Monthly Archives: January 2010

Beating to Windward

Columbia and Patchogue are the two newest boats in the Trudeau line, and they continue the long tradition of style and performance that are a consistent trademark of Trudeau Yachts. There are lots of features about these boats to talk about, but today I wanted to focus on the reefing effects, and how they impact upwind performance of the boats.

Wind Engine. 

Before I can talk about reefing, I need to back up a bit and quickly remind people about the differences in wind engines in SL boats.

In real life, all sailboats see the same wind and are bound by the same basic laws of physics. That’s not necessarily true in Second Life however, where different vehicle wind scripts result in major performance differences. I discussed this a few months ago, noting that many popular boats in SL are powered by “true wind,” others by “apparent wind,” and still more by “something in-between.” Here’s a link to Mothgirl Dibou’s insightful discussion of this issue.

All Trudeau yachts over the past 18 months are based on an apparent wind engine initially introduced with the Trudeau Twenty. That basic design has been re-tuned and refined to match the specific characteristics of each new Trudeau vessel, and the underlying  Trudeau force algorithm is based on the same apparent wind equations skippers use in real-life.  Mastering these boats may prove a more realistic (and occasionally more frustrating) challenge to sailors, since the apparent wind speed (AWS) and the apparent wind angle (AWA) are constantly changing as the boat moves through the water. A skipper needs to ‘stay awake’ (just like Real Life!).

The chart below plots the “Speed Over Ground” (SOG) for six current Trudeau boats using optimal settings at a slow wind speed of 5.0 m/s. That slow wind speed makes it possible to get pretty accurate numbers for the different points of sail. It also gives a “baseline” performance estimate under conditions that don’t require reefing and cause relatively little heel.

With a 5.0 m/s breeze, Columbia (in Blue above) looks extremely similar to the J-Class (in Red). The boats come out of irons and start gaining momentum at around 38-40° AWA and achieve a  maximum upwind velocity at approximately 50° AWA.   Both boats (in fact all Trudeau boats) then exhibit a near-linear decay in performance response as the point-of-sail moves progressively downwind. (Columbia’s spinnaker effect is shown here. )

Patchogue’s wind response is shown in Purple above, and in Blue on a more detailed chart below.  On first look, Patch might seem the slowest of the whole Trudeau bunch.  For example, since a catboat has no headsail, Patchogue has a terrible time pointing upwind; at  40° AWA Patchogue is still luffing, with a flat ‘zero‘ boat speed despite optimal sail adjustments. The Patch only comes to life around 44° AWA, and it then quickly jumps to its peak SOG between 50°- 60° AWA.   That performance still doesn’t seem much to write home about, even if your skipper hikes to windward and optimally adjusts the centerboard.

 But let me tell you: What I just said about Patch with wind speed= 5.0 m/s is far from the whole story; I mean first looks are often deceiving.  Far from being a slowpoke, Patchogue may actually be the fastest Trudeau since the Beach Cat once the wind speed  picks up. Reefing  is one of the reasons.


In real-life sailing, with increasing wind speed a boat accelerates and begins to heel due to apparent wind forces.  A wise skipper will often decide to ‘shorten sail’ under those circumstances. Taking down a sail or reducing the mainsail size by setting a reef point makes a boat more stable and easier to manage, while also reducing the risk of a capsize. Columbia and Patchogue emulate these effects by incorporating  reefing options that enhance the boat’s performance. Columbia has two reef positions; Reef One douses the top sails and  gives the boat a significant speed boost when winds are over 11 m/s AWS.  Reef Two is effective when the wind exceeds 13 AWS; it shortens the main and boosts boat speed performance even further.

The chart below shows these reefing effects in Columbia using a windsetter Real Wind speed (RWS) of 11.0 m/s. The Red curve shows the boat’s baseline performance without reefing. The maximum boatspeed occurs between 60°- 70° and is roughly 80% of true wind.  Not terrible, but nothing to write home about.

Sailing upwind with the windsetter’s 11 m/s RWS, the boat’s  apparent wind speed quickly jumps into the range where reefing is effective.  As shown in green in the chart below, adding Reef One greatly enhances boat performance on a close haul or close reach, yielding a maximum boatspeed equal to true wind at approximately 50° AWA.

If that’s not fast enough for you, Columbia’s got more; it’s got Reef Two, as shown by the Blue curve below.   In fact, Reef Two provides a truly explosive performance boost; at 40° AWA Columbia generates a boatspeed that is nearly four times the unreefed response and 40% faster than True Wind, and Patchogue’s Reef effects are similarly prodigious. Woots!


True and Apparent Wind Angles

If the huge Reef Two boost that I just described in Columbia and Patchogue has you excited, and you’re starting to dream about using it to blow everyone away on the the racecourse… please take off your sailing gloves for another minute so I can tell you the “downside.” Reef Two will make your boat go explosively fast, but “Never confuse movement with progress.”You pay a price for that speed boost.

 Since Trudeau boats are powered by apparent wind, as the boatspeed increases the apparent wind angle shifts toward the bow of the boat (due to the increased headwind) . If the windsetter is set for 11.0 m/s and a Columbia skipper tries to sail a heading of 40° AWA without reefing, as the boat speeds up the  corresponding Real Wind Angle (RWA) will settle in around 55°. Thats not so bad, although it probably means it will take a few extra tacks to reach the upwind mark. It’s hard to complain too much though, since the same problem occurs in real sailing.

 If a skipper now adds Reef One, the boat strongly accelerates, swinging  the apparent wind angle further forward. in order to maintain a 40° AWA heading, Columbia needs to sail a real wind heading of 75°. That angle means it could take a skipper twice as many tacks to make it upwind. 

Now comes the “killer.”  Under the same conditions if a skipper decides its taking too long to continuously zig-zag the way upwind and wants to go faster she can push the button labeled ‘Reef Two.‘ As shown by the chart above, Reef Two  produces a major surge in boatspeed at 40° AWA. unfortunately, to keep that heading a sailor will need to fall off the wind again… this time to a real wind heading of 92° at best.  That course is actually perpendicular to the upwind target. 

In case you find these numbers confusing, here is the bottom line: If a skipper is trying to reach a mark directly upwind, a Real Wind heading over 90° will never get you there.

Startline Tsurus.

Let me give you a practical example of this problem using the Blake Sea- Atlantic raceline. The default wind there is ‘spd 11.3 m/s, dir 170‘ and nearly perpendicular to the raceline, but with a 10°port-start bias.  Many racelines are similar. These default wind settings are actually pretty great for Real Wind boats like the Tako or ACA33. As evidence, here’s an overhead image from last evening, showing an ACA33 fleet crossing the start line.  The generous polar and lack of apparent wind effects allows most ACA boats to do a ‘point and shoot’ start, where a skipper sets a Real Wind angle of  25- 30°  and then sprints as fast as possible in a straight line over the Start. (Closing your eyes helps 🙂 )

 Pity the lowly Patchogue, however. 🙂 

Even starting from far back and over a sim away, as the Patch accelerates on a heading of 44° AWA towards the start line the apparent wind rotates toward the bow, and with Reef Two the real wind angle slides over 90°. Patchogue therefore slips past the raceline at high speed… and never crosses it.   

This turns out to be a particular problem at the Atlantic reaceline, since the windsetter default angle is 170° and there’s currently a committee boat ‘barging barrier’ in place at the Starboard end of the line. A Columbia or Patchogue skipper that is willing to underpower the boat just enough to make it across the Start will end up coming in nearly parallel to the raceline… and I know I am stubborn, but… I’ve yet to make it across the Atlantic raceline in a Columbia or a Patch without slamming headlong into that committee boat or the observation tower.  

Based on the above discussion, the little diagram below shows why. Real Wind boats can cut the line at a real wind angle optimum for their polar; In the Tako, that’s 35°. In Columbia or Patchogue, the approach angle is determined by the Reef setting and AWA.  As shown below, without a Reef Columbia can cross the line with a 55° RWA but has little momentum. With Reef One engaged, the boat can come in at a fairly extreme 75°  RWA, and with luck maybe get across.

 However, using Reef Two, the boat has to approach the line from the wrong side at an obtuse angle over 90°, and then gybe to port in the middle of the starting fleet in order to cross the raceline. And that’s assuming the skipper didn’t first splatter Awlgrip and gelcoat all over the stern of the committee boat just trying to get there.    


 OK, What’s the Fix?

 I think there are several possible fixes  for this problem.

  1. The easiest solution is to lower the windspeed for races involving Patchogue or Columbia. Spd= 9.0 m/s does not push the apparent wind angle over 90°  and should allow these boats to sail as part of  One Design or Big Boat fleets.
  2. Another possible option is to ask skippers racing these two boats to only use Reef One. They may go slower, but they will be happier.
  3. The real solution however, is probably to reconsider the polars for these boats, or at least revise the size and profile of the ‘speed boost’ caused by Reefing. Trudeau boats already have a upwind boost built into the unreefed polar, and the selective extra upwind boost provided by the two reef settings makes that rather extreme.  Let’s see what J Trudeau comes up with!

Having said all the above, I have to admit Patchogue is becoming my favorite boat to race and cruise… Given the number of races for this boat Now scheduled by Waypoint, Triumphal, Mango and Fishers Island Clubs, it looks like a lot of sailors agree!

One Thousand Sims, an SL Rally proposal

Hi! Over the past month, I’ve been chatting with lots of sailors about a new kind of long-distance sailing event. I think it might be fun, accessible to just about everybody, and maybe… just perhaps… it could help to build Sailing in Second Life.
I gleefully admit I’m ‘stealing ideas’ here from many people, including Naeve, Tig, Becky, Carmen, Manul, Tory, Axle, Francois, Orca, Isis, Elbag, Taku, Chaos, MTW, and many, many others. The idea is not well thought-out yet though and it might not even work, but I’m posting the proposal here to start a discussion and consider what to do with it based on everyone’s feedback.

OKOK; With that truly tortuous preface, here is what I’m thinking:

“The Second Life Sail Rally”

The Rally idea (aka “The SL Global Challenge“) would be a single long distance sailing event that traverses approximately 1,000 sims, broken into a series of stages that go from one marina to the next over a few weeks. The event will be open to all sailboats and any SL user at any skill level. It can be sailed solo or by a team, it will be largely self-paced, and the ‘rules’ should be very simple. I’m considering a pretty absurd logo and motto: “One Thousand Sims, One Thousand Sailors.

(Cough… I know what you’re thinking: “Jane’s gone off the deep end, again“).
Well, maybe that’s true; I actually dunno yet. I need some advice and input from SL sailors.

The Rally isn’t actually a race; and it’s not just a long cruise, either. It’s well… an adventure.

Sailors would ‘compete’ in any kind of boat, and the registered Rally boats could be sailed by either individuals or by ‘teams’ that worked together and substituted for each other. That way it’s flexible enough so anyone can participate.

Nonetheless, one thousand Sims is a very long distance. To make it reasonable and fun, the Rally would be broken up into a series of  short “legs.” Each leg will start from a designated raceline or waypoint on the route and take less than one hour to complete. The sailing time for each segment would be recorded and displayed in a spreadsheet online.

After each leg is finished, at their convenience the competing boats would  set sail again, using the previous finish line as the new start line for the next leg.

During the Rally, a web database might display each boat’s geographic position and document their ‘lap’ time in addition to their cumulative time scores across all the completed legs.

Any boat that successfully finishes the entire Rally will complete a thousand-sim course and deserve major bragging rights for that accomplishment. The entire 1,000 sim event will be scheduled so that it is convenient for sailors, but competitors should finish all legs within a time-limited frame of perhaps two-three weeks.

In my opinion, anyone who finishes this Rally is a sailing superstar. This is a rally endurance challenge, not really a boat race. Nonetheless, in the true sailing spirit of challenges met and obstacles overcome, prizes and publicity would go to multiple ‘winners’ in different categories, to be decided.

That’s basically the idea: A Mega-Rally with a huge group of sailors forging across 1,000 sims that interconnect a dozen marina locations, all laughing along the way with minimal pressure, heading to a common finish point that celebrates Sailing in Second Life.

As I said, maybe this sounds totally over ambitious, and essentially “nuts.”  I’m sure some think it totally undo-able.
I should know better, right?

So why am I proposing this?

Well… it’s simple.

1. The event combines interests of nearly all Second Life users;
2. It would showcase many clubs and marinas that some sailors rarely visit;
3. It would build cooperation and communication across sailing groups;
4. It helps merge the SL “racers” and “cruisers” in into a fun event that combines both racing and cruising features;
5. The winning boats in some categories might easily be new builds. That would give the yacht yards free, well-deserved publicity.
6. the Rally symbolizes another step in the expansion of sailing across the continents of Second Life.
7. The Rally builds the “distance race” idea (sailing from one point to a far-off raceline over the horizon).
8. The open, “Rally” format makes rules less important, and emphasizes a big fleet, lots of cooperation, and minimal stress with a fairly wide-open timeframe.
9. The Rally is a single event that can go on ‘behind the scenes’ for a few weeks. It will not interfere with any other regatta or Cup.

OK, Now… what’s Jane Fossett’s hidden agenda proposing this event? (Grin. Thanks for asking.)
Simply stated:

Along with many others, I want open waterways in Second Life.
If this Rally is popular and successful, it could be a platform that allows sailors to petition Linden Lab to keep the navigable waterways open.
Unless navigation waterways are a priority, unless they are open and sacrosanct, our community cannot grow.

That’s my agenda here: I want 1,000 sailable sims from Gaeta to Spoondrift (and all similar intercontinental waterways) to be a priority. 🙂 .
We are a community of individual sailors who have discrete and personal goals, but I believe we share some common ideas.
I think one of the most basic beliefs we hold in common is that sailing channels around Linden continents should remain open, free, and accessible to all.
I actually believe Linden Lab thinks that too… but they need our encouragement to define their priorities.

So… if you also agree we need open waters,
or if you just want a fun cruising adventure with no hassle and meet many sailors…
or you want to join a huge Rally competition full of laughs and discovery…
Well, this might be your event.

Let me know what you think, and help plan it! I’ll start threads to discuss the next steps on and

Oh… and what boats are good for this event?

In the Rally, I’ll be sailing a Trudeau Twenty…
errrrr… or maybe a Nemo…
Wait, wait!… a Wally…
cough… or any boat made by Juli Gothly or Corry Kamachi…
nono, a Dutch Barge!
(where the hell is my “Becca’s Baby Sloop?”)
Manul, can your raft do this?

I admit I have no idea what boat wins this kind of 1,000 sim adventure!
That’s part of the fun!