December 9th, 2013

Predict Wind – New Sponsor

Island Cruising Welcome’s aboard PredictWind as a sponsor. logo

PredictWind is the premier provider of everything weather; forecasting, routing, wind maps, isobar maps, rain, cloud cover and the list goes on. We’ve been testing PredictWind during this years Pacific Circuit and All Points Rallies. Quite frankly it’s extraordinary, the level of accuracy and the confidence that gives when planning an ocean passage has to be seen to be believed.

About PredictWind

Borne out of the technology that would become an essential tool in the America’s Cup yacht racing arena, PredictWind, which is based in Auckland, New Zealand, makes impressively detailed and accurate wind prediction available to sailors around the world, at a reasonable price.


In 2000, PredictWind founder, New Zealander Jon Bilger, was hired to run the Alinghi weather team for the 2003 America’s Cup.


Working with CSIRO meteorologist Jack Katzfey, Jon Bilger conducted a period of intensive research into different weather modeling technologies, and CSIRO was selected to provide the foundational technology that would become the backbone of the weather program. Over the years the application of the technology was intensively tested and refined, and ultimately for the 2007 America’s Cup, its predictions were matched against actual observations, using the extensive weather buoy network of 23 buoys and 30 land based station made available for the event, and found to be impressively accurate.


The ability of the high resolution weather model to predict changes in the direction and speed of the wind proved the technology was a leap ahead of alternative weather models, and the challenge became to commercialize the technology for the wider recreational marine market.


Sailors around the world were hungry for detailed and accurate predictions of wind strength and direction. But a variety of free and low cost options were available, and the question was, would the market pay for the additional cost of a higher resolution and more accurate wind forecast.


When the website launched in 2008 as a no-cost service, it experienced rapid growth, gaining up to 1,000 new subscriptions on a busy weekend and hitting its first 10,000 users soon after launching. PredictWind turned to a pay-for-use model in 2008 and in 2010, its second year as a commercial enterprise, turnover was doubled, and it has nearly sustained this growth rate for the two years since.


Since its inception more than 50% of revenue has been invested in product development and computing power, enabling forecast tools that include weather routing, trip planning, boat tracking, live observations and forecast alerts.


Wind forecast maps and graphs and text are generated for 20,000 worldwide forecast locations and significant computing resources are required to run the model in this configuration, providing four forecasts a day for all the PredictWind locations around the world.


In February 2012 PredictWind launched its first specialist application for iPhones and Android Smartphones. The App offers the same features as the website and makes it more convenient to use a smartphone to view and use the data. Arguably the most advanced wind app available on the iPhone store, PredictWind enables users to not only view detailed forecasts down to a one or eight kilometer resolution for almost any popular location on the globe, but offers more advanced tools such as planning the fastest way between two points, avoiding high wind areas, and being alerted when ideal conditions are forecast, all from within the app itself, and for a reasonable monthly or annual fee. The app also uses the phone’s inbuilt GPS to provide a tracking service so that friends and family at home can view a boat’s progress online.


In 2011 PredictWind negotiated with the New Zealand government’s weather agency Metservice to supply all live weather observation data to its users and the company also supplies communication hardware to enable communication via cellular and satellite for coastal and offshore boating.


PredictWind has established a pilot weather station at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, which will soon be available for other yacht clubs and organisations to purchase. The station, which is situated near the start and finish line for most Waitemata Harbour racing, provides live wind temperature, barometric pressure information, in graphical format for the last 48 hours, and includes a webcam.


A subscription to PredictWind, which ranges from $19 to $499 per year, replaces the necessity for personalized meteorological forecasts that would otherwise run into the thousands for many users. In addition the PredictWind forecast tools such as weather routing, trip planning and alerts provide additional savings against conventional software products.


Island Cruising Association


PredictWind has recently become a sponsor of the Island Cruising Association. Although the service was originally marketed to the racing fraternity, now over half of Predictwind’s customers are cruising sailors. This cruising market has grown organically over the last 4 years, mainly via customer referrals.  By working closely with the Island Cruising Association, PredictWind are looking to improve the product, and give the Island Cruising Association members the best possible forecasting service.


About Jon Bilger

Jon Bilger is one of sailing’s quiet achievers. He represented New Zealand at the 1992 Olympic Games in the 470 class, and later undertook an ambitious campaign in the 49er Skiff. A mechanical engineer by training, Jon founded a marine software and navigation business that was later purchased by Raymarine. He joined Alinghi in 2000 as the manager behind the team’s intricate wind prediction systems for its 2003 and subsequent victories. Jon is providing his wind prediction and weather routing expertise to Team Telefonica in the 2011-2012 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.



How PredictWind predicts the wind

Weather observations sourced from tens of thousands of locations around the world via land stations, aircraft, shipping and satellites are submitted to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and compiled, by various agencies, into snapshots of the earth’s atmosphere, called Initial Conditions Files.


PredictWind uses Initial Conditions Files compiled by agencies in the US and Canada to enter into its computerized weather model, which processes the data and translates it into wind predictions. Providing two sources enables users to compare the two sets of results side by side, and gives confidence in the forecast.


Starting with a 60km resolution model forecasts (imagine dividing up the atmosphere into many 60kmx60km square regions), the model centers on a local area, commencing with these initial condition files and stepping forward in time to create a five day forecast.


For each 60kmx60km region, the model uses many complex equations to calculate all meteorological fields, such as wind, temperature, humidity, pressure, rain and their interaction.


This process is then repeated for the 8km model run, though it is “nudged” by the 60km model run. Finally the 1km resolution model is completed, which is “nudged” by the 8km model run.


This process is repeated automatically every 12 hours for both initial sources (i.e. four forecasts every day). There is no historical data involved, so each 12 hour forecast is independent from the previous.


The basis of PredictWind’s system has been developed over 25years by a team of research scientists, and has some unique features including a stretched grid. This stretched grid is the framework for the 60/8/1km resolution modelling. This enables the model to run without any boundaries, and is thus less constrained than other models that usually require significant damping. This sophisticated approach often reflects considerable variability in wind speed and direction, and is an advantage over other models.



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