Please select your home edition
Edition
Barz Optics - Melanin Lenses

Clipper Round the World - Simon Rowell loves weird weather phenomena

by Clipper Ventures on 10 Jun 2014
Simon Rowell Clipper 13-14 Round the World Yacht Race
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race meteorologist Simon Rowell (as opposed to Cowell) is a self-confessed geek and loves weird weather phenomena and always starts his day by checking his favourite websites, the Met Office’s Storm Tracker and then the US Navy’s weather site.

Simon has had a long association with the Clipper Race through his sailing career. He was the winning skipper of Jersey in the 2002-3 Clipper Race, led training for the Clipper 68s and was Assistant Race Director from 2004 until 2007.

As his sailing career progressed, Simon became increasingly interested in the elements and went back to university in 2009 to study meteorology, getting a Master’s degree from the University of Reading.

Now, he provides the daily weather information to the 12 race skippers sending data and weather plots by email while studying for a PhD on how hurricanes form in the North Atlantic.

With the Clipper Race fleet starting its third and final Atlantic crossing, the man who plays an important role behind the scenes describes his job.

'The race allows me to study the elements in places where I would normally never get to look, such as the north coast of Papua New Guinea.

'I love observing weird weather such as water spouts off Papua New Guinea that the fleet experienced on Leg five. There is so much energy as it is that much hotter there which is why they occur. Henri Lloyd’s skipper (who was a meteorologist for the Canadian Olympic sailing team in the 2012 London Olympics) Eric Holden had a lot of excellent questions so I researched and asked colleagues at the University of Reading and learned from what they experienced.

'The 2013-14 skippers might not be professional meteorologists (apart from Eric) but they have seen a lot of weather and are good at interpreting it. The Southern Ocean gave the fleet a kicking on Leg three, but the North Pacific was not as bad as it has been in previous editions. The fleet suffered the longest ever Doldrums crossing on Leg one, Qingdao was struck by lightning in the Pacific Ocean and Great Britain endured a sea spout off Singapore.

'The skippers report back to me on what weather they get and if that doesn’t match with the forecast I have given, then I need to try and work out why.'

Simon adds that with modern forecasting techniques and equipment, you can have a much better idea of what’s going on round the world, and is one of the reasons why the Clipper Race can run safely as the fleet can be diverted away from potential hurricanes with around two to three days warning in order to get away from the worst of the weather. This has been particularly important on Legs five and seven.

Simon’s PhD studies have allowed him to indulge his geekiness. He has realised, for example, why the North Atlantic High is where it is and learnt more about the jet stream and the physics behind it.

Simon explains that North Atlantic hurricanes often develop from tropical waves, which are mid-level disturbances coming off the Sahara and West Africa about two to three miles up. This mid-level activity has a direct effect on surface weather.

The US National Hurricane Center in Miami has a vast database of hurricane data that Simon studies to increase his knowledge.

Simon provides the skippers with the day’s weather information but as he is also on the Clipper Race Committee it’s very important that he doesn’t give advice on what to do. The skippers can email questions and he can then give everyone the answer.

Simon’s favourite kind of weather to sail in is the Trade Winds, found on either side the Doldrums on the way to Brazil.

'It is good tropical weather in favourable winds - not too strong but warm and steady.

'When things go right and the hard work by the crew on the boat combines with a decent weather choice things can go really well - we got into New York about 24 hours ahead of everyone else in the 2003 Clipper Race because of that. Mind you, the flip side of that can really hurt, and when I managed to put us in the middle of the South Atlantic High after leaving Cape Town that really wasn't much good. From a meteorological point of view though that's quite difficult to do, so I take a certain perverse pride in that!'
A snapshot of Simon’s day.

6am Check the Met Office satellite images, including satellite photos and synopsis charts for the UK.

6.30am Check for tropical storms round the world on Storm Tracker.

7-8.30am Look at data, read reports and then create reports with the next day’s weather forecast.

8.30am Send reports to skippers.

9.00 Walk the dogs and look at the weather – often while being rained Clipper Round the World
North Technology - Southern SparsSchaefer 2016 Ratchet 300x250Kilwell - 1

Related Articles

Rio 2016 - The Qualification Games - Part 2
Yachting NZ's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is unprecedented Yachting New Zealand's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is without precedent. Subject to Appeal, the Kiwis have signaled that they will reject 30% of the positions gained in the ISAF World Sailing Championships in Santander in 2014.
Posted on 22 May
Gladwell's Line - World Sailing changes tack after IOC windshift
Over the past year, we've given the International Sailing Federation (now re-badged as World Sailing) a bit of stick Over the past year, we've given the International Sailing Federation (now re-badged as World Sailing) a bit of stick. Every blow well earned over issues such as the pollution at Rio, the Israeli exclusion abomination plus a few more. But now World Sailing is getting it right.
Posted on 21 May
Rio 2016 - The Qualification Games - Part 1
Antipodean selection shenanigans aside, the Qualification system for the Rio Olympics appears to be achieving its goals Antipodean selection shenanigans aside, the Qualification system for the Rio Olympics appears to be achieving goals set in the Olympic Commission report of 2010. Around 64 countries are expected to be represented in Rio de Janeiro in August. That is a slight increase on Qingdao and Weymouth, but more importantly a full regional qualification system is now in place
Posted on 19 May
Taming the beast-a conversation with Stuart Meurer of Parker Hannifin
While AC72 cats were fast, they difficult to control, so Oracle partnered with Parker Hannifin to innovate a better way. If you watched videos of the AC72s racing in the 34th America’s Cup (2013), you’re familiar with the mind-boggling speeds that are possible when wingsail-powered catamarans switch from displacement sailing to foiling mode. While foiling is fast, there’s no disguising the platform’s inherent instability. Now, Oracle Team USA has teamed up with Parker Hannifin to innovate a better way.
Posted on 18 May
From foiling Moths to Olympic starting lines-a Q&A with Bora Gulari
Bora Gulari’s is representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class, along with teammate Louisa Chafee. Bora Gulari (USA) has made a strong name for himself within high-performance sailing circles, with wins at the 2009 and 2013 Moth Worlds. In between, he broke the 30-knort barrier and was the 2009 US SAILING Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. His latest challenge is representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class as skipper, along with his teammate Louisa Chafee.
Posted on 12 May
Concern for Zika at Rio Olympics is now deadly serious
Alphabet soup is one description that has thus far not been used for either Guanabara Bay, Alphabet soup is one description that has thus far not been used for either Guanabara Bay, or the Rio Olympics. Many others have, and they were apt, but things have changed. So here now we have a situation where one man, Associate Professor Amir Attaran, who does have a more than decent string of letters after his name, is bringing nearly as many facts to bear as references at the article's end
Posted on 12 May
Zhik - The brand born of a notion, not its history
here is probably every reason that ocean rhymes with notion. Zhik’s tagline is officially marketed as Made For Water There is probably every reason that ocean rhymes with notion. Zhik’s tagline has been officially marketed as Made For Water, and this is precisely what the company has done for the last eight years before the succinct and apt strapline came from out of R&D and into mainstream visibility.
Posted on 8 May
Shape of next Volvo Ocean Race revealed at Southern Spars - Part 1
Southern Spars has been confirmed as the supplier of spars for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. In mid-April, Race Director, Jack Lloyd and Stopover Manager Richard Mason outlined the changes expected for the 40,000nm Race during a tour of Southern Spars 10,000sq metre specialist spar construction facility. A total of up to seven boats is expected to enter, but time is running out for the construction of any new boats.
Posted on 3 May
Sailing in the Olympics beyond 2016 - A double Olympic medalist's view
Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. Gold and Bronze medalist and multiple world boardsailing/windsurfer champion, Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. A key driver is the signalled intention by the International Olympic Committee to select a basket of events that will be contested.
Posted on 29 Apr
From Olympic flag to Olympic Gold and maybe another
The Sydney Olympics was a Sailing double 470 Gold event for Australia. Having won the 420 World Championship in 2000, the feeder class to the 470, while still at school in Australia young Matt Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Posted on 28 Apr