Sudden Wind Speed Changes 1

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What happened?

We were sailing in Cleveland on Sunday and wind was cranking (for here) about 20-25 all morning. Went out on my 9m for a bit and after coming in a big storm rolled through. Since we were already at the beach we decided to see if it would pass over. After about 20 minutes of rain the upwind sky started to clear and winds dropped to about 8mph which seems to happen after a thunder cell (usually it stays calm for the rest of the day after the storm). Since it was nice out and wind was steady we figured we would put up the 16m crossbow. After the lines were run out and pumped up I check the wind speed with the anemometer and it was right around 13 mph so we thought "great".

The wind might have picked up a little by the time I went to actually launch but nothing alarming. We moved to the edge of the wind window to launch and after he gave me the signal he was ready and the lines all looked in order I let go. About a half a second later he was running full speed and half a second after that he was 5 feet off the ground traveling fast. After about 75 feet (he body was now near me where I launched so he at least went the distance of his lines) he hit the water (about 2 feet, so not much cushion) pretty hard. I yelled at him to let go of the bar, it all happened so fast he still had it in his hands. At that point he got picked up again about 5 feet of the ground and traveled another 20 feet on the beach and landed hard again. He popped both quick releases and ditched the kite. I ran and flagged the kite and my brother went to check on him. He got up completely fine other than just being a little shaken up. There was no one down wind of us and no hard objects close by but the whole situation still had a serious potential for injury and spooked us all a little.

After that the wind continued to build and within about 45 minutes it was back up to 20.

What can we learn?

  • always have an eye on the weather, specially if the wind drops suddenly, then it suddenly can increase as well
  • check local forecasts, also for gusts. Normal wind sites do not forecast gusts, so you should check other websites as well, e.g. Weather Online
  • before you want to launch the kite, have a look upwind if you see stronger wind approaching you. See if whitecaps are suddenly moving towards you.
  • if you are the launch helper, do also check the conditions and make the kiter aware of a sudden change if you fee or see it.