By Xavier Perrin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Looking at the sailing boat on the left picture, conditions look cool. Calm seas, sunny and just right windy weather. Weather looks quite predictable in the hours ahead. There is no major issue, just a calm and nice cruise. Thus, each mate can relax and enjoy the sun. Now, if we look at the picture on the right, things look totally differently. It’s also a sailing boat, but this one is a racing yacht. No doubt that this crew is willing to win. Conditions look not so nice. Seas are rough, wind gusts can hit the sheets at any time and waves are also unpredictable. Local conditions are unpredictable in the very-short range and make maneuvers critical and difficult. In such conditions, the crew must be totally focused and, above all, fully synchronized: the slightest mistake during a maneuver could capsize the boat.
Overcoming unpredictable conditions is easier when the crew and the boat are well trained and prepared, and, moreover, when the crew is acting synchronously. Winning a race is at first a question of planning! The crew doesn’t know which conditions it will be facing during a particular stage of the race. But they are trained to act in every condition and, when the time comes, each mate knows what s/he should do in coordination with her/his team mates. Paradoxically, in the case of the boat on the left picture, where conditions are more predictable, the need for coordination is lower, and planning is easier: if weather forecasts are bad, the (wise) decision which is generally taken is not to leave the wharf!
Thus, we need forecasts for planning, more specifically for synchronizing decisions. And, obviously, the closest to reality they are, the better it is.
However, we have to consider the value of striving to reduce forecast errors. In the case of regatta, we do not strive to forecast the strength of gusts or the height of waves with the better accuracy. Rather, we prepare the crew and the boat to overcome likely values with a reasonable margin of error. But the greatest effort is for preparing consistently the boat and the crew (For example, not overloading the boat with sheets that will likely not be used), and, above all, training and practicing for rapid, fluid and synchronized maneuvers.