Last week Jacqueline Trudeau launched the Leetle Cat II. It’s a total re-do of the popular Leetle Cat sailing dinghy, and you can test-drive one in Second Life over at Trudeau Yacht Yard.
Beetle Cat beginnings
As I discussed two years ago (that’s Fourteen in Dog Years), the Trudeau Leetle Cat was inspired by the RL Beetle Cat, a sturdy little cat-boat made by the Beetle family nearly a century ago. Beetle boats were initially designed as whaling dinghys; a Cat-rigged version was adapted as a training boat for children. However, that family sail-trainer soon was a big hit with the broad sailing community, and to this day Beetle Cats remain remarkably popular boats in many New England harbors.
Given the Beetlecat’s humble origins, it’s probably a little embarrassing to add that several A-List Divas were also avid B-Cat sailors, notably Jacqueline Onassis, Calvin Klein, John Kerry, JFK jr, Steven Spielberg, and Caroline Kennedy. I have it on good information that the Beetle Company will also sell the boats to Republicans, but I haven’t actually verified that yet. 🙂
It’s probably no surprise that in Second Life the original Trudeau Leetle Cat also took off as a popular One Design racer and teaching boat. LCat #1 was cherished and strongly promoted by Epicurus Emmons, Taku Raymaker, Isis Rexie and many, many others. Several Yacht Clubs held weekly races, and initiated aggressive Cat competitions, while many others helped organize cooperative learn-to-sail classes that introduced new users to the LCat fleet.
Fruit Island's Strawberry Sailing Center
How popular was the first LCat? (Glad you asked!)
Well, when the ten-dozen United Sailing Sims left their far-offshore island home to help form Blake Sea two years ago, Taku Raymaker organized the Final USS Regatta; he made it an homage that passed through all the USS estates for one, last time.
Commodore Raymaker’s boat of choice for that occasion was the Leetle Cat. No surprise, a near sim-crushing fleet enthusiastically showed up to sail.
The event was so popular that Waypoint Yacht Club repeated the Leetle Cat Distance Race in the new USS sims in 2009, and… while I was writing this article this week… Taku Raymaker announced the LCDR 2010!
Woot! It’s this month! Contact Taku if you want to race!!
Leetle Cat II
Well, with that RL and SL history, let me suggest LCat sailors grab their seats and put down the catnip, because Leetle Cat II is here!
The name may be a bit deceptive, but let me tell you: The new LCat II is no mere upgrade. It’s a total re-work of the original boat, and it’s full of remarkable features and enhanced performance. It’s the boat many LCat sailors have longed for… and it’s a whole lot more.
As I’ll briefly describe below, LCat II incorporates innovative features from Trudeau One, including sail luffing and crew hiking, but it then takes another big step. LCat II adds innovative features that make this new boat truly unique.
LCAT HULL, Sails and Rig
Let me back up a bit here, and talk about prim and textures first; after all, this a Trudeau. Tradition, detail, and accuracy are paramount.
The image above shows the new LCat II rafted with my old, weathered Riker’s Island Yacht Club LCat. The New Cat is a tad smaller than before. It also introduces a fiberglass hull and has a far more detailed rig. I doubt anyone will mistake this boat; it has the style, accuracy, and full-on panache that’s long been a Trudeau trademark.
In case you have lingering doubts… Bunnie Mills did the gaf-rigged sails. They are detailed, realistic, and an integral part of the revolutionary Trudeau Tru-Sail feature. An LCat crew can now ignore numbers and HUDs… all they need to do is watch the sail shape and listen for the Luff and Snap.
GRIN. In case you haven’t sailed T-ONE or tried out a new LCat II yet, let me ask: How did you adjust sheet and heading in the last RL dinghy you sailed? Take a moment and recall… Then forget about reading any of the LCat II directions. You already know this boat well! If that sounds intuitive and sailor-friendly… well, we’re just getting started here. 🙂
I Love You the Way You Are; Now Change…
If you know Trudeau boats, you’re aware they come with full-mod textures. That makes it easy to warp the object of your affection to a version that meets your personal passion. 🙂
You can download the LCAT II PSD files from the Trudeau website. If you want new sails, you can also contact Bunnie Mills directly inworld! Recrafting sails can be fun, and J Trudeau and Bunnie will give you all the help you need to make your own, but frankly I’d politely suggest maybe Bunnie and a small number of other SL Sailing design experts are better at it than the rest of us are! 🙂
(Note: In RL, Beetle Cats often have rather flamboyant sail designs. I’m happy to showcase SL design samples here on Metaverse, or add hyperlinks to SL Sail Lofts that offer Trudeau (or any other) sails.
If it’s easier, sail designers can of course add their links as ‘comments’ to this or any other topic-appropriate articles.)
‘Chat Tu’ Performance
No surprise, I’m still running around trying to figure out the details of this marvelous boat, but let me give you a few highlights. However, before I do that, let me offer… a disclaimer:
My comments below are based on multiple beta releases. Like all Trudeau boats, this one went through extensive tinkering. 🙂 The beta-Crash Test Crew included Bunnie Mills, Isis Rexie, Taku Raymaker, Francois Jacques, Naeve Rossini, Chaos Mandelbrot, and JoyofRLC Acker. Final changes were made the evening before launch, and I’m still wet-testing the released version! So talk to one of the other beta testers, or maybe just stop reading this and go test drive the boat yourself! I’ll update my info once I get smarter!
With that denial of responsibility under my belt, let me talk a bit on what I know about LCat II’s performance!
The chart below shows a very basic Boat Speed v. Apparent Wind Angle graph for the LCat II crewed by a solo sailor, using Real Wind= 5.0 m/s. That slow wind setting reduces the effects of heel or skipper hiking, so its a useful starting point. However, please note that the LCat II boat speed is not linearly related to Real Wind (like RL), so the graph below is just a baseline and may not accurately reflect what happens with faster wind.
The Blue Curve on the graph below shows the boat speed result using optimum sail settings, with the skipper sitting windward, and the centerboard down. Under those conditions the boat has a rather broad, ‘forgiving’ thrust-response curve. From 50°-110° AWA, it generates a speed over ground that is roughly 40% of true wind.
If you look at old charts of the original Cat using similar conditions, the new boat may actually seem slow at first glance, but please don’t be fooled. LCat II has several options designed to strongly boost performance; it needs a modest start point. This boat is actually a ‘pocket-rocket.’ Take a few laps and you’ll see: A swift sailing speed will surely be the sign of a skilled skipper.
I mentioned the chart here is just a “baseline” contrasted with LCat 1… Let me restate that. LCat II is so different, it’s very misleading to compare the numbers with its namesake feline LCat 1 at all. 🙂
I have no idea which boat might finish an Olympic course first… but I guarantee you: The LCat II teams will be the RL sailors laughing and clapping as they cross the line.
The new LCat II borrows a lot from the recently-launched Trudeau ONE; the sails actively luff, the heel angle strongly impacts boat acceleration, and both the skipper and crew can hike to keep the boat in balance.
I think Kentrock was on his cellphone when we passed by...
However, this boat is no ‘poor sister‘ to T-ONE! If you look a bit further you’ll see it has truly great and rather unique options, largely based on TCY’s original intention to use LCat as a training boat. LCat was designed to give new skippers experience with common sailing skills, like dropping a centerboard and setting a reef point, so this boat was loaded with good stuff!
Now LCat II sailors will get the new versions of those features, plus much, much more!
On smallish sailing dinghies, a retractable centerboard (CB) takes the place of a keel. The CB allows a boat to hold a course on an upwind heading without side-slipping due to wind pressure. However, on downwind points of sail, the CB becomes unnecessary and just slows the boat due to drag effects. A CB is therefore pretty important in RL. It was also essential equipment on the original LCat.
Well, LCat II continues that tradition; The HUD uses a toggle button to raise and lower the CB, as shown below!
If you look again at the Boat Speed performance chart above, you’ll get a rough idea about the CB’s effect. The Blue Line indicates boat speed with the CB down, and the Green Line shows boat speed on the same AWA headings with the CB up.
If you compare the two curves, you’ll see that a down centerboard increases boat speed by over 25% when the boat is traveling Upwind. On Downwind headings over 120° however, an up centerboard proves faster, resulting in an 100% speed boost (roughly) on a near Dead-Run. The ‘crossover point’ (the point where you should change the CB settings) in the new boat is around 110° AWA, similar to the old LCat 1.
Although the speed change I just mentioned probably seems huge, I admit it’s also misleading and actually underestimates the CB effect! The centerboard’s most important function is to maintain the boat’s heading. It helps a boat reliably keep on course despite the variable forces of wind and wave all around.
For example, , if you raise sail in LCat II with a wind heading of 40° and forget to lower the CB, you’ll rapidly slip sideways, and your boat heading will strongly push to the Lee. So if you’re racing, please remember to drop your CB first! Otherwise there’s an excellent chance you’ll sideslip off the course and end up on the rocks; you’ll never even cross the startline!
Despite that warning, let me also comment the same thing happens in real life. However, after a little practice with the CB in SL (or RL!) you’ll love this boat, and find it can hold a tight course under pretty treacherous conditions. The image below shows one such instance, with Chaos shooting the tight Fastnet channel on a beam reach despite a strong, variable winds!
Piece of cake! (OK OK OK, no one was racing… 🙂 )
Lee Helm. In the beta boats, Even with the CB Down the LCat II had a small “Lee helm.” In other words, if you set a certain heading, the boat would gradually turn away from the wind on its own; a skipper would need to keep adjusting the tiller, coaxing the boat back upwind. The figure below illustrates this effect in the final Beta. If you set an optimal heading and let the boat continue on its own with 5.0m/s RWS, after roughly a minute the boat turned Leeward by a good amount.
In the figure below, the heading rotates from 55° to 62°. Real life Cat Boats have a single sail (by definition) 🙂 , and a helm deviation is pretty common depending on the rig adjustment. Having said that, since Trudeau adjusted the rig just prior to launch, my guess is the ‘Lee Helm’ effect is less in the final release than what I found in the beta test below. Even if it’s unchanged, such an effect is realistic, and if you can’t handle a 7° correction over sixty seconds racing… perhaps you need more sports psychology counseling or a medication increase. (please: that was a joke 🙂 )
(Note #2: The last time I discussed lee helm in SL boats, Mothgirl Dibou offered an interesting explanation that might be relevant here as well; it’s worth a look at her opinion.)
“Reefing” is a common real-life sailing technique that helps a skipper control a boat by shortening the size of the deployed sail. Reefing reduces the heel, in a single-sail boat changes the ‘lee helm slip,’ and it makes the wind-sail more efficient. Probably most important, cutting the sails in high, gusty winds also keeps the boat from capsizing.
LCat II has a single Reef setting, and it it works rather well (although I don’t have final numbers on it yet)!
Reefing was introduced in Trudeau Twenty nearly two-and-a-half years ago, as a realistic option that mimicked RL. However, as later boats in the ‘Twenty branch’ of the Trudeau fleet increased in speed and expanded in features, some of the reefing issues got a bit complicated, partly due to original Tako conventions. I discussed this issue several months ago here. I’m mentioning it again just to emphasize that the practical problems were exclusively about “Reef 2” settings, and their effect under ‘default’ SL windsetter settings.
If that last sentence made no sense to you, never mind, because I’m quite delighted to say that LCat II’s Reefing is a rather wondrous compromise!
The RL/SL Beetle/Leetle Cat has only one sail, hence few adjustment options. That makes simple reefing an important tool.
Occasionally it’s absolutely critical; ask Shackleton. Shackleton’s dinghy voyage ranks next to and maybe even surpasses Bligh’s epic mini-boat tour in my personal Guinness ranking of Death Defying Duress Dinghy Long-Distance Sailing Records… Anyone disagree? 🙂
After a few more SL hours sailing solo and crewed in LCat II under Reef, I’ll post graphs showing some practical tests of Reef effects in this boat, but so far I’m pretty comfortable that the Reef benefits seem well- integrated and rather natural. (I haven’t asked Shackleton yet.)
Trudeau introduced crew effects in the J-Class, and skipper hiking soon followed in Patchogue and T-ONE. LCat II holds a skipper and one crew-person, but both can hike, and hike position has a major impact on sailing performance, bringing the boat into balance.
In the past I guesstimated the hike effect was a 10-15% upwind boost in J-Class. I need new numbers on the final LCat II release, but I’m pretty sure the effect is more intense than J-Class, and closer to the recent T-ONE (as it should be!).
Please note: Trudeau ONE is a larger boat, modeled after the mythic International One Design racer. ONE holds a larger crew and has more hike positions, and I’m having fun comparing all the hike configurations between the vessels. Given all the options, this could take a few weeks… or a Defense Department Grant… to resolve. 🙂
Don’t hold your breath!
This article is running long in text and low on data, so let me cut to the chase here and just say: WOOTS!!! I’ve saved the best for last. LCat II introduces TRUDEAU CAPSIZE!!
OK OK; I immediately need to qualify that statement; LCat II is, of course, not the first Trudeau to capsize. In fact, after four years in SL I’m still sailing here, partly due to an incredible boat that launched shortly after I first logged into SL: The Trudeau Beach-Cat.
I do not have time nor space to relate that history here (go ask Tasha, Bea, M1sha, Hay, Liv, Glida, Moontears, Svar, Cory, Vin, Kanker…), but I admit I’m jumping up and down over the fact that capsizing is now back in the Trudeau algorithm!
With Capsize, suddenly Trudeau Reefing makes sense. It matches the RL need to shorten sail in strong wind. The animations that accompany dumping your boat are also simply great, and make losing a race almost worthwhile!
I have tons to say about capsize and hiking in this wondrous little craft, but… in RL it’s snowing like crazy here and and I need to get warm. I’m going sailing in my LCat II in some great tropical sea-spot where they offer free pina coladas…
Go grab a tropical drink too, then test drive the new Leetle Cat II!
Oh, then don’t forget to IM Taku Raymaker to register for the upcoming LCDR 2010 !!!!