estimate 6 nautical milesToday was force 5/6 dropping to 4/5 while we were sailing, and one of the 470 helms warned us before we went out that the waves were approx 1 metre and choppy.
I have sailed in these conditions before about 2 or 3 times in the last couple of years. When I say choppy the distance between waves is between 7 and 10 metres and the waves are steep. It's fun sailing as the Wayfarer crashes over the waves. Yesterday Raed, my crew, spent his time laughing and enjoying the water splashing up over the foredeck like a white water ride at a water park.
The 7 to 10 metres between waves may be longer than that, it's difficult for me to estimate when I am sailing. But it's probably not very much more as you feel like you only have a second or two before the next wave is upon you. We sail in Larnaka bay and these conditions occur when we have waves rolling in from the south then hitting the shallow water of the bay and steepening up. Closer in to the land itself they seem to flatten again, so there is a patch from about 1 nautical mile from land out to the edge of the bay which is about 5 nautical miles out where we get these steep waves under certain conditions [but rarely, thank goodness].
But... sometimes when going about the next wave knocks you back before you have time to actually go about. So you end up not tacking but staying on the same tack. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 attempts to go about. I should say that the GPS is telling is we're doing about 5-6 knots when we try to go about, so we're not sailing too slowly I think.
I'm sure there must be a knack for going about in these conditions...