Banderas Bay is widely regarded one of the best small boat racing areas in the world. The reliable thermal winds, minimal waves, and proximity to facilities make it ideal for racing.
Generally, the racing season in Banderas Bay follows the months when the daily thermal is most consistent. Racing all year round is still good, but with lighter winds in summer months.
The racing area that is used by VYC is north of the Nuevo Vallarta harbor entrance. Courses are usually set close to shore. Water depths in the racing area range from 20 ft closest to the beach to as much as 60 ft, before the depth drops off to over 400 ft at approximately 2 nm from shore. The area of highest thermal winds is the area 2-3 miles from the Nuevo Vallarta entrance. The valley behind Bucerias funnels thermal winds as the inland areas heat during the afternoon. Normal times for the thermal are 12:30 – 5pm.
Currents in the bay are the result of offshore currents that come into the bay and form a large eddy around the edges, creating a 1-2 knot south-to-north current in the racing area. This current may change depending on the state of tide. Waves are a combination of ocean swell that generally comes from the WNW, and wind driven chop. On higher wind days, the swell and chop can combine to waves of around 1 m in the racing area.
Wind direction is typically between 200 and 260 degrees during the thermal, but will vary broadly in the summer. Offshore winds sufficient for racing are rare. There is sometimes a light offshore breeze in the morning, but it is short-lived and stops while the thermal develops.
During times of stronger offshore northerlies, an eddy effect will occur in the northeast corner of the bay as the northerly winds coming over the mountain mix with the thermal, coming from west. Inside this eddy area wind strengths will drop considerably.
For daily weather, we find that Predictwind does and excellent job of predicting daily winds, taking into account thermal flows.