There are numerous factors to consider when deciding whether to run a horizontal stack (HO) or vertical stack (Vert) offense such as: recent success rate with a particular offense against your opponent, probable individual match-ups with your opponent, and how critical the particular point is. In this scenario we are asked to discuss how another factor, wind, affects that decision. Before that discussion, however, it is necessary to look generally at the relative costs and benefits of the Vert versus the HO offense.
The Vert offense is systematic and mechanistic. Teams benefit from its predictability. Everyone knows who is cutting, when he is cutting, and generally where he is going to cut. The thrower knows when and where to look for these cutters. Everyone else sets up subsequent cuts and movements accordingly. The cost of the Vert offense is that it limits the players in the stack who are not scheduled to cut.
The HO offense attempts to isolate a number of players at the same time by spreading them across the field. Each of these players have the freedom at any time to take advantage of open cut opportunities...either in or out. This potential for opportunistic behavior is the benefit of the HO offense. The necessary cost, of course, is decreased predictability. Because cutters are not moving according to preset rules, as in the Vert offense, each one must first decide when and where to cut and must coordinate his decision with every other cutter's decision. Due to this multiplayer decision-making, the thrower cannot expect a cutter in a certain position at a certain time and must therefore find the cutter before making a decision to throw.
Given that Vert offense favors predictability at the cost of opportunistic behavior, and that the HO offense favors opportunistic behavior at the cost of predictability, the question now becomes how the wind affects each of these factors. Wind certainly decreases the predictability of any offense. Throwers become tighter and some throws that would be made in calm conditions are unexpectedly withheld in windy conditions. Cutters can also tighten up by hesitating to cut or by staying too long in the lane. This seems to weigh against playing Vert in windy situations. However, wind can also negatively affect opportunistic behavior, especially heading upwind. The probability of completing deep passes decreases going upwind, for example, thus cutting off those opportunities. Since there are more of these opportunities in HO offense, it seems to weigh against playing HO in windy situations. Ultimately, deciding between Vert and HO in wind depends on just how much it affects the predictability of your team's Vert or the possibility for opportunistic behavior in your team's HO.
My team, Truck Stop, was a young but very athletic team. Additionally, Truck Stop added a significant contingent of new players, myself included, who needed to build chemistry with the rest of the team. Because of these characteristics we generally played Vert in a strong headwind, but exclusively HO in a downwind situation. It made sense for us to use a HO offense in that situation because everyone can throw further going downwind, making it possible to complete more deep opportunities. We have also utilized some techniques to mitigate the costs of each type of offense. In an effort in institute some predictability into our HO offense; we have a number of set plays that establish the first few cuts off of a pull. These plays help to jump start the offense and settle everyone down for the first few cuts and throws. Similarly, in an effort to take advantage of opportunities in the Vert offense, we have number of plays that initiate cuts from the middle of the stack. For example, if a defensive handler walks to the disc after a turnover and notices that we have a huge height advantage, he can call a play that will send that player deep to take advantage of that opportunity.
By evaluating the effect of wind on your team's potential for opportunistic play in the HO and on predictability in the Vert you can chose the offense that will give you the best chance for success in the wind. Furthermore, addressing the shortcomings of these offenses in general with set plays will increase your chances of success.