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Episode 20: Roger "Clouds" Badham Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks, welcome to another Ocean Sailing Podcast episode. Thanks Roger for appearing on the Ocean Sailing Podcast. So I read a bit about your background. So you spent 10 years at university, which is a bloody long time studying meteorology and you did a PhD and you’ve now spent I guess more than 40 years as a meteorologist and most of the time in the marine side of meteorology and you’ve been known for a long time, from what I can gather, as clouds in the yachting world and it’s amazing how your name pops up all over the place. 

Now, I haven’t done a lot of racing but even in the short time I’ve been racing, it’s popped up a few times and I read on the New Zealand yachting site, late last year where you were awarded an award for weather forecasting seven system yachting at the Volvo Yachting Excellent awards that you’ve been a forecaster for nine America’s Cups, seven Olympic games, 30 around the world races, Callisto Yacht races and Regattas, 35 Sydney to Hobart races and I’ve read somewhere else, more than 500 Tasman crossings. You’ve got an incredible background in meteorology. 

Roger Badham: Yes, yeah, time I’ve got out, isn’t it? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well when you start adding up the numbers, you must be passionate about it because you’ve had an… 

Roger Badham: The passion’s wearing out I think. I’m getting tired of it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: After half a century, it’s a long time. 

Roger Badham: Just flat out at the moment just doing Rio with the New Zealand team. That’s taking up all my nights at the moment, from six until 10 o’clock at night just trying to get all those damn courses that have all over the place and they’re all different. So that’s, that’s a challenge. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so how’s that going? Like that’s all an online and research base now with your weather forecasting and modelling tools? Is that, right?

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah. I’ve got some good models for there. It’s, I mean this is the fourth year now. I did four Olympics with Australia, in ’96 until 2000 and now this is the fourth one from New Zealand. I went to a few them and then the last one in England I did from the outside and this one I’m doing up in the galleria and I’m doing a bit of — yeah, I mean, it just gives a team sort of continuity because I do all their forecasting no matter where they sail around the world. So you know, particularly in Europe, you know, they’re there all summer, European summer. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yep. 

Roger Badham: And no matter where they are, be it in Weymouth or in France or in Spain or Italy or wherever they are, I do their daily forecast so they have the same person doing the forecast or what time and they’ve been in Rio. This will be their fourth year in Rio and so yeah, it’s continuity. They know what they get with me, they know sort of how much to use. Like last night when it was blowing there was a front going through in Rio. 

A lot of wind and then rain coming with no wind underneath it. You know, I tell them in the end it’s a nice having a boat day. They can’t rely on the forecast because it’s going to go from everything to nothing and they’ve just, you know, you give them a full background and you’ve given as good a forecast as you can but in the end it’s them and I mean in the Olympics, that’s changed a lot in the Olympic side of it. Eight Olympic games I’ve been involved in where, you’re fooling yourself if you think that you’re winning a medal, you know. All you’re doing is just you’re getting a little bit of psychological comfort and you’re doing the best you can. It should be more an education process than it is, the forecasting process. You’re trying to explain why the win is doing what it’s doing and the A-symmetry of the course, weather sailing and whatever and that’s why it’s difficult in Rio, because it’s just quite a diverse set of courses, well inside to well outside. 

The bay breeze, the sea breeze or the ocean breeze and the radiant breezes are all very different across the courses but they’ve been there enough now to understand those things and yeah, you give them a forecast on top of what they understand and what they know. So that’s what it’s about.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I read in the yachting overnight that the conditions are extremely changeable with big wind shifts and clearly wind that’s going to… 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah, I mean I haven’t gotten any feedback from them yet. They’re just coming in now but I haven’t seen how it was today. I mean I looked at the observations, but the reports are coming over the next day or two. And yeah, it would have been a difficult day on the water today for that sure because the, you know, any day when you got a front coming true with a lot of wind and then a lot of rain with no wind. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: That’s difficult you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and if you’re on the wrong side of a big shift, it’s just, it’s all over isn’t it? And they’re racing.

Roger Badham: Yeah and the courses are so short and there’s a lot of pressure to get the races done that they short course racing. It’s not like in the old days they were three-mile feats and you could do well by understanding the weather and you could, you know, get your leverage out to the left or the right or whatever. These new courses that are so short and the races are over so quickly, it’s a different ball game and it’s more about technical ability than sailing a boat and then putting a the weather on top of that. Although, not just the weather, the environment has it’s way in that current. You’ve got to put them all on top of that but the courses are short. Especially if they’re televising one of the course then of course they bang off no matter what they’re doing every course, and it’s just a bit of a dog’s breakfast in here. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s more and more made for television formula isn’t it? At all levels of yachting it seems. 

Roger Badham: Well, it’s the same in the cup you know? It’s lost the pure at the maturation you know of the America’s talents is exactly the same; it’s a spectacle now. It’s not necessarily pure sailing; it’s just a spectacle.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, well especially when you get some of the race tracks like New York where the cruising distance is just absolutely hopeless for racing. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, I was there in New York on the tone. Like no one sails in the Hudson River. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, no you land in plain sea right? But you do not sail in those kinds of currents. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, well that’s crazy. That’s all those days in the Liberty Cup; they’re not going to sail on the river. They’ll sail right in the corner where the breeze if crazy doing that you know but saw that today. It’s in the Liberty Cup, they were,, open sailing up river. They sail around the court. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: A little bit of breeze is going mini-prone sailing in the river with the breeze coming north of the buildings. It’s at,, a 150 buildings that are 150, a thousand stories high. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And the breeze, breeze is just every which way, you know? It’s just,, be getting gust and props and huge ships and it’s,, and those courses are so short again. You know, once again, it’s become a, it’s a, it’s a spectator sport not a sailing. If you were sailing sport. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well right. If you’re not off the start, cleaning around the first mark cleanly, it’s just, it’s,, harder and harder to play catch up and they see it and there are a lot of situations like New York which doesn’t really give you a you a fore race. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, I know over, over to say that the,, that that short course racing that needs, it needs strength audience to some extent and particularly the America’s Cup won., it’s almost random you know and there are some teams that are technically probably notice the boat and need down the bottom but even with the results that the rest of the teams, it’s, it’s almost, almost random. Everyone, has a turn up meeting and everyone of kind of loses because it’s so short and it’s so, surviving to, to just tiny, you know tiny little areas or,, or good luck could magnify into,, into you know, into a,, huge win or huge loss. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well especially the speed differentials. It’s not like its eight and a half knots versus nine knots anymore isn’t it? So, I don’t know. 

Roger Badham: No, no exactly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I’m reading your background that you first got involved in sail boat racing in 1977 with Iain Murray and aiding for the skiffs and then it was only six years later that you were,  you started providing weather advice to America’s Cup teams. How did all that I guess come about within Iain Murray and how did you, I guess, step so quickly into weather advice at that top level? 

Roger Badham: I sailed when I was young too. I sailed skiffs, but I’m an average sailor, not a top level sailor. I was with a colleague, we had a consulting company in the weather and stuff and one of the companies we had, one of the clients we had was with Channel 7 in Sydney and the then boss at the station, Ted Thomas who is still with us, he helped me out. I keep some good contact with Ted. He called me in one day and said that, “I’ve just signed this young guy up to sail skiffs.” And he said, “I don’t know how good he is”. 

Because in those days they had four rigs and it was the big rig actually, I think they went to nine knots with it. Then there was a second rig that went to about 14 or 15. The third rig went to the high 10’s and then the small rig was blowing. So I work with Iain the whole time he was in 18 footers and through to the 80’s. But my research work at university, I got my PhD and then I did post-doctoral work, was on low-level wind sheers and the way in which the boundary layer works. In fact, all of my research work was exactly the same sort of stuff but it was about performance, understanding the nature of the wind and the temperature profiles in the first 100 meters of the atmosphere. 

So it was about how sailboats have to sail in wind. So it’s very nature if I was involved in any sort of forecasting work, that I’d be involved in that sort of micro scale work and that was exactly what good sail boat racing is all about and the only people that can employ you for long periods of time in that sort of work doing that sort of level of work is America’s Cup. They’ve a long program that’s three year and they’re well funded. So it would be natural that that’s where I ended up really.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well in reading some comments from a previous interviews back here, you know, as they said in the early days for you, it was sort of jump between famine and feast in terms of work flows and income and I guess to that point, have you seeing that has what you do has become more mainstream at a grand prix level that your services are now required on retainer for long periods of time with things like the Olympics and with the America’s Cup and with the Volvo Ocean Race teams?

Roger Badham: Oh for sure. I mean, you know it’s changed so much and it’s changed so much because of the professionalism in the sport but it’s also changed because of the improvement in weather forecasting particularly because of the computer models. And, you know, it won’t be impacting ocean racing now in terms of Volvo’s and around the world type racing. The human element is very much going from it. I just lost my lasted world speed record when Kamenshi broke the Atlantic record. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right. 

Roger Badham: And I was talking to Stan the other day by email about the fact that he’d taken my last record and you know he said the same thing. I said, “The meteorologist is sort of being excused out of a job in terms of that sort of stuff.” And he’d said, “Oh, the navigators going the same way really.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Roger Badham: You know I mean when I started and certainly back in the sort of people that I worked with, you know Hammond’s and all those sorts of people, the old style navigators, they basically 95% of their time just figuring out where they were and 5% of the time thinking about where they should go to. And now, it’s the other way around and so things have changed hugely because of the improved, and particularly from my point of view, in terms of computer forecasting and that’s very much on a broad scale in the global sense. 

And it’s coming now, you know that the meso scale models are getting good but in terms of micro scale, in other words, the difference between the top and bottom of the course and the left and right of the course, the asymmetry of the course, the way in which the ships are moving on the course and they don’t generally go more down wind. They usually move some angle to the breeze. I’ve spent years in Valencia where the big shifts worked their way up the course and in San Francisco they used to come from the side of the course. So there’s still a lot of, you know, real meteorology work to be able to sustain in a short period of forecasting to forecast the next 30 minutes. 

And that’s all dominated by the human intervention but those days are, I think they’re probably numbered like all the meteorologists. The computer are just going to get better and better. So yeah, things are changing and they’re changing rapidly and during my forecasting period. I started with no computer forecasting and I’m ending with a huge amount of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well yes it’s probably, I guess if you’re going to map your career over any 50 year period if you look at the last three centuries is probably been, almost been the idea of timing hasn’t it? In terms of the evolution of what you do and to have been in high demand at this elite level of racing but where it starts to now becomes superseded to some degree by some of the automation and computing power that’s now putting stuff at the fingertips of cruising races in terms of what they can put in their cockpits with chart plotters and downloadable weather and all that kind of stuff. 

Roger Badham: That’s right. But I mean if you look at any of the typical ocean racing you know, which is you know a good ocean race around the Caribbean, the Caribbean 600 or the Fast net Race or the Hobart Race, they’re usually the order of five 600 miles long, which is these days you know, two days to three day even for a big boat or a medium size boat. There’s still a lot of human input that can be had there, and if you look at the last race that we just had, the Southport Race…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I was just thinking about that one. 

Roger Badham: …which is extremely light as they can be and you’ve got adverse current, but you’ve got the wind which is turning on and off. There’s a lot of manual input that you can do there and generally most of it and I used to have some classes where I’d go through some of the rules with the navigators about the distance between, the difference between sailing one mile, or another and one mile, half a mile off the beach, two miles off the beach, four miles off the beach, six miles, eight miles, 10 miles and the way in which the wind turns on and turns off. 

And I haven’t done that for a long time these days but that’s the sort of stuff I did in my PhD and then and it’s fundamental and most sailors just don’t know. So the sailors don’t know and the forecast has got nothing to do with that sort of stuff. The forecast is a blanket forecast and the computer models, yes, they’re getting better and better at that but they’re still probably at least 10 to 20 years away before the computer model is going to be that. 

You know when you get models down to a couple of hundred litre resolution then they’ll start showing all sorts of interesting things because it’s a function of the water temperature, which you can vary specially over the distance of hundreds of meters, let alone a kilometre. So yeah there’s still a lot of input that can be had there, but things will change there in the medium term.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well I have to say, I mean I use your services for the first time from a racing point of view for the Coffs to Southport Race in January. It was a, you know, 20 hour race and we followed the route and you know, we did extremely well. We followed the route, the weather was as predicted and we got a great result and then the contrast with the Sydney Gold Coast Race last week where you know it turned into a four day race for us. We followed the route for the first 24 hours. 

We were leading both of our IRC and IRC divisions. We thought we were heroes, and then we had no ability to adapt to all of the localised issues that were happening with breeze holes and we ended up back of the pack three days later and so, I mean to your point, I mean how, how do you equip your boat and your team with the ability to actually take what happens two days into it and start to adapt the route to the changing conditions at sea?

Roger Badham: Well, you’ve got to carry a meteorologist on board or a clever person that’s up with exactly the nature and how the wind is going or you’ll have the same result that most people have and that’s good luck and bad luck. They have the boat in the right place at the right time or at the wrong place at the wrong time and that’s the nature of yacht racing really. They, if you happen to get good luck, then its never good luck. It’s the skill of the navigator and particularly the helmsman and if you have bad luck then it’s just bad luck, you know, you’re down there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Not a lack of skills and a lack of knowledge. 

Roger Badham: Yes, so luck is blamed always for loosing but it’s never taken for winning because that’s skill. Funny thing about that When you think about that. That’s sort of the nature I guess. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: But that’s very true and I mean particularly you know in like if the breeze is solid and particularly if it’s on shore, you know you’re basically on shore and it’s a solid breeze then the models again would be very good. You know 24, 48 maybe 72 in advance and you can rely on them very well. But when it’s a fickle wind and it’s off shore and really soft and turns on and off, almost at the what seems to be random. They can be really random and you can get on a very weak little sea breezes and not so weak, that sort of racing, particularly going north up in New South Wales Coast. 

One of the most amazing races in the world, the same thing happens at the start of the Fastnet sometimes. We have to sail along the South Coast of England, and you have to make this decision whether you go into Lion Bay and Start Bay. You know, do you go into the bay; how far into the bay do you go? Or do you go out? Now you’ve got current but you know, then it’s extra distance. It’s, it’s exactly the same situation if you’ve got the light wings in a coastal, basically a coastal situation, there’s a huge amount of weather and understanding to put you know a good race together. And yeah, I mean that was over nine or ten Admiral’s Cups. It was great sailing on the South Coast of England.

But yeah, there were times where January blows your socks off and you don’t have to think much at all, often getting bashed and there are, you know, times there where it’s just like the last Southport Race where it’s the most breeze you’ll ever see is about 10 knots and mostly it’s under that and there’s huge decisions to be made virtually at every head land and every bay, “Where do I go?” And you’re trying to do it, the same strategies in place; you’re trying to race the fleet of course. But at the same time you’re racing the environment. 

And you’re trying to say, “Where are my best places to stay in the next three hours given that I want to satisfy my long term six, nine, 12 and 24 hour things?” So you can’t just pick the boat up and suddenly move it 80 knots off shore. Into port. You’ve got to blend them all together and know which is the down time to take, minimise the down time and maximise where you think of the breeze is going to be the best and it’s a difficult thing. I mean you, it’s with you against the environment and the environment is a, it’s a difficult game of chess. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, so and along those lines what on board technology or systems are boats using? I’ve read a bit about the expedition software but do you see common solutions off shore racing boats are using to try and blend that evolving weather pattern with their kind of initial weather routing plans and to adapt outside of onward observations. 

Roger Badham: No, I mean in any whether it’s an Expedition, which is you know probably the most commonly used routing system at the moment but that’s whether it’s there or some of the other ones the algorithms aren’t much different. It’s then the computer models, you know the forecast, wind models and current models that you put into it. But then it just comes down to the skill and the experience of the navigator and you get good navigators, you know that have a lot of hours under their belt and they have good sound knowledge. 

And I mean if you look at the top flight navigators that are used in Volvo Races or the ocean racing, you know the Will Oxley’s and the Wayne Veelers and these guys, they’re very experienced guys. I have worked with those guys over long periods of time and they have good knowledge and they do understand quite a degree of the way in which the environment works and the way in which the wind works. 

So they’re good and they’re full time guys, you know they are doing it all the time and they’re doing it all the time for the last 20 and 30 years. Now you can’t do that if you’re just on a boat that does three races a year and the rest of the time you’ve got a job selling cars or working in the bank. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yep. 

Roger Badham: So you know, it’s you know it’s a totally different situation, you know one’s a hobby and one’s a profession, really. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know in terms of what there is to learn. It really is quite vast. 

Roger Badham: Exactly. Yeah, yeah and this it’s the same in all the sailing. You know you’ve got whether it’s small boat sailing in the Olympics or whatever but they’re still basically professional sailors because that’s what they have been doing for the last four years or eight years or 12 years. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s that 10,000 hour concept, you know you do anything but 10,000 hours and it becomes intuitive but… 

Roger Badham: Well you should become good at it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. You… 

Roger Badham: You will but you should if you do it for that amount of time. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: If you do it well. That’s right, keep learning. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah exactly. That, that’s so true you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So I read, so I’ve read back in 2003 with Emirates and Team New Zealand, you had a six member weather team that you led and if you look at the work you’ve been doing recently in Bermuda in preparation for the next cup, how is what you’re doing now changed to even sort of 10 or 15 years ago from the America’s Cup point of view? 

Roger Badham: It’s back to where we started. It’s a team of one, which is me. If you go back in the Bondi days and it was a team of one and gradually it sort of built up from there. It became a — there was an arms race going on in terms of weather and it culminated probably in Auckland in 2003 where we had some big change on not just our team but in a number of all the top performing teams and you’re trying to cover all, you know, you are trying to really get into it. 

We, I mean, it was easy for us with Team New Zealand because I’ve grown local fellas and co-opted some around. But I had a good team, a bunch of guys there, both there and also in Valencia to some extent, young engineers, all good sailors and some good guys right there. [Grant Heft] was New Zealand’s best board catch, great pair of eyes in terms of understanding what’s happening but we used this, I mean in the old days, it would just be me on a little weather boat somewhere on the top of the course, the top mark or whatever and you’ve got to look at it every day.

When you go out, if it’s only me on a racetrack, you’ve got to look at the day that’s in question. Where do I place myself that’s best to report to the guys at the start for how they’re going to get leverage in the best in the first 20 minutes, you know as they work their way up to me? Should you be at the top mark, should you be outside the top mark, should you be inside the course? And that depends on the time of the day. 

Whether you should be, you know, all you’re trying to do is understand the asymmetry of the course again, in terms of wind speed, wind direction and how it’s likely to change over that 15 and 30 minute period. Where are my best positions to about to look at that asymmetry, observe it, and report on it and then do a short term forecast on it? And if you’ve got buoys or data around the course that can help, but in the old days, you didn’t have anything and these days there’s not a lot. 

So in between times we had a situation in Auckland where there were some buoys on the course and in Valencia there are a lot on the course and we had a number of weather boats, you know I’d be in the middle of the course and then I’d have a going out on the, where I wanted him on the right hand side and a guy out on the left hand side and maybe some way out the weather or whatever so that we can all then pool their information and you’re understanding exactly the symmetry of the course. But they’ve tried to cut down the, you know the arms race. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And so the weather teams are now much smaller and the game has changed hugely after the exit of mono hulls where I mean the Valencia was the last mono hull in America’s Cup and you know I had a big input into the race you know? I would call the side and call the way in which they started. You know, “Do you want a wide right? Or do you want to tight [inaudible]. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And that was a big input in terms of the nature of the race. The racing has now changed with the multi hulls. It’s more a spectacle. It’s a faster race, it’s often a shorter race and particularly shorter in term of the back of the boats are going a thousand miles and hour. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: You know they’re not just blade minds, they’re looking for 1,000 of a knot difference. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: Chugging out on start of tech you know trying to get some leverage out of the guy over the next 10 or 15 minutes and the 10 or 15 minutes they’ve gone down to the bottom mark and half way back up to the top mark again. So it’s changed a lot and weather is less important. You’ve still got to understand the race track and you’re still trying to, you know obviously hold better pressure particularly after the offset mark and you’re shooting down to the bottom mark.

You’re trying to hold the best line of pressure, whether you put in you know, one jive or three jives, but it’s a different game and in actual fact, probably the most important forecast that I was doing in San Francisco is actually setting a boat up but the night before for measuring, the tech that’s going to be used and the foils and was the bow sprit on or off for the code zero and all those sorts of things.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: You know that could win or lose a race. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And that will be the same in Bermuda, trying to get the forecast exactly right so that you go out and have the right racing gear on. You know you put the wrong tip on, especially if you’re in a light wind situation that’s only seven knots, you go out and you go out without it tip… 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: …or not. That’ll be a huge cause. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah but the windage become a factor, doesn’t it on those boats? Particularly in lighter breezes, the windage with what you put on and don’t put on is quite important.

Roger Badham: Yeah. So yeah, the game has changed, and I feel like a dinosaur. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s the benefit of looking back in your career isn’t it? As opposed to looking forward. I guess everyone gets that perspective at some point. 

Roger Badham: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So with, like with Bermuda, how much of like, you’ve recently been in Bermuda, how much of your research goes into sail planning and foil planning and planning for the boat based on conditions versus you building a, I guess a knowledge based of the winds that they are likely to have come race time in 12 months time and then how they configure the boats from how can they configure them versus the actual design work itself that goes into some of the variations that they do have the ability to vary? 

Roger Badham: Yeah I mean we’ve got a wind climate for the place and, and the boat is built around that and that’s pretty much set in concrete. I mean everyone in the design team pretty much understands what they’re designing to do. So it’s more than just understanding the racetrack and then in Bermuda it’s quite different than San Francisco. In San Francisco there’s only one racetrack and there was pretty much only one wind. 

But the wind wasn’t coming down the racecourse. It was caught in [inaudible], looking upwind as a result; it wasn’t quite on the hour with the course. So the current was always pretty much the same. With Bermuda there’s not much current but there’s at least seven different racecourses that they can have because the wind comes from…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Roger Badham: …every angle. But it’s predominantly south westerly, but it can also be westerly and northwest and north and northeast and east and south eastern. I mean there’s a lot of different wind angles and have a lot of different racecourses, and there’s certainly quite differences and I spend the two months just trying to understand the differences in the race courses. Clouds can be important there. More so than would seem in quite a number of America’s Cups, we can get cloud lines. 

Not on many days but a number of different wind angles. You can get cloud streaks but you know, you’ve enhanced lifting at some points. So yeah there’s a lot to learn there which I’ve sort of got the fundamentals now and you run a good model and yeah it’s just then a matter of calling it on the day but yeah, the biggest call of the night before and when you’re moving the boat really, and then just calling the race. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And do you feel positive about Bermuda as a venue with the differences to San Francisco? 

Roger Badham: Oh yeah, no I think in fact the venue will be pretty good and hopefully, I’m not overall too confident that the race courses will be truly into the breeze. You know in other words, they set them up so that they’re biased on the dock yard side of the course and they always try and finish up with the Friday, where the America’s Cup to base is again with the ability. 

So it tends to sort of buy us the course then so that it’s not what you could call pure, you know into the wind to the point that you’d like it. You know, if you had a true windward leeward it would be three miles… 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: …pointing directly up breeze because it’s in the sand and yet, you’re constrained by a bit of geography and a bit strained by whether they want to finish the course and you’re con by the offset mark and yeah there’s a number of limitations here and everywhere that the race committee have to get around but they’ll do it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. 

Roger Badham: Yeah it’s all, you can’t wish for anything. You work within the limitations that they’ve set you and that’s it. There’s no use belly aching about it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No. Well and speaking of limitations and class rules, do you see Bermuda being a, sort of an Even Stevens in terms of reasonably even opportunity for a number of teams to win versus 2013 where in towards the end of the cup, you know where their computer based stabilising system that magically appeared that sort of left a bad taste in a few mouths after pushing the class boundaries a bit far? Are we past that or is that just another typical check on the America’s Cup? 

Roger Badham: Yeah but hat’s just where they left off. So I mean therefore everyone gone that way now and it’s a whole new ball game. It’s a, in terms of the class, it’s well and truly out there. But yeah I think the teams that are sailing there all the time, that’s Oracle and Softbank and Artemis, they probably have a slight advantage because if they’ve been sailing there now a long time. Ben Ainsley’s team will be there shortly. I think that does play a little bit but not enough. It’s a first time boat. You know, I mean it’s a new class. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And no one is going to have the boat in the water until January next year, although they’ve had sort of, you know, surrogates in the 45’s. So the new class, they’re very, very complex boats with the hydraulics systems. They’re enormously complex. It’s just mind blogging, you know? So I can only presume that someone will have a better boat, you would think? Maybe more reliable because they’re extremely complex, and you’d think that someone would either, by design or by lack, come up with a boat that might be slightly better. 

But then that might only be slightly better in certain range of wind speed. So it will be interesting when you do get to true racing. It will come up pretty quickly. It’s not like, you know, you’d have a lot of time. There’s only four months basically between January and the end of April and come May when racing starts. So it’s not a long time. So yeah, it’s certainly going to be an interesting event, but yeah. Well, I’ll leave it at that I guess. We’ll just have to see. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yep. 

Roger Badham: Someone should have a better boat than someone else and I don’t know whether that will be through speed or reliability but through some factor and, I mean, yeah, the teams are all, there’s not many teams. But the sailors are all good enough, if they have a perfect reliable boat that was perfectly noted of the situation; they’re all good enough to win the event. That’s a bit like the Formula One Motor racing. Any of the top eight drivers would win if they were all driving a Mercedes car. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well that’s right. No skippers can win with a less reliable or slower boat can they? Regardless of how good the skipper is these days. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, no it’s generally the case with those boats in America’s Cup. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and so, I mean I read that, speaking of Formula One, that at one stage you were engaged by Ferrari, Ferrari’s Formula One racing team. You did some work for them. 

Roger Badham: I still do. I still do, I’ve done it for the last seven or eight years. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. So how does that differ from yachting? Because that’s… 

Roger Badham: Well, first of all, I don’t know anything about mother racing, so that is easy. I just do the weather. Although I’ve had to learn something over those eight years. But I was at the track for a year and a half with them and then since then after the GFC, the financial crisis, the Ferrari cut back on their things and I put my hand up and said, “Look, I can to most of this from being absent,” and they started their virtual garage in Maranello then so they could reduce the number of the people by the track. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And so I do it from off site. There’s a few probably a few races a year I’d like to be on site because you need your eyes, but the rest of the time I just do it with the data on the regular time network with them. So I can see all the data that’s going on in terms of weather data or whatever. So yeah I just do forecasts for them. Basically, looking at wind and wind is important at some situations. Temperature is important, track temperature is important, air temperature is important for the motor and of course rain. I’m trying to forecast the rain, the onset of rain. 

And about setting up from the day before, or X number of days out. But during the actual event, you know trying to forecast at 30 minutes in advance and then 20 minutes and trying to give them an actual time down to one or two minutes when the onset of rain will occur. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow and so I mean on one hand it’s great to be able to work from home and not travel as much but on the other hand, that must play havoc with your sleep patterns at times when you are helping provide advice for these northern hemisphere events. How does that all of that work? 

Roger Badham: Yeah, it’s a pain. The northern hemisphere, yeah, I mean from here and in Australia, America’s the worst one and like Rio. Yeah well it’s all right for Rio because you’re just setting them up and then they go out on course so that they’re doing it at night here and they go out on the course and sail, and you’re asleep. But the motor racing goes on all the four days. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, but that’s only a three day weekend. So it’s not too bad. The America’s are bad. I mean, when it’s in Europe. It’s only 6 o’clock at night until midnight usually. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and I read that on your website you provide services to racing, cruising, delivery sailors and working vessels. I mean how does a scope differ for each of those and where would you primarily spend your time?

Roger Badham: Just what’s in front of me. I have a book and I tick off what I have to do every day. So yeah, I mean I’ve got a few vessels that are looked after for many years as they move different places around the world. I do ocean tailored sometimes. I’m trying these days to do less exactly no more. But and people that are assisted, moving a lot of the racing yachts when they have to leave them, I look after them or just you know, bit boats there and sailing boats that move around the world. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: I do some of those. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so how do people find out about your services? If they’re listening to this podcast and they’re think about using your services to help them with a trans Tasman delivery or some weather routing for a multi-day race, what’s the best way for them to find out about your services or contact you? 

Roger Badham: I try not to advertise. I try to hide. So yeah, that’s what I do. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. They have to work really hard to find the details, okay. 

Roger Badham: Yeah. It’s just one of those things. I mean I always feel sorry for not the big guys but the small cruising guy. You know that wants to get from here to there, and they want to do it yesterday and they, it’s hard and then you’ve just got to say, “Look, you know, you can’t do it.” I had a guy in a multi hull, that’s when I was in Bermuda I think. And he was going from Brisbane to Nelson in New Zealand. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And it just wasn’t appropriate but he had a delivery skipper and the skipper just said, “I’m going to do it,” you know? So I just felt like I really had to send him a lot of information all the time because of he was in a situation that 99 people out of a hundred wouldn’t have done it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. Putting him in harm’s way unnecessarily. 

Roger Badham: Yeah. Yeah. He’s a tough guy. He did all right. So that was good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, I mean I first used your services in 2013 with sailing my boat from Auckland to the Gold Coast and a friend of mine, Greg Louis who had worked for Team New Zealand said, “I’ll get Clouds to help you with the weather routing,” and I’d never heard of weather routing and I’d never heard of anyone called Clouds and I think you gave me your e-mail address and I e-mailed you and asked for help and you said, “Yep this is what I’ll do,” and I said, “How do I pay you?” And you said, “Just send me a bag full of money if you make it.” 

Roger Badham: That’s right. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And I thought, “Oh, cash on delivery. I suppose that should give me some confidence other than pay upfront and good luck.” 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah. No arrival, no pay. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and you suggested, you strongly suggested that we wait three days. We were impatient to depart and we did and then we crossed and you routed us 400 nautical miles north of our track to go around on top of the storm and keep us in comfortable weather and it was a great crossing and so, you know, it’s from a technology research routing point of view, I’m recommend anybody use that kind of service or research to get from A to B because there’s no point putting yourselves through hard stuff and damaging your boat and injuring people if you can avoid it. 

And the irony is, I had some sleepless nights leading up to that trip. But we had five days of motoring or motor sailing due to lack of wind. It was almost an anticlimax the trip was so good. So there you go. 

Roger Badham: Yeah, yeah it’s a fine line but it’s good to balance it out, that’s for sure. It’s hard to get it perfect you know in terms of just getting at 5th but Peter Kurtz, the famous old sailor, though not that long ago, but he always use to, even when he was 80 he used to like to take his boat out and do a quick trip to Lord Howe and back. He’d give me a call and say, “Clouds I want a soldier’s breeze, you know? I want 15 to 18 knots just on the quarter just to get to Lord Howe and then back again.” But it’s not always that simple just to sort of order about, you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: And, and the bugger wouldn’t wait. He’d be very impatient but, yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: That guy, all those years he was in Admiral’s Cup teams long ago. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well I guess just one final question I guess I have for you, Roger. I read and article, it was published a few years ago now but I’ve said, at the time that it was published it said, “In the last 15 years of Hobart Races, Badham has provided forecasting for line honours and or handicap winners in 14 of those races.” I mean it’s, that’s a phenomenal feat. I mean how does it make you feel to see such results given the work you put into forecasting?

Roger Badham: Yeah but that’s not hard in the Hobart because everyone wants a forecast you know? I’m almost guaranteed the winner, because all the top navigators have used me somewhere around the world, you know in the last X number of years or whatever. So when they come in here, they all know to contact me so you tend to find that all the big boats, you know anyone that’s going to do Line Honours and most of the Handicap, not always, but sometimes the race is great and the Handicap is an S & S 34 or something.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yeah. 

Roger Badham: But most of it it’s not, you know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Roger Badham: Mostly it’s a, you know, it’s a TP 52 or some sort of crap boat you know in the middle of the fleet. Now remember Hobart is as peculiar race and the fact that it’s got the dual at the end and the weather basically dictates who’s going to win on handicap because, you know, you’re so dominated by arriving at Storm Bay at the right time of the day. If you arrive at Storm Bay at 9’clock at night…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: …then you’ve probably got another six or eight hours to get to Hobart. Whereas if you arrive at 9 o’clock in the morning or 11 o’clock in the morning, you can get there in three hours or four hours. And that’s a huge difference. So the handicap winner is very much determined by the timing and therefore the class can vary quite significantly. It’s not just the passage. It’s the last bit and so that makes it interesting but yeah, that lot in terms of Line Honours, most of the top 15 boats have all had something from me in terms of how to navigate Handicap then yeah, all the performance based boats would probably have something from me. 

So it’s a bit unfair but I don’t do as many of the, you know, I used to do a lot of fast knit stuff but I don’t do these, you know, I only do a few boats these days. But in the old days I used to do a lot of fast knits and in the old days there were Cape Town Rio races and you know, Caribbean 600’s and the Newport to Bermuda races and all those things. I just tend to do a bit less these days, which is good. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s probably good right?

Roger Badham: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s probably good to have a little bit of time to yourself?

Roger Badham: Oh, I don’t get much time for myself really. That’s one. I think this Cup will be my last one. I think I won’t do it anymore. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Well, thank you so much for putting aside an hour this morning Roger to talk to me. Thanks for squeezing me in between your Olympics work and your team New Zealand work. I really, really appreciate that. It’s been fascinating and it’s just reinforced to me that as little as I know there’s so much more to learn about weather and the more I do in terms of off shore racing, the more you realise it’s such a factor that if you don’t understand it then you’re just playing lady luck really in terms of your opportunities and your results. 

Roger Badham: Yep, yep and that’s why good navigators are, they’re so hard to find you know? Really good top flight navigators and or you know strategists. You know the really good technician or strategist on the boat. You know the — and there’s a few of these guys around. They’re really, they do have a really good understanding of the weather to some degree but if you scratch them hard enough, you’ll find that they don’t understand some things. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. 

Roger Badham: But they, you know, they have a good understanding but also they’ve got a huge amount of experience. You know they’ve been doing it for so long and that’s you know with good skippers you know John Kostecki is a great example you know? He just had great feeling for the breeze. You know he doesn’t understand it in terms of a scientist but he has a huge understanding in terms of the way that the breeze feels. And has a really good feel for how things would go. But that doesn’t mean that he’s very good looking just over the horizon, which is the navigator tactician. You know he’s trying to look just that three to six hours ahead, not just what’s happening now.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. 

Roger Badham: That’s the difference between a passage race and around the buoys a bit. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yeah absolutely. Okay, well thank you. Thanks for putting aside the time. I’m conscious your time is pretty precious so again thanks for taking the interview and for the Ocean Sailing Podcast site. 

Roger Badham: Okay, all right. Great to talk. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thank you and make sure you send me an invoice for the Sydney Gold Coast Race. 

Roger Badham: All right, will do. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, thanks Roger. Catch you later. 

Interviewer: David Hows