Monthly Archives: October 2007

From Zinnemann to Abella

The Autumn regatta series for the Zinnemann Cup is in full swing, and I had a chance to watch the races last Thursday over at the Americas Cup Anywhere Race course.

The Zinnemann-40 Catamaran is the creation of Hans Zinnemann. Everyone reading this website… all three of you… already know I think HZ is pretty fantastic. Hans is one of the two finalists competing for this year’s Tako Cup, and his excellence at SL racing comes from his quarter century of real-life experience on race boats and in the sailing industry.

Most of us learned to sail in SL by taking the free Sunday classes offered by Starboards Yacht Club. Although the class is only a couple hours, people leave with a dozen new best friends, and a day-planner full of sailing-dates. Hans Zinnemann took a slightly different approach, however. He learned to sail in SL by designing a catamaran and starting his own boat business!

Hans’ boatyard is located in the beautiful Zinnemann sim; if you’re ever in that neighborhood, you should drop by:

As everyone knows, The ‘Z-40′ is an impressive boat. Although it weighs in at a mere 28 prim, the boat measures 12m LOA and stands 12m tall. The sailplan includes a full-sized mainsail that’s coupled to a smaller jib, and there’s a sizable parachute to turbocharge those downwind runs. The boat advertises typical speeds “in excess of 15m/s,” but anyone who’s tried the boat will tell you this is modest understatement. Even a new sailor can fiddle with the sails to generate SOG (speed over ground) far in excess of wind velocity.

Zinnemann-40 Catamaran

The boat interacts with the Zinnemann website in interesting and pretty unique ways. I don’t know about you, but my inventory has about 264 Takos in it, most with different colors and my numerous failed attempts at sail textures.   I usually have no idea what boat I am putting in the water…

The Z-Cat fixes that! It keeps you organized and updated by storing your customized boat and sail textures directly on the Zinnemann website. If you want to modify something, you simply tell the website which texture you wish to change.

The real value of this system comes when there’s an upgrade. You don’t have to tediously re-do the new boat; all your  customized changes are automatically applied.

The Z-Cat’s web interaction could turn out to be a  fascinating feature. In the future, could keep track of the boat’s location and sailing data, generating a map of your last cruise or practice run.  The corresponding data tables could then be used to develop racing strategy, or compare your sailing skills with others. Or maybe figure out where you dropped your cell phone overboard…

At the present time the website is only set up to give you a ‘tease’ of these possibilities. It displays a list of the last places Z-cat owners were ’seen’ rezzing their boats. I can’t wait to see what gets added next. ( and if you’re concerned that Hans will suddenly start publishing on the web the names of all the people who you offered moonlight cruises to… well, don’t worry. There’s a privacy feature too)

But let’s face it; this boat was not designed for a moonlight cruise.  It’s sleek form, spare use of prim, and huge sail plan were meant for one ultimate purpose: to compete on the race course. So, after some early modifications to let the boats use SLSF Race Wind and Start Lines, it was no surprise when Hans announced the first Summer Series of the Big Cat Cup.

Over a series of twelve separate race dates on two different courses, the Z-40 racing fleet competed under extreme conditions of spd 18 wind. This Competition was not for the faint of heart, but the Z-40 seemed to love the ‘Force Ten’ sailing conditions.

From the very beginning, skipper Abella Beck stood out from the pack, decisively winning virtually every competition through the summer to emerge triumphant, with that Cat-Cup in hand.

We are now in the middle of the autumn series, and Thursday’s performance at the ACA Course was a fascinating display of speed and skill.  Did I mention these boats are fast? The Z-40s are lean sail platforms, genetically designed for speed, like thoroughbred racehorses in the chute straining against the gate, needing to run.

I think a lot of sailors have a term for this kind of boat, particularly under extreme wind speeds of 18 m/s: The Z-40 is a “sled,” a boat where you hang on, point at the start line, and pray you won’t need to turn.  Don’t get me wrong; the Cat-Cup race at ACA was exhilarating to watch. These are very interesting boats, but watching the skippers deal with a combination of extreme wind and high-performance hardware sometimes reminded me of that scene in Dr. Strangelove where Slim Pickens waved his cowboy hat  as he rode a falling atomic bomb…

With that image out of the way, let’s get back to those races.  The first race tested the abilities of four seasoned Z-40 sailors: Skipper Nikolaidis,  Ella Larsen, Beejee Boucher and Damb Writer. Most are repeat offenders that had previously raced in the Summer series. Skipper Nikolaidis set the pace this time, demonstrating surprising agility and control as he moved across the course. His turns were, by far, the most precise of any of the skippers competing  and he crossed the finish line in 5:11, the second fastest score of the day. GREAT SAILING, SKIPPER!!!

Abella Beck, the reigning Summer champion, then joined the fleet for the remaining three races.

When Race Two started, perhaps out of excitement seeing Abella, Ella Larsen proceeded to collide with the red start buoy. With luck, she was still early, and made a skillful recovery. Undaunted, she showed remarkable thought and technical skill as she fought off attacks by Skipper and Abella. Here’s a view as she wraps the mark, leaving Damb Writer far astern.

Moments later, the crowd gasped in unison as Damb Writer, under full sail, miscalculated the turn at the mark.

The buoy hit Damb Writer at high velocity, striking him dead center between his… well… pontoons.

Most spectators reflexively crossed their legs in a show of solidarity for their injured fellow sailor. To his enduring credit, immediately on taking the hit, D. Writer loudly shouted his first name. It was audible to multiple sims, and undoubtedly was intended to reassure everyone that DW was able to continue the race.

A well-deserved first place went to Ella Larsen for her truly excellent run in Race Two. However, the crowd’s heart was still focused on Damb Writer as he limped to the finish line minutes behind her.

Abella Beck next stepped up to the plate. The final two races, Races Three and Four, were “All-Abella, 24/7.” Here she is, charging over the start line, gently but firmly pushing Skipper and Beejee aside:

In case you think this was easy… don’t. This was no Abella cake walk. Ella Larsen was relentless and undaunted, challenging Abella at each move. Ella finished scant seconds behind Abella in Race Three. In Race Four, Ella attacked again. Yup, Abella won Race Four, but she was forced to rack up the best time of the entire day in order to do it. On behalf of Abella, let me shout: GREAT RACE, ELLA.

Given my previous comments, I’m sure you’re wondering: “How could you have two more Force 10 Sled races without another major collision?” Of course you’re thinking that; It would be like having an American Pro Hockey game without a fist-fight.

Well… rest assurred… Of course there were more collisions! Although taking pictures of the extensive trauma panders to the public’s interest in lurid sensationalism, I feel somewhat compelled to report the news as I saw it.

Here’s a rather embarassing view of Beejee Boucher’s red Z-40 moments after it slid over the finish line. Apparently overcome with  excitement, Beejee’s pontoons ended up… straddling Abella.  Hans Zinnemann was uncertain which racing rule applied to this particular situation. Eventually a travel lift was called and a restraining order obtained. Counselling was recommended for both parties, and Abella prudently announced she was filing an official protest against Beejee for any race rule infraction that might apply, however obscure, now or in the future, in perpetuity.

Beejee gallantly concurred, adding that ‘perpetuity’ might not be long enough.

In any event, Thursday’s Zinnemann Cup races were great fun and pretty exciting, given the fast boats and extreme winds. The series again established Abella’s racing dominance at the helm of a Z-40. Ella and Skipper have great skills, but they’re still a ways astern of Abella.

So? Come on…. Why does Abella win? How does she show up late, smile, and then flatten all the competition?

Ask me; I know.

I haven’t discussed it with Abella, now or ever, but I’ve watched her sail and I’m pretty confident I know. I’ll even bet bet she agrees.

The Z-40 with 18m/s wind is far too powerful to control by fiat, or with an F-key. Abella wins because she doesn’t force her Z-40… she dances with it. She plays to its strengths, she and her boat never look awkward. Watching her sail is a bit like, I imagine, watching her dance at a wedding reception with some unknown 300lb pro football player from the family. I’m sure she’d confidently take charge, never let him step on her toes, and she’d play to his strengths. He’d end up looking like a great dancer. Abella would step down from the helm… and giggle.

More pointedly… Abella’s great accomplishment is that she knows her boat very well. So well, it looks effortless. The boat becomes an extension of her own movement, with speed, efficiency, beauty and grace.

Geez, I wish I could sail like that.

When Abella decides to move on to something else, I fully expect her to stand up on her boat’s net… pause… and point over the fence in center field. She’ll then laugh, sit down, and hit that last hotlap way of the park. When that day happens, I’ll be here arguing we retire SLSF #07 and hang her sails from the Zinnemann Boathouse ceiling.

This article was originally posted to on October 30, 2007.

Epi and Oli Split Friday Takos

This article was originally posted to on Oct 27, 2007

Glida Pilote is usually in charge of the Friday Tako Races at NYC. However this week, while Glida is away, this supreme responsibility fell to Jane Fossett and Oliphant Ming.

Although Glida often serves up a Friday menu of marathon courses and Force ten winds, Fossett opted for a kinder, gentler race dancecard, chosing four races on the B-1a course, each with NYC’s Standard wind (spd 11).  With unanimous consent, the Friday race sequence commenced…

Epicurus Emmons, Francois Jacques, Liv Leigh, Yuukie Onmura, Daizy Dovgal, Orca Flotta and Oliphant Ming all raced. Jane Fossett crewed while trying to find a no.2 pencil to keep track of the scores.

In the first race, Oli got over the line first, followed a few seconds later by Francois Jacques, then Yuukie Onmura. Here’s a great view of Yuukie chasing Francois:

As the first race progressed, Oli’s long experience at the tiller proved overpowering and his lead  inexorably widened. Oli took Race One with more than a minute to spare over Francois’ second place score. Yuukie finished immediately behind Francois, and Daizy Dovgal came in thirty seconds later.

Race Two: At this point, late as usual, Epicurus Emmons showed up, rezzing a distinctive tako with red sails and a wood hull. Before the fleet could inquire about Epi’s boatyard expenses to maintain that wood hull, the warning gun for the second race went off, and the fleet raised sail. This time Francois Jacques was first across the startline at 00:00 followed very quickly by the rest of the race fleet, with Epi bringing up the rear.

Epi skillfully made up for the bad start and gradually moved forward in the pack until he captured the lead at the final turn. Epi burst across the line in first place, and was immediately followed by Oli, Francois, and Yuukie. Daizy Dovgal and Liv Leigh took the fifth and sixth spots.

Race Three: In the third race, Oli changed strategy and approached the start line on a port tack, while the rest of the fleet used a more traditional starboard tack. Oli’s gambit to run for open water failed, however, when Epi and Liv Leigh made it over the line first, effectively blocking Oli’s path. Oli didn’t mind; with only miliseconds to spare he came about and fell in parallel, leeward to the lead boats. Here’s a snapshot of Oli about to make his ‘port tack’ gamble; you can see Liv and Epi waiting for him:

Once over the line, the boats beat windward, jockeying for position in Bougainville Strait. Here’s a great picture of Daizy Dovgal’s orange #53DD Tako. Daizy was caught in the twilight zone just past the “End of World” warning line; Francois Jacques moved her #08FJ tako in parallel, stealing the wind and blocking Daizy’s chance to tack free. Daizy had little choice but to bounce off the sim edge:

08FJ steals the wind from 53DD

As the boats moved south on the second leg of the B-1a course, Oliphant Ming’s tacking and sheet skills dominated, and he built a commanding lead. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the downwind run through the Solomon Sea, with Oli out front. Like a row of ducklings, the other five Takos line up to stern.

Oli went on to win the race, with Epi, Francois, and Yuukie following. A surprising duel then developed between Daizy Dovgal and Liv Leigh in the last leg, as they made the dash around the final red marker towards the finish. With textbook good sailing and a few tactical moves, Daizy finally pulled ahead, finishing scant seconds in front of Liv.

Race Four: Although the entire fleet put on a display of tight, confident sheet and sail skills, the final race of the day belonged to Epicurus Emmons from start to finish. First over the start line, he caught open air put it to good use. Here’s a view of Epi’s familiar red sail at the start, with Francois and Daizy to starboard and just behind.

Here’s a view of Yuukie and Daizy chasing Epi’s tail on the long board reach down the east shore of Bella Lavella:

And finally, here comes Epi on the final homeward lap. He lead the pack with nearly a minute to spare, followed by Francois, Yuukie, and Daizy:

It was a great conclusion to a wonderful week of racing!

Wednesday Beach Cats

This article was originally posted to on October 25, 2007

As many sailors will recall, the original TruCor Beach Cat was launched seven months ago as part of a charity fundraiser jointly sponsored by NYC, SYC, MBYC, and KS. The boat was an instant success, and bright beach cat sails are a common sight skimming across the waters of Second Life. The skipper and crew animations, bright colors, and the boat’s tendency to capsize make it a great choice for a casual sail, either alone or with a friend for crew. In fact, from the beginning the beach cat was designed for two people. With a solo skipper, the boat was fun and fast with its single mainsail.  When crew came aboard, they loaded a separate HUD that could raise and control a jib.  Both skipper and crew balanced the boat by shifting position on the net, or hiking to windward on the trapeze harness.  My favorite part about this is how the beach cat determines the balancing effect of the skipper and crew by estimating how much each avatar weighs based on the sailor’s height and gender.

I know you’re all wondering: “What does it do with Chaos Mandelbrot’s Penguin?” Believe it or not, I know the answer to that question! Chaos keeps a spare human AV in his back pocket; it fits the harness jacket better and it doesn’t get feathers on the net.

When you add crew and a jib, the Beach Cat develops explosive acceleration.  That fun little boat suddenly transforms into a sailing rocket controlled by a two-person team. So it’s no surprise over the past few weeks sailors have been meeting on Wednesdays in the Bismarck Sea to race their crewed Beach Cats.

Even before the first race boat hit the water, the response was so enthusiastic on the SLSF Forum that the group decided to split into two convenient racing times, 11:00am and 5:00pm.  Although the group is very young, the races have been great fun so far and many sailors have pitched in to develop the Beach Cat as a one design SL racing class. There’s a lively discussion of gestures, racing rules, and racing upgrades in the Forum Beach Cat Racing thread.

Yesterday’s races continued this trend. Schnoogge Broome once again served as guest Race Director for the 11:00am races; he was capably assisted by NYC’s own Cynthia Centaur. A flock of Beach cats (a “pride” of cats?) descended on the start line, skippered by Sallysue Cahill, Jogi Goldblatt, M1sha Dallin, JeanCarlo Kepler, Cynthia Centaur, Jane Fossett, Schnoogge Broome, and Glida Pilote. Most Beach Cats were crewed, but a few sailed solo, using chat commands to manage the jib.

The first race used the tried-and-true NYC B-1A race course that circumnavigates the beautiful Bella Lavella Island in the southwest United Sailing Sims. SallySue Cahill (with crew Svar Beckersted) and Cynthia Centaur (with crew Francois Jacques) crossed over the start line first, more than half a minute ahead of the third boat, solo skippered by Jane Fossett. Fossett quickly made up for the poor start, however, sliding past a number of collisions on the course to take the lead during the long broad reach going south past the Eastern shore of the island. Fossett took the first race,  finishing more than a minute ahead of JuanCarlo Kepler, with the Centaur-Jacques team in third place.

In the second race on B-1a, the Cahill-Beckerstead boat showed it’s stuff, winning with over 20 seconds to spare. Fossett, Centaur-Jacques, and Kepler came in far to their rear.

For the third race, Director Broome chose the NYC Tako Cup 2007 Course. M1sha Dallin was first across the start line, with the rest of the pack in hot pursuit. Fossett and Dallin took the turn together at the red marker in New Georgia Sound, then fell parallel overlapped on the reach leg going south. In a remarkable demonstration of short attention span, Fossett then continued on the old B-1a course, missing the turn in Vella Gulf. Actually, Fossett may have made a brilliant, intentional team sacrifice to deprive the Dallin boat of victory.  It partially worked; M1sha followed along all the way to the green markin Kula Gulf before M1sha realized Jane Fossett had no idea where she was going.

Whether you believe that explanation or not, the Dallin boat flipped around in Kula Gulf and quickly got back on course, expertly making up the lost time and finishing first. The Centaur-Jacques team was a minute behind, folowed by the Kepler boat.

The final race of the morning returned again to the B-1a course, and this time Schnoogge Broome joined in. The first leg of B-1a is an upwind beat that moves from Bismarck Sea across the Bougainville Strait on the way towards the first mark. Although the beach cat has nimble handling, the forceful acceleration on close haul headings can make this passage pretty treacherous. It’s therefore no surprise that even the most experienced teams had a tough time. Cahill-Beckersted tacked at the Northeast corner of Bella Lavella and then suddenly capsized when their sails swung over.   Without a moment’s hesitation they jumped to right the boat again,  but it was too late. The Centaur-Jacques boat had an upwind strategy and were running in the Cahill team’s footsteps.  There’s a memorable moment in the race when Svar casually looked aft… to see Cynthia Centaur barrelling full steam into his stern.

While they sorted out the damages, Schnoogge Broome was having a great run and crossed the finish for first place. JeanCarlo Kepler came in second, and Cynthia Centaur finally limped in for third place. What a great morning of races!

The 5:00pm races were equally exciting. Lyssa Varun, Bea Woodget, Sallysue Cahill, Hpathe Boucher (unregistered), Pensive Mission, and Jane Fossett skippered race boats. Four races were run, all on B-1a.

The races showed remarkable team coordination and skill, although the Cahill boat sadly suffered from connection problems.

Fossett led the pack across the finish line in the first three races, with the Mission, Woodget, and Varun boats alternating for the other places.

In the fourth race, however, the Mission team woke up and really showed their stuff.  Wow! Pensive took charge, adroitly weaving among the boats on the upwind leg with a dancer’s grace.

There was no stopping Pensive; he must have been thinking of that beer waiting for him over at Mowry. Pensive was through the crowd and in open water after he reached the first red mark.

In the long downwind run across the southern end of the island, Pensive had established a commanding lead and went on to win a full minute ahead of Lyssa Varun, who took second place.

What a great night of sailing!