Talk like a Sailor

Originally posted to on December 5th, 2008

Sailors Talk Tiga

Sailing has expanded quite a bit over the past two years. There’s now a wide variety of boats to choose from, and the physics algorithm that powers boats is progressively closer to a true emulation of real-life sailing.  At the same time, the number of sailors has steadily increased over the interval and the regions available for sailing on both the mainland and in private estates has dramatically increased as well. As the sailing community grew and diversified, the number of yacht clubs also increased; for example, at the moment there are seven clubs in the United Sailing Sims alone!

Although each yacht club and sailing group has its own unique focus and style, they all share common interests and goals. In fact most sailors are members of several yacht clubs; there’s no real rivalry between the clubs for membership, financial support, or even for first place bragging rights at a regatta. I think it seems clear to all that the clubs accomplish more when they work together on  projects we all believe in.  Having said that, it’s worth commenting that there are few opportunities where the officers from different clubs can get together and brainstorm ways to jointly solve common problems.  Since sailors are members of multiple clubs, it may not have seemed necessary in the past, but as SL sailing grows, the number of issues and potential problems will mount in parallel.  It’s increasingly clear that the major clubs need a mechanism to communicate, to cooperate on projects, and to resolve problems and misunderstandings.

Toward that end, on November 15 Schiffsratten Yacht Club hosted an open meeting of sailors from the various clubs and sailing groups in Second Life. TigaThe purpose of that initial meeting was to get the race directors and officers from different clubs to sit down and talk together about common issues, without any specific agenda on the table. The need for better communication was obvious as I spoke with sailors and club officers about the scheduled meeting. A large percentage of them did not know where the Schiffsratten Yacht Club was located (it’s in Tiga sim), and some had no idea who the Schiffsratten were. The same was true for Le Club de Voile Les Glenans. Clearly we all need to be talking more.

The meeting was very well attended; 20 – 30 sailors participated in the discussion, representing Starboards, Nantucket, Fisher’s Island, Tradewind and Mowry Bay Yacht Clubs, as well as Les Glenans Sailing Club. Taku Raymaker from Waypoint Yacht Club was not able to attend because of scheduling, but he stated he was happy to participate in subsequent meetings.

Yacht Clubs and Estate Management.

It might be helpful to back up just a bit and  talk about the various kinds of sailing clubs in Second Life, and how they differ from each other.

If you want to build a sailing program, two items are pretty essential. First, you need water, preferably a region with multiple interconnected sims and navigable waterways. You also need estate owners that support sailing who are willing to enforce sim use policies that are favorable for sailing. Second, you need sailors. It’s important to foster an organized group of sailors, a community, that works to build and expand programs of racing, cruising and community activities. In order to be successful, any sailing  community requires both of these elements; a well-managed, dedicated place to sail, and a well-managed, dedicated yacht club full of sailors. Both are equally important.

That might seem obvious, but I’m emphasizing it here because occasionally issues arise where the estate owners and the Yacht Clubs may legitimately have a different opinions. That should not be surprising; the owners and club officers have different responsibilities and perspectives, even though they may ultimately share the same vision and goals. Because they see different sides of sailing issues, When disagreements arise the owners and club officers are ideally positioned to work together for a mutually agreeable solution that serves the best interests of the sailing community.

While estate owners and managers have responsibility for property issues, the yacht clubs are primarily SL Groups; they organize sailing events and represent the sailors when community issues arise.  This distinction sometimes gets blurry, however, since there are basically two kinds of yacht clubs. One type of club is created by, and intimately linked to, the estate owners. The club and the sailing sims are are owned and managed by the same individuals, and the yacht clubs serve mixed functions. Starboards Yacht Club and Fishers Island Yacht Club are examples. A second type of club are the independent yacht clubs in second life. They may have a well-established physical presence that usually includes a clubhouse, waterfront space, and one or more race lines, but the yacht club remains separate from estate ownership and management. Waypoint Yacht Club, Nantucket Yacht Club, Schiffratten Yacht Club, Mowry Bay Yacht Club, Tradewinds Yacht Club and Free Adriatic are examples. I’m not arguing here that one system is better than the other; I’m simply acknowledging what presently exists, since the relationship with estates undoubtedly does influence the policies and procedures of the clubs. Mark Twain somewhat colorfully acknowledged this issue a few weeks ago at a general meeting at Starboards yacht club, noting that some of the clubs “had dirty hands,” and the lines between estate owners and clubs were blurred.

I think it’s fair to say that most of the clubs acknowledge this potential problem, and try their best not to get too soiled in the process. In day-to-day operations and planning, the issues of who owns which club and what estate rarely emerge, unless a permissions issue arises.

Common issues.

The group on November 15 asked Jane Fossett to chair the meeting. Jane stayed for the first 50 minutes, then asked Chad Sawson to take over. The group agreed to give Taku Raymaker copies of the minutes.

The group began by discussing the purpose of the meeting and potential issues the sailing group might address. At the time of the meeting there was an ongoing ‘crisis’ over a change in Linden policy for OS sims that could seriously impact sailing on private estates. The eight USS estate owners were engaged in ongoing discussions on how to reorganize in response to the Linden changes. Some sailors attending the meeting thought there was nothing for the sailors to discuss, and the meeting should be postponed to a time we knew where we could sail. Others wanted to make recommendations to the owners and give advice.

After a lively discussion, the group seemed to reach a consensus that  a plan to handle the sim issues was the responsibility of the owners, and that the sailors should focus on sailing issues.  There was general consensus that a number of sailing issues were largely independent of sim boundaries.

Notecard dispenser at NYC

Jane Fossett brought up the first sailor issue: A need for the clubs to share general information with each other, and the need for the group to post “public service announcements” about sailing in SL. The announcements would give new SL members information about sailing in second life; they might also include very practical details on how interested people could visit the yacht clubs and when/ where they might get sailing lessons. The group agreed this was a good idea.

Nber Medici and  Jane Fossett came up with a basic notecard this past summer that was handed out during the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. I have revised the text a few times since then, but it’s still could use a additional input from the individual clubs.  A draft of the present version of this announcement is available here, and if you want a copy of the actual poster and notecard dispenser, you can get one in front of the NYC clubhouse. this is a joint venture that should benefit SL members, all of the yacht clubs, and hopefully serve the SL members.

Sailors should provide new or revised versions of the information in the notecard concerning their club, and feel free to take actual copies of the poster and place them at appropriate locations so an increasing number of interested users might learn why sailing is so remarkable in SL.

The poster/ notecard was available during the Heroes Sailing for Life event and its still posted at NYC and SYC. Hopefully other clubs will have a chance to post it once they add their own information and where needed translate it into their language. In the last two weeks the poster’s gone up at Virtual Ability and New Citizens Plaza (thank you Chaos for that).

The second issue was brought up by Epicurus Emmons, the Commodore of Fishers Island Yacht Club. Epi stated he was interested in teaching  new sailors how to sail Trudeau Leetle Cats. Several individuals expressed their interest in this same subject or alternative topics related to beginner sailing instruction. Jane Fossett emphasized that for a considerable period of time  Starboard Yacht Club has been teaching “learn to sail” every Sunday. it was important not to interfere with such a successful program. Chad Sawson acknowledged that Starboards’ is in the process of reorganizing their program.  Chad’s vision was to teach a class on the principles of sailing, independent of any specific boat.  How to apply those concepts to the boat the student owns, or a boat the student is thinking about purchasing remains to be seen.

There was broad consensus among all present that teaching was an important aspect of a yacht club’s mandate.  It’s fair to say that all of the clubs were not only willing to participate in specific forms of sailing education, they were quite enthusiastic on the subject and wanted to be involved.

Jane Fossett recommended that a committee be formed to work out details concerning the way teaching should be divided up across the clubs while also considering different sail platforms. Chad Sawson today stated that in response to the meeting he will draft an outline proposal and circulate it amongst the officers of the various clubs this coming week.

Teaching is our life-blood in SL sailing, it is where our new sailors come from. All of the clubs and sailing groups should be involved.

Ship rats sailing the AdriaticJane Fossett then brought up a third point:multiple languages.  At the present time, Nantucket yacht club frequently meets sailors who primarily speak Japanese, German, Italian or French.  It’s NYC’s policy to make sure those sailors know that second life has language-specific sailing clubs.  NYC won’t discourage anybody from joining their yacht club; They just want make sure new students are also aware they can meet sailors and receive sailing instruction in their primary language. this overlaps the first point above concerning information and advertising.  It’s important that new students know all the services available to them.

There was strong consensus on this point.

The group completed its meeting with a sense that the yacht clubs did indeed have an important voice in SL sailing, and the size and complexity of the sailing communities across the grid made cooperation and communication among the clubs more important than ever.

A new meeting will be arranged as soon as the groups working on the issues outlined above have progress they can report and proposals for the clubs to discuss.

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