"Undoubtedly," writes Alan Watts, "knowledge of the wind is the most neglected part of the spectrum of sailing knowledge." To remedy that situation, Watts has written a useful practical guide to wind forecasting, Instant Wind Forecasting, which can be applied to many areas in addition to sailing.
Instant Wind Forecasting is one of a series of books on weather and forecasting for the sailing enthusiast written by former meteorologist Watts, who has spent many years studying wind and other short-term, small-scale weather changes. This book and his Instant Weather Forecasting are companion volumes to Watt's The Weather Handbook. The two Instant books are practical "how-to" guides that allow the user/reader to look at current weather conditions and make a quick practical forecast using one of a series of charts.
Obviously, the focus of Instant Wind Forecasting is the forecasting of wind conditions from topographical information and visual clues. The material is aimed primarily at the sailor for use while sailing or planning to sail, but while his focus is mainly on the over-water and coastal environment, the material can easily be adapted for use to any other outdoor activity where knowledge of wind conditions is important.
Watts focuses his wind forecasts primarily on the small spatial scales, the microscale and the mesoscale, over time periods of a day down to tens of minutes. To do so, he provides his readers with useful rules of thumb and a series of developmental charts with which they can hone their personal skills. For example, by applying this information yacht racers or recreational sailors can improve tactical skills through enhancing their ability to "read" the wind.
Instant Wind Forecasting is not a book to sit and read through per say, but one to be skimmed and then used to develop local forecasting skills. It is the kind of book that will become well worn by those who need or want to know how the local wind regimes develop and change.
Watt does a good job in presenting the material and devising a series of charts that the reader/user can apply to the local situation. A few more, well-placed diagrams might have proved useful, but the biggest drawback to the book is likely not the author's fault but that of the publisher. I found the size and weight of the text font not only hard to read but very tiring, factors that often distracted me from the book's content. The font contrast with the page was way too dim for my old eyes. I can only imagine how the book would read on an unsteady boat.
Though Instant Wind Forecasting is intended for sailing/boating enthusiasts, it should find wide favour with anyone to whom wind is an important factor in their activities. I can well imagine a golfer studying his copy before tackling Pebble Beach or other coastal courses.
I'll place Instant Wind Forecasting along with Instant Weather Forecasting in my weather-watching kit. The two, along with a small-format cloud atlas/guide, would produce a much more useful "field guide" to weather than any of the so-named field guides on the market.
If wind and its character hold you interest through work or play, I recommend adding Instant Wind Forecasting to your library. It is a book to use and experience on your path to becoming weatherwise.
Keith C. Heidorn, PhD
THE WEATHER DOCTOR
May 1, 2002