learn how to find the best sources for weather information, how to plot initial waypoints and alternate routes, and how to apply weather information while under way.

Some of the topics reviewed on the CD are how to determine weather averages along a route; how to determine a boat’s assets and liabilities (boat performance, on-board equipment, crew, etc.); how to read satellite images, wind direction and speed; and how to determine locations and characteristics of storms. For sailors under way, the Wizard goes over how to update forecasted weather conditions and how to use on-board instruments, like wind indicators and barographs. It also includes links to Web sites with real-time weather information.

“This CD puts necessary information at a sailor’s fingertips and tells him how to understand it,” Biewenga says. “At the end of the day, a sailor will be able to get on a boat and know more than just how the weather works; he’ll know how to navigate it safely and use it to his advantage.”

Biewenga has been sailing for more than 30 years and says he has logged more than 350,000 miles at sea. He has participated in four Whitbread Round the World races, several Transpacs and has made 27 trans-Atlantic crossings. In 1986 Biewenga served as project manager, alternate skipper and weather router for skipper Warren Luhrs aboard Thursday’s Child in the BOC Challenge single-handed race around the world.

With nearly 20 years of weather routing experience, Biewenga co-founded Bob Rice’s Weather Window Inc., a sports and special events weather consulting firm, and speaks at seminars all over the country about understanding weather and applying that knowledge to sailing.

In addition to the Weather Routing Wizard, Biewenga also recently published his first book, “Weather for Sailors” (North U., 2004), and helped create an instructional CD-ROM as a companion to the book.

The Weather Routing Wizard sells for $40 and can be purchased online, along with the book and other products, at www.wxadvantage.com/shop.