Atlantic crossing: When’s the best time to go?

When it comes to an Atlantic crossing there are clearly defined weather windows. But how flexible can you be and what challenges are you like to face? Weather Guru Chris Tibbs reports.

An Atlantic crossing or Atlantic circuit has often been seen as a year-long adventure, crossing the ocean in late November or December to the Caribbean, with a return to Europe starting in May.

There are good reasons for this timetable, the overriding one being the hurricane season. This runs from the beginning of June through to the end of November. Hurricanes can happen outside of the ‘official season’, but they are rare – although the last few years have all seen named storms in May.

By departing towards the end of November, with the bulk of the crossing in December, we maximise the Caribbean season, often coming back to Europe after Antigua Race Week in May.

The Caribbean winter season now begins with two major events starting in January; the RORC Transatlantic Race, and for this year an additional January departure for the ARC. Both are scheduled to depart early January from Lanzarote and Gran Canaria respectively.

Not much to split them? Using reanalysis data and routing software the routes in green show late November departures and those in red January

Interestingly, for the actual crossing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean, statistics show that the wind tends to become stronger as we get into January and February – so there may be some truth in the Christmas trade winds that we hear about starting to blow around Christmas and lasting well into the following months.

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