I know, I know.
I’ve been so wrapped up in the ONE WORLD Regatta that I’ve fallen way behind showcasing new boats and places, and ranting about everything in general. Well let me try to catch up a little here by giving you a heads-up to the new boat from WildWind: It’s the WILDCAT, and it’s inspired by the AC-45.
What’s the AC 45?
It’s a smaller, one-design version of the Americas Cup AC72 catamaran (I think that means it comes with only five attorneys, not fifty). The first versions were just launched, and they’re intended as training boats for the Cup contenders, and also slated for a regatta circuit to build enthusiasm for the design and the Americas Cup.
(You remember the Americas Cup, right? It’s like NASCAR without wheels, or gas engines… or Cars…) 🙂
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Corry puts the J in ACJ-45
You all know Wildwind. They make a great line of boats created by Corry Kamachi, and each one reflects her unique vision as well as her attention to detail and design. Orca Flotta, Aleister Biondetti, and Tig Spijkers are great fans of Corry’s boats (along with a few hundred other sailors), and over the past two years they’ve organized a host of pretty fantastic races.
Naeve Rossini and I reviewed Corry’s RCJ-44 and JMO-60 here, and I’ve charted the PHRF performance numbers for many other boats in the Wildwind fleet. They are very fast, easy to sail, and quite beautifully detailed.
After she loaded Wildwind’s dock with a full line of gorgeous sailcraft, Corry took a well-deserved break many months ago. I was therefore pretty thrilled to get a note recently from her and Sarah999, asking me to look at a late beta of Wildwind’s new ACJ-45 clone, the WildCat!
Reap the Wild Wind
As usual, let me offer a disclaimer upfront. My opinions are mostly based on late betas, and I usually sail boats “as they come out of the box.” I can miss a lot of good things, and I am thrilled if anyone wants to add comments below or tell me what features I forgot to list here.
Having said that, I think the new Wildcat has the unmistakable features of a Wildwind through and through. If you know and love Wildwind, then the WildCat is your boat.
The Wildcat is a two-person catamaran with very nice detailing.
The owner is also the skipper, and controls all sail functions. The crew comes along for the ride.
The hull is carefully crafted, and it closely matches the AC-45’s RL appearance. Don Berithos tells me that more boats may come from Wildwind’s ACJ-45 line, but I think this one is already pretty accurate.
As the ‘bump test’ pictures below show, the boat’s collision mesh carefully lines up with the visible ends of the sculptie pontoons, so you shouldn’t have any awkward accidents in tight corners with this boat; what you see is what you get, and it shows genuine, skilled craftmanship.
Speaking of what you see, however, the boat comes with a box of textures that the owner can download and modify. That makes it easy to reconfigure WildCat’s appearance, and a skipper can quickly personalize their vessel.
However, no matter what your boat looks like, the major features will always remain unmistakably Wildwind.
WildCat uses a standard Wildwind HUD that most experienced sailors will recognize. It discreetly sits on the left side of your screen, giving the skipper an uncluttered view of the ocean ahead. When you get comfortable with the controls, you can always bypass even that minimal HUD, and switch to chat commands for racing.
Once under sail, the boat boasts a fairly typical info-HUD text display. It has a huge amount of information about compass headings, wind, rigging, sail angle, and a lot more.
I admit I found it confusing when I first began sailing the WildCat; there’s a lot of information and it’s not adjustable. Having said that, however, it’s not really an issue, since it only takes a few minutes to get comfortable with the Info Display and focus on the numbers you need.
And speaking of the “learning curve,” like most other Wildwind sailboats, this one comes equipped with multiple options for different user styles. A beginner may want to let the boat adjust the rig automatically. With more experience, a sailor can reconfigure the WildCat so the skipper has personal control of the ACJ-45’s many features.
This boat comes with a stiff wing instead of a main sail. However, similar to other Wildwinds, it has two headsail options: a standard jib or a gennaker. The optimal choice of headsail will depend on wind speed and apparent wind angle.
So let’s talk about sailing performance!
I admit I can only give you an introduction to this boat, since I haven’t tested it under all conditions or with the boat configured to expert settings; it only came off the launch ramp a few days ago. 🙂 However, even with that short experience I’m impressed that WildCat’s sailing performance a close match to prior boats in the Wildwind line.
As everyone knows, sailboats are powered by the pressure of wind against sails. When a boat picks up speed however, things get a bit complicated. The boat’s movement generates it’s own wind, a headwind, and the actual driving force that propels the boat is the sum of both the Real Wind and Headwind vectors. That’s known as ‘Apparent Wind.’ Last year I wrote about this issue, and how it’s applied to different sailboats in SL. Kanker Greenacre’s Flying Tako sailboat uses a simple wind power algorithm based on the Real Wind, while most new sailboats use a more realistic Apparent Wind engine. The Flying Fizz, BWind boats, and the Trudeau fleet all use Apparent Wind algorithms.
Wildwind boats are different. They use a ‘weighted’ adjustment headwind that is about one-third the real life Apparent Wind correction (the Nemo does something similar). Mothgirl Dibou provided a nice summary a while back about the issues that go into this kind of design decision. There is no “good” or “bad” choice when a boat designer models apparent wind in virtual sailing. The real goal, as Nomad Zamani pointed out for Nemo, is to come up with a perceptually realistic emulation of sailing within the constraints of SL’s 3D world.
Anyway, I’m bringing this issue up because Wildwind’s reduced apparent wind effect allows their boats to sail faster and to point higher on a windward beat than nearly any other SL race boat, for the reasons I discussed here.
The chart below shows a performance plot for Wildcat using a fixed Real Wind Speed of 5.0 m/s. It graphs the boat speed under optimal settings for progressive apparent wind angles; the red line uses the jib as a headsail, and the blue line uses the gennaker. Under the 5.0m/s wind settings, on upward points of sail a jib is the better choice, and boat speed quickly exceeds real wind speed with AWA over 40°. In contrast, the gennaker functions like an asymmetric spinnaker, and it kicks in around around AWA 100° . Over that heading it suddenly inflates and puts the boat into downwind overdrive.
What the chart below really shows is that a smart skipper who adroitly swaps sails can achieve boat speeds well in excess of real wind over roughly 100° of arc.
That makes Wildcat superfast, easy to point, and a great deal of fun. 🙂
The numbers above are probably very familiar to Wildwind sailors. I’ve copied a chart below that Naeve Rossini and I did two years ago for the RCJ-44. that boat also has two headsails, and the performance curves look highly similar to what you can expect with WildCat.
That’s not a bad thing!! RCJ-44 is an extremely popular boat, loved by a recent generation of SL racers. They should be able to take the helm of WildCat and feel quickly at home!!
Click (or double click) to enlarge
For comparison, let me also include a chart for JMO-60. I wont go through the details of the graph below, but you can find them here. If you look at the shape of the curves and the range of points where boat speed exceeds the 5.0 wind speed, you’ll see JMO-60 agrees up pretty closely with the RCJ-44 and the new ACJ-45 WildCat catamaran.
So, on first impression I admit it; I’m a big fan of Corry’s Wildwind boats.
I also know I’ll prolly need to stand in line to get them, since Wildwind has a huge following in the sailing community. 🙂 Triumphal Yacht Club’s already started WildCat races, Tradewinds is cranking up for a regular regatta, and Golden Gate has Cup Dreams in store too!! 🙂
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The new WildCat is a very pretty and very fast, but at heart it’s ultimately a no-frills, bare-bones, take-no-prisoners racer. So don’t look for a beer cooler, sexgen animations, helm sharing or crew hiking on this sleek double-hull.
But hey… if you want a beautiful race sled that’s got years of proven Wildwind scripting and service behind it, and if the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the competition crowd is running in your veins…
Baby, this boat’s for you.
Welcome back, Wildwinds!!!