Mistral conditions

The mistral features a lot in our lives down here in the Med so I thought I would take a little time to explain what drives it and why it has such an influence on our sailing.

Essentially it is simply a massively strong northerly wind that can reach up to 60 knots offshore.

The mistral is created (as with all wind) by a difference in pressure, typically when there is high pressure over the north of France and the UK then an area of relative low pressure forms close to Sardinia in the Med and a Northerly flow is established between these to areas.

This wind is then funnelled through the mountain ranges in France and Spain, which accelerates it and as it drops down to the Mediterranean coast, the result is a mountain chilled super charged wind, with crystal clear skies and bright sunshine.

In La Grande Motte we tend to be right on the edge of one of the areas of strong Mistral, hiding just under the lee of a mountain way off to the north. We can experience winds of 40 knots , with flat calm waters in shore but a lumpy tell tale horizon letting us know it’s a whole different ball game further out.

These flat conditions but windy conditions have to now been a great benefit to me as they have allowed me to go out and push the boats limits, in a flat but windy environment. I have learned how tough my little boat is and how much of my foolishness it will put up with.

However now, I am eagerly watching the Mistral for a different reason. Soon I shall make my 1000 mile qualifying solo passage for the transat and as the course will take me well offshore this is not a wind I want to meet.

mistral wind map

surface analysis for mistral conditions

Le mistral est arrivée

No sailing today.

Overnight the skies cleared, the temperature dropped and the wind started to blow down from the mountains.

A clear and crisp beautiful day unfolded with 30 knot winds from the North and the full power of the mistral arriving by lunch time; A dry and freezing mountain wind, howling down though the valleys and accelerating towards La grand motte to keep sailors in the harbour.

No great drama for me as my keel repair is not quite finished. I am suffering from the cold temperatures and my final coat of hi-build primer, to fill in the small cracks and holes and ready the bulb for antifouling, is struggling to dry in the low temperature.

The rest of the sailors also found plenty to do an enforced day off the water is never a wasted one, as most of us have a massive drive to sail ALL the time, yet boats need love and time spent repairing, preparing, optimising and just as valuable as training on the water.

I saw our team chiropractor last night and was signed off from any heavy exercise for a little while as my neck is still very sore from a bicycle accident I in the new year. I am now only allowed to run, but I cannot complain about this. My route is up a completely empty, endless sandy beach, watching either sunrise or sunset and normally sharing my space with no one.

Below are a few snapshots of the days activities – what sailors do when they cannot sail.