Sarasota Sailing Squadron
Description of the venue and local racing advice
The Sarasota Sailing Squadron was founded as a nonprofit organization by interested residents of the City of Sarasota for the purpose of promoting sailing.
The Squadron actually grew out of the youth sailing program of the Sarasota Yacht Club in the late 1930s, and was established by young adults who could not afford the higher dues of the yacht club. It was disbanded during World War II, but was reorganized under the auspices of the YMCA in 1946. It obtained its own charter in 1947.
The Squadron draws its membership from all strata of Sarasota society and from other states and Canada. Since its inception, the Squadron has been dedicated to the promotion of recreational sailing, racing, cruising, sailing instruction, boating safety and youth sailing instruction. Until 1958 its club meetings were held at City Hall, in the commission chamber, and its sailing activities were centered around the old city pier.
Walking into Sarasota Sailing Squadron, you get the feel that you are back in old Florida. Sitting outside under the shade of a tall tree & looking at the blue-green water on the other side of the shell drive its easy to forget that the high rise condos and tourist filled beaches are on the other end of the key bridge. The Sarsota Sailing Squadron hosts several events each year including the Flying Scot Midwinters every other year....
What you won’t mistake is that you are in a volunteer club where the facilities are built and maintained through the hard work of the members rather than by assessment. Home to 100 moorings and a greater number of boats sailed off trailers, it’s home to both cruiser and racer. Across the parking lot is the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program that teaches sailing to kids year round & the home of several youth national champions.
Launching can be done using either our (1) hoist or 2 ramps.
The Squadron grounds are open daily from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Club hours during the regattas change depending on what events are occurring.
To reach the Squadron from I-75:
- Take the Fruitville Road exit (State Road 780) west until reaching US-41.
- Turn left, then right at the next light onto the John Ringling Causeway.
- As you cross the bridge, sailboats moored off the Squadron can be seen on your right.
- Proceed to St. Armands Circle, and bear right, taking the first outlet from the Circle.
- Proceed north, following the Mote Marine signs.
- Turn right onto Ken Thompson Parkway, just before the New Pass Bridge.
- The Squadron is located at the end of the road.
Both members and visitors are asked to park outside the Squadron Grounds during the events. There is ample parking on the circle and along the West fence. During major events the West gate will be open for easier access.
The racing area is north of the squadron in the widest part of Sarasota Bay and enjoys a number of advantages as a sailing venue. Protected by a long yet narrow island (Longboat Key) we enjoy sea breeze that is relatively unblocked with only a light chop. When sailing in the prevailing (March) Easterly, we enjoy flat water on a race course far enough from shore to minimize land impact. Northerly breezes, with a long shallow bay to the North of our sailing area, are the only winds that bring much chop.
The intercoastal runs along the east side of the bay, enabling proper race courses to be set without consideration for traffic (though Sarasota has no commercial traffic). Our biggest obstacle is on the way to and from the racing area, sailing around the sand bar that separates New Pass from the rest of the bay. Tidal range is about a foot but can run fast in the pass and will determine your route over or around the sand bar.
We will do our best to try and sail in the afternoon so to avoid any battle between the prevailing wind and any sea breeze trying to form. For those looking for the inside scoop on wind, You can
1) take the technical approach [http://www.windfinder.com/windstats/windstatistic_sarasota_bradenton_airport.htm] or
2) read tips from club elder Charlie Clifton [below].
Tips from Charlie Clifton (May 2008)
I’ll break this talk into two parts. One about wind in the bay and another about wind offshore since some of you will be sailing to Key West next week.
You should also remember two things. One, the wind is fickle and two, I might be wrong. You can be sure that sometimes I’ll be wrong.
In the bay, the wind is determined by a combination of weather system wind and sea breeze wind. The weather system wind is probably whatever was blowing the night before or in the early morning.
Transitions between weather system and sea breeze can be guessed at with better than 50-50 accuracy.
If the wind is out of the east in the morning and is not strong enough to last through the afternoon and the land is going to heat up more than the Gulf temperature, the direction will switch around to the western hemisphere. If the wind starts out south of east it will swing right. If it starts out north of ENE it should swing left. It may also completely die before it fills in from the west. If it does this, there shouldn’t be a race until it comes from the west.
This information should only be used to get a general idea of where to look for a persistent shift. Usually the breeze will work its’ way around in an oscillating manner. That means there will be shifts back to the direction from where it began before it once again swings further to the direction toward which it is working. Courses on Sarasota Bay are short enough so that a 4 minute shift from the left, even if the wind is generally moving right, will give a boat enough time to get across the fleet and jump out to a lead.
Therefore, in the bay, you are going to gain almost all the time if you are in phase. This means sailing on the lifted tack and tacking on the headers. Use your determination of which way the wind is swinging to favor the side you are going to work.
It’s also important to look up the course and try to determine from where and with what pressure the wind is coming in. Often it will alternate from side to side. You can use other boats up the course and black ripples moving on the water to give you some clues.
This is critical when the easterly is strong enough to hold on throughout the day. As the day goes on and the land heats up, the easterly will oscillate more and more radically. 40° shifts with enormous pressure differences are likely. Getting to the next big puff shift will launch the first boat there. Put a couple of them together and it’s a horizon job.
Southerlies are tough. Often there is better pressure on the left where the wind has a longer run to flow over the bay. However, as you get close to E, the pressure diminishes behind City Island and sharp righties can filter in from New Pass. Keep your head out of the boat and look for those ripples building across the water.
Once the wind goes around to the west, the oscillations should be less radical but they will still be there. Staying in phase is important.
If the wind comes in southwest you should be going to F, stay in phase but look for lefty puffs coming from the vicinity of E.
If the wind is from the west, stay in phase but keep a look out for the wind to go further right especially if it shows signs of building. Absent weather system change, if the sea breeze is going to ripen into full blown 15-18 knot conditions it will be from 310°. If this is the case, the wind will still oscillate as it works it’s way from 270 to 310. There will be a few lefties but you had better be generally working right. If the breeze is not definitely building, be sure to look for puffs from the mangroves to the left of F
The classic 310 sea breeze direction has some local idiosyncrasies on Sarasota Bay. Leaving from I, there will often be lefties over toward Longboat early. Go there carefully because there is great danger from boats on the right. From just below H all the way up, righties often blow in from the Bayshore Gardens direction. I almost always approach H, 15, 16, and J from the right. J is the trickiest of these because it often gets very shifty with large velocity differentials in the cove off the Moorings entrance.
Friday nights are a little different because instead of transitioning from weather system to sea breeze direction, the wind is going from sea breeze to weather system. Sailing on Quantum Leap years ago, with Dave Olson and John Steele, we came up with a mantra we lived by, “Right at night”. It worked great that whole year. The wind was almost always 310 and brisk that whole year. Since then I’ve added some qualifications to that rule.
- There may be some lefties coming off Longboat and if the breeze is not strong enough, the Bayshore Gardens righty may not make it down onto the course. In that case, boats in the middle of the bay will cross you.
- If you are going to H and the righty comes in, you’ve overstood if you go past the Fishing Reef piling.
- If you are going to J, you have a better chance of getting the righty but it is very easy to overstand so don’t go to far. It can come in huge at times.
- The weaker and the further left of 310 the breeze , the less you count on the Bayshore Gardens righty.
- Earlier in the evening, count less on that righty. Later in the evening, count more on the righty.