Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sailing the Clever 23

That weekend quiz was - ofcourse - about the brand new Clever from ReneMarine. It's a cute little 23 footer closely modelled after the real thing, namely the Sportina 680. I've already had the pleasure of sailing a beta version with Rene. This time I met Rene's business partner Jethro. He was in demo-mode and very eager to show off the features of this new little wonder. I hopped on board to see the show...
Boarding completed
Actually, the correct name of the boat is just "Clever". There is no 23 appended, but since this is a 23 footer, that number seems to stick. Just as it does on the Banner 23, the L23 or the X35 for that matter.
So, here we are. Boarding completed. I sat down and Jet wanted me to start the engine. I usually don't use engines for maneuvering. I am much more comfortable with sailpower, but since this was a demo-trip, I thought what the heck and clicked the outboard thingy at the back...
Motoring about
The engine plunged the prop into the water and started emitting that classic hum that outboard engines always have had. Rrrrrrrrr. I put it in reverse, and we moved away from the pier. Put it back in forward (hehe) and we sailed out the marina with the lovely Rrrrr in the ears. My mind was elsewhere. I was thinking about all those times I've done just this with my dad. The only thing missing was the change in the pitch of the engine sound as the waves raises and lowers the propeller. It gets pretty annoying after a couple of hours.
Everything works
The lil outboarder is just a 4Hp thingy, but it was quite powerful. Jet even told me to slow down while inside the harbour. I slowed down, but it was a demo-trip, so I had to see how much it could do. Way more than those famous "Two knots in the harbour, please". After  a bit of motoring I looked up and realized that everything works. Even while motoring about, the flag, the guestflag, the little windmeter and the windex all turned and rotated according to the wind. Very nice. What's even nicer is the fact that they're actually visible from the cockpit. Just like the real thing.
Sails up!
So let's see those sails up. Since there was a working windex, I steered the boat up against the wind to set sails. Didn't even think about it. It just felt natural. RL sailors will know that it is very hard work to set sails while reaching, if at all possible. Sails up. There was a tiny little thing that was weird there. The sails didn't really luff when headed precisely into the wind. I am sure Rene can fix that in a matter of minutes. Apart from that the hoisting of the sails went smooth. Furling jib and main. Not the Spinnaker though. It's a classic spinakker not a genakker.
Classic spinakker
Here it is. The Spin. The shape is super classic and it looks very nice and real. The instruments did too. I checked them to see the speed gain from the spin. There's a hud with some really nice instruments. They'll display just about anything you want. Speed, depth, windangle, apparent windangle and more. Press the buttons to switch display. Very nice and just like they are in RL, except these virtual ones will tolerate full pressure from a foot while pulling the halyard to hoist sails.
Smooth sailing
The sailing experience is quite good. That's partly due to the graphics. Sailing a highly detailed boat makes the illusion just a little better. Note the very nice mainsheet. Sadly the jibsheets are missing, but I am sure that will come in an update. The boat has full WWC support, so you get all the goodies of the WWC package: Wind, waves and current - all with local variations and more. But it gets better. While fully supporting the WWC for racing the Clever also has rez and sail. There's no popups requiring you to acknowledge the windsystems or anything, It just sails on whichever local cruisewind is available. I like.
What I miss is telltails! There's no telltails in the jib, and to be honest they are quite hard to do without in a race. However, the jib is a furling jib, and honestly.... Who'd race with that? Furling jibs rarely have the optimum shape anyway. It's not just the shape of the sail that's not perfect. There's also the problem of having no battens, - or vertical battens. Instead of the telltails there is a leechtail in the main. It seems to work pretty much as expected. If the main is too tight the leechtails folds onto the backside of the sail indicating a stalling sail. Now, this does not offer the precise steering guidance that those missing telltails in the jib would have. However, it does help the trimmer quite a bit. I am pretty sure this is the first time I've seen working leechtails in SL.
If the wind gets too strong, the furling works great on both sails. It even works while sailing, so the reefing options are endless. This is not just an eyepleaser. The furling / reefing system actually changes the power, and this allows you to sail in many different windspeeds. You can furl anywhere between 0 and 100 percent, and the sailing characteristics change with it. Here's a 70% jib and a 80% main. Check the heeling. I sat to leeward to make the heeling more visible. The crew has numerous positions and they influence the heeling. 
Here's what the heel looks like with a 100% sail area! It seems the VPP in this boat is quite comprehensive. The best thing is that even with all this math going on "under the hood", the sailing remains smooth and realistic. The steering is precise and swift, though somewhat different from other boats. Pulling the tiller makes the boat turn until you actively put the tiller back in the middle. This will require a little getting used to. However, when you think about it, it is a step towards more realistic sailing. Boats are not cars. Boats don't have autocentering of the wheels. Hey, they don't have any wheels at all.  
Refreshing boat
Back at Tradewinds, I gotta admit, this was a very nice and refreshing little demo-trip. So many things are done right in this build. It's a very nice little day-cruiser. I write daycruiser deliberately. There's no nav lights for night sailing. Mind you there's room below deck for a cozy weekend for two. Not only that. There's full WWC, so let's see some racing. That'll be fun,  - even with that furling jib. This adds another trimming option for the racing crew to play with. Racing on a boat with this level of realism makes the experience so much more immersive. I am almost glad it's winter and the RL sailing is over. That means I can go sail this one...

More on ReneMarines website, right here.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Weekend Quiz

One recent afternoon I saw something moored at Tradewinds that made my heart skip a few beats... That something was - ofcourse - a boat. It wasn't just any boat. It's not very big. It's not very fast. It's not very fancy, but it is very real:
Guess what?
In fact this boat is probably one of the rather few candidates nominated in the category "A normal boat". It's such a nice little sailboat with so many nice little details, including an outboard motor as is usually the case with boats this size.
Guess what?
I absolutely had to climb aboard and sniff around to see and feel just how real it is. Anyone wanna take a wild guess which boat I am talking about, - and what the RL counterpart is called?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fizz Cup Qualifications

There was some serious fizzin going on in the Blake Sea this last weekend. The Fizz Cup 2013 Qualifications was held, and from what I saw and heard, it was a pretty good sailing weekend. Regretfully, I was only able to watch group 1, but the results of all three groups are available on the official Fizz Cup 2013 site. (Link at the bottom).
Ralf crosses first
The shot above shows what we saw most of the time in group 1. Ralf80 Titanium was just faster. He had one race with a crash, but other than that, his results are pretty convincing: Four firsts and a DNF. From the spectator platform it looked pretty simple. Ralf80 pinched better and he had better boatspeed. That's hard to beat.
The spectator platform
Here's one of the spectator platforms. This one is located behind the startline. There was another one to the south (right on the picture), and there was yet another one up at the top mark. The spectator platforms were very nice. Dicely decorated with flags, giant charts of the two qual courses and ofcourse the Fizz Cup 2013 trophies. The only thing missing was a beer dispenser in the corner; To set the mood...
Here's a shot right after the start. Ralf80 wasn't always the first to cross the line, but if you have a boatspeed advantage that's really not important. In a fleet this small you can always find clean air and simply outspeed the others.

The courses were not straight up/downs. They both had a little twist, but they were pretty straight forward to sail. No need for a navigator. That would be fun though. Perhaps that's a future thing to do: Set up a course that's so complicated you need a navigator. The courses used in the qualifications are avaible at official site, and if you chech the results page, you will see lap and course times;
The SL coastguard was in place with numerous helicopters and surface ship,. Dunno if they have subs. I never saw a SLCG sub. Anyway, there were few problems with "moving obstacles" on the course, but I did snap this picture in the first round. This guy crossed the course at full speed and cut the fleet in halfs. Not a pretty sight. Sadly he was moving so fast I couldn't catch his name.
Ralf in the fast lane
Something else was moving fast. Here's another shot right after the start. Again, Ralf80 is in the fast lane. Slightly ahead and in a very good position. Iteke up there to windward will have a hard time hanging on. Not only is there the psych-factor, but she absolutely needs to keep pinching. The Fizz has windbend like a real boat, so if she sails just a little bit lower for a few seconds she will be in trouble.
Bottom mark
That's probably what happened. She fell down into the windbend and it was game over. Here's a shot of the bottom mark rounding. Iteke rounds second, but Ralf80 is already far ahead, sailing his own race at his own pace, completely free to choose whichever path he finds optimal.
Iteke wins the start
However, Iteke did make a couple of really good starts, and if she finds just a little bit more speed, she will be a factor in the finals. Here's a great shot of Iteke starting first. Not that you can see the others. They must have lost their nerve. They're simply not there.
The others try to catch up
Here are the other boats crossing seconds later. Most of them. The last boat was further away from the line. So, not only did Iteke win the start. With a positioned like that she should be in total control of he race and in particular of Ralf80. He is sailing the red boat slightly behind and to leeward. A few starts like that and a bit more boat speed, and those final races will be very exciting to watch.

The other two groups? I didn't watch them, but from the results it seems they also had one dominating boat. I guess someone will be out looking for speed these next few weeks. This is regular sailboat racing; Great sailing and suer duperly organized by Silber and her crew. The only thing missing is the seaspray.

Link to the official Fizz Cup 2013 site.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Navigation Lights

After my post about the lighthouses and the post with the Loonetta and the navigation lights, I browsed through my "boat drawer" looking for boats with correct navigation lights. I didn't find a lot. One of the better ones was Rene's beautiful Schouw with red and green but no white stern light. What we see here is Rene's latest project fitted with a top navigation light I just made. It's a single prim.
Top navigation light
For small boats this is by the book. At least while under sail. When powered you need a white forward light too. In RL top lights have a couple of disadvantages. First, it's a pain to change the bulb. Not really a problem after those LED lights came along. They last a lifetime. Secondly there's the thing about having extra weight in the mast... wires and stuff. Racers don't want that. Neither of these problems exist in SL. There is one good thing though... the windex is lit at night. It's kinda tedious sitting there in the dark with a flashlight.
From starboard
Here's a shot of Victors Dragon. It is a little difficult to make lights visible from a distance in SL, but it is visible. It's set to shiny, full bright. There's a couple of angles that needs to get right. Red and green should cover 112.5 degrees. White covers 135 degrees. Not that hard to get right.
Here's what it looks like from the stern. Not a big surprise. What I see is the red glow "spilling over". It seems this first less-than-five-minute-version isn't a hundred percent perfect. There's a littlebit of that spill over or blend when seen from the bow too. Experiments will show how to make it go away. Probably by adding a black line between those coloured sectors.
So that's it. Supersimple to make and to use. I'll put it in a free boatbuilders fittings bag one day. Probably stick it on the wall in the TYC boathouse. If you want to make your own navigation lights, this next image might come in handy. They're all over the internet.
Different nav lights
This shot doesn't cover all navigation lights. For instance there's a handfull of special lights for tows and for hovercrafts. Also there's a handfull of special cases where the Americans chose not to follow the international rules, but that's just the Americans, hehe. At least on boats they have green on the right side.
Single prim top light
UPDATE: What's not on that first poster is a sailboat under sail, and that's what we really need. Why? Smaller sailboats - under 12 meters - are allowed to have a single zone navigation light at the top of the mast. I found this second poster over on MessingAboutInBoats. What's that mean? This means that correct navigation lights will only cost one prim. So now there's no excuse for not having navigation lights.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Something is cooking in Craigs brewery. It's huge, it's fantastic and now it is also sailable plus it has a couple of features, which I've never seen before in the virtual waters of SL. Check this out, and tell me what you think you see:
Craig Ktaba's J
Huge sails, fantastic hull, sheets, stays and running stays all over, giant windex that you can actually see from the deck, but that isn't really it, is it? There's something else that's different from just about any other boat I've ever seen in SL. I know, it is hard to see the details, but this boat is so big that it hardly fits inside a picture. I can zoom out, yes, but that leaves all the fine details unrevealed. SL itself isn't really able to show all the fine work in one picture. Not even if I set graphics to super-ultra high.
Helmsman view
Here's what it looks like from a helmsman perspective. Note the woodwork. That deck looks sooo silky smooth you just gotta go feel it. Even close up it's supersmooth like few other boats. Despite the huge size, this boat is slowly coming alive. The first time I sailed her she was kinda quirky. Slow reacting and moving like it was doing a break dance. It took many seconds for a keypress till anything happened.
Smooth sailing
That's changing now. The sheets are still a bit slow reacting, but hey... a sail this size isn't close hauled in three seconds anyway. However, the interesting thing is the steering. The steering is reaching a point of livelyness where it is fun to sail this. I begin to believe this boat, when it rezzes and says: WWC enabled. Let's race! Except there are no telltails, so how can we trim the sails?
Imagine eight of these giant boats doing inshore racing in the souther parts of Blake. That would make for some interesting situations with loads of rules being yelled across the water, hehe. Scandinavians will probably know the famous Tjörn Rundt. If not, google it and see the fun of 400 boats doing "rock slalom".
Navigator, where art thou
I know I'd wanna have a navigator that I trust more than a hundred percent, but let's get back to the boat... Check the shot above! See those lines there, - hanging loose? Those are running backstays. They're loose on the leeward side to let the sail adjust, and they're tight to windward. It's messy, but it's needed with a mast this size, or it will go overboard.
Look up to trim!
Here's a look up those giant sails. Yes, they will luff when not in trim. There's a visible luff and ofcourse there's a sound. Note the running stays on this - the windward - side are tightened. Also, note the windex up there. Yes it is visible, and yes it works just as you'd expect it to.
What is that?
But let's get back to the surface. What is that thing there at the bow? Is that... wake? Real bow wake?
Is that like real bow wake?
It sure looks a lot like real bow wake. It sounds like it too. I am not entirely sure what Craig is doing here, but is is definately something else. Something exciting.
A real boat
So let's do a recap. So far we have a boat that looks amazing. It has sheets, and running stays plus a working windex. It has bow wake that looks way better than anything else I've seen inworld, and it has WWC... and now it also feels alive like a real boat. This is starting to look like a real sailboat simulation. A really exciting one...


So you're in the Fizz Cup? Better be fast. Very fast. Last time I checked around the Fizz Cup sailing area, I saw this:
Weird hairy island!
Now, you probably cannot see what that is. You're probably thinking "ok, so there's a weird hairy island! So what"? New islands popup every day, every where on the grid. Well, look again...
Looking for bananas?
That's a giant gorilla allright; Better not take that yellow Fizz out sailing. This creature might mistake it for a giant banana. Not my idea of smooth sailing.
Big, hairy and sacry
Giant? Mmmhmm. Better believe it's big. That's a person right there on the left; Not an ant. This next shot is another island being inspected by the virtual King Kong.
Check the size of that lighthouse
I wonder if he likes helicopters for lunch. There was one flying around, getting pretty close, but the gorilla seemed to ignore it. Probably it was more interested in those people there. Snacktime maybe. Dunno.
Genakker up
All I know is that if I am out sailing and this creature looks over the hills of a small island it's time to hoist the gennaker and get planing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fizz Cup teaser

Here's a couple of never  before published pictures from the Fizz Cup 2012; As a teaser for the Fizz Cup 2013. Here we are in the back of the picture between those two islands. The RC boat and a handfull of eager Fizz Fanatics waiting to get started.

Fizz Cup 2012 seen from a Loonetta
These pics are from the finals. Can't remember what day it was, but that's not important. The important things are the mood, the pulse, - the Fizz spirit... Virtual boat racing at its best.
Here's me and Liv ready to start the action. As you can see, it was a really nice day for a boat race. That boat out there will have to hurry back to the starting area, because Liv will start the timer in a minute or so.
Now, we're ready!
It's just like real racing... if the sailors think the RD will wait for everyone to be at the startline before starting the countdown, then they'll never ever be at the startline at the same time. There is only one thing to do: Fire the gun and start the timer no matter what. They'll simply have to learn to stay close to the RC boat.
Boom - as in bang
Here's the fleet right after the gun. The gun shot - right at the start - is the one I posted a almost a year ago in the post with the results. It is right here: Fizz Cup 2012, Finals. That shot is an indication of what was about to happen. Of what we would see over the next few races.
Silber fighting for first place
Silber Sands was having a really good day at sea. She won the cup with an impressive series of 1-2-1-1-3. The image above shows that there was actually a fight for the first place. However, she did come around that buoy in a better way than Ronin.
Still fighting
Here we are at the next mark. There's still a fight for the first place. Ronin may be shaken but he is not (yet) beaten. The racing was quite intense, but Silber was faster.
Any protests?
After each race there's a short (bio) break, and we also ask if there are any protests that we need to deal with. In this case there were no protests, so we were ready for the next race.
The clock is ticking. There's less than 30 seconds to the start, and here's me and Liv looking at the prestart action. Silber is not in "pole position", but she is accelerating. Just check the angle at which she is sailing up there to windward. Question is: Will there be enough space for her at the pin or will she be locked out.
Silber got away
I dunno precisely what happened here, but it seems Silber got away. This shot is just 45 seconds after the start, and Silber is already on top of the fleet. I cannot remember if there was a cross line current that  day, but that could have created the necessary space between the pin and the fleet for her to get a good start.
Ralf on the hunt
Again, there was a good fight. Here's the fleet pretty much together rounding a mark in the Blake Sea. Silber is in front, but the pack is close behind. Well, most of the pack. One boat has fallen behind. Ralf Titanium was faster on the last few legs of the course, so he took the first place in this race.
Silber starting first again
In the next race Silber was really in the mood. Check this start! Apparently Silber was the only one who saw the windshift right before the start. The picture shows a textbook example of a port side start. Very nice. Noone could catch her in this race.
The Champ on top of the fleet
I could go one, but this post is already rather lengthy. This last picture says it all. The champ comfortably on top of the fleet. That's what we saw on this lovely racing day. Congrats to Silber Sands. Brilliant sailing out there. Don't miss the Fizz Cup 2013. It's gonna be awesome.