Sailing and the weather

Mary Rook

As the cauldron is extinguished at the end of the Olympic Games, it probably also signifies the last time most people think of the Olympics for the next four years. But for Team GB's future Olympians, the hard work continues.

One rising star who is hoping to represent Great Britain next time around in Rio is Mary Rook.

Twenty-six year old Mary grew up on a Somerset farm with a pet lamb and a love for the outdoors.

"My parents love sailing and taught me to sail in Lyme Regis where I made some great friends...then [I] went on to compete nationally and everything went from there!

I love being outdoors, and on the open water it's liberating, with no roads or restrictions to hold you back. And I love seeing the weather and watching the clouds and seeing their effects on the wind. Sailing has taken me to some of the most beautiful parts of the world and I have made so many amazing friends. I can't imagine life without it."

The hard work for the next Olympics has already begun

Mary hasn't been resting on her laurels despite having just missed out on selection for the London games. A win in New England at the 2011 World championships and a strong performance in the European Open Championships have only helped fuel her passion for 2016.

"I just missed out on selection or the 2012 games so I have been training hard since that point in the new boats for the 2016 Olympics. Beyond that I would love to do the Volvo Ocean race sailing all the way around the world."

"We will then train and compete in a world cup tour against all the nations throughout the year and will be trying to achieve some good world championship positions in order to put me on the steps towards Olympic selection. Finally, in 2016 one team will be selected to represent Great Britain and I will do everything possible to be that person!"

No other sport relies so heavily on the weather being just right

Knowing how to tame Mother Nature and harness the power of the wind makes the difference between a sailor and a champion. Meteorologists in their own right, professional sailors use the changing atmosphere around them to forecast the weather ahead of and during a race.

"Wind is the engine for a sailor so it's very important! We use the changes in the wind to gain a tactical advantage over our competition. The things we use include wind strength and direction and if there are changes [knowing] when exactly they will happen - so fronts that come over or heating thermal effects. Also the effects the land around the sailing area has on the wind."

Accurate information from trusted sources

Mary uses data from the Met Office's Marine Automatic Weather Station (MAWS) network. This network of buoys scattered around the British Isles records wind speed, temperature and wave height, to name just a few of the data sets that feed back into the core weather models.

Getting an accurate forecast is crucial to a good day at sea.

"The conditions really determine how you sail - so when it's light winds you have to be gentle and persuasive with the boat, the wind shifts and small changes in wind speed are really important. Lighter more agile teams often win races! When it's windy it's best to be heavy and strong and you have to dominate the's all about going fast in the right direction so the big weather changes are more important."

Mary's got four years to prepare her medal-winning tactics so training is her focus for some time to come. So what's she looking for from the British weather in the meantime?

"We generally sail in winds from 4-30 knots and so have to practice in all types, directions and sea states! But my favourite is a windy 20 knots from the sea (a southerly on the UK south coast) with big waves that have built up in the Atlantic to play on!" Not your average beach-goer's idea of great weather but when you're a competitive sailor your priority is, understandably, wind not warmth.

Last updated: 17 September 2012

Ideal weather conditions for sailing
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