Always take the weather (girl) with you

Sometimes it seems like we Brits love nothing more than a good natter about the weather – which is just as well, as there’s certainly been a lot of it about lately! Libby Greenhalgh, professional Meteorologist, talks weather and her role with the British Sailing Team…

Fortunately for me, although weather is a passion of mine, I myself managed to escape some of January’s more extreme conditions in the UK (my greenhouse took a battering though!) and headed off to warmer climes.

My role as the British Sailing Team’s Meteorologist has already taken me west this winter for training and events in Rio de Janeiro – venue for the next Olympic Games in 2016 – and Miami, where our sailors had their first ISAF Sailing World Cup competition of 2014.

Whether it’s scorching heat and humidity in Rio, or untimely rainstorms and a lack of wind in Miami that we’re faced with, our sport relies so much on weather conditions, and on knowing how they will impact on competition so the sailors can best prepare – in terms of their equipment set-up, tactics and decision-making – for whatever Mother Nature decides to throw down.

Clearly to do my job you need a sound knowledge of the weather (I previously worked for the Met Office) but sailing knowledge and particularly a reasonably high standard of racing experience also help you understand what the key weather changes for a racing sailor will be.

My role covers all the British Sailing Team’s weather and tide requirements from an education, research and forecasting perspective. We visit many different venues around the world for competition, and every one of them has its own unique characteristics in terms of winds patterns, tides and local features. It’s my job to try and build a picture of what those are, so that the British Sailing Team has the best possible understanding of the venue when the time comes to deliver those medal-winning performances that we’re so famous for!

Some sailors like windier weather, some like less wind. Forecasting is not a precise science, there is plenty of banter and sometimes it doesn’t quite go according to plan! It is probably one of the few jobs in the world where you can get it wrong and not lose your job! I like to think that when the forecast does go wrong there is generally a significant amount of uncertainty conveyed within the initial forecast of the day. That’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it!

A lot of my weather information comes from real time data and models via online sources, as well as general observations, but we also have some of our own monitoring equipment that we take around to venues with us. That’s what makes the I Love Meet and Greet service so great for the British Sailing Team – the ability to drop your vehicle off in such close proximity to the terminal when weighed down with hefty baggage makes such a difference, and the fact that we do it so often makes the whole travelling experience so much easier.

For me as someone who, not deliberately, seems to cut it fine when arriving at airports (current record is check in 27 minutes before flight departure!) the I Love Meet and Greet service has been just brilliant!

I Love Meet and Greet is an Official Supplier to the British Sailing Team, providing airport valet parking to sailors and staff for travel to international venues. Find out more about the British Sailing Team at or follow them on Twitter @BritishSailing.

By Sarah Anglim at 4 Mar 2014

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