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.