The cruising crowd continues to grow in Second Life. Luckily, the options available to SL skippers also continue to expand, and in the past few months several new mid-sized cruising craft hit the water.
Loonetta Quartet at LCC
I admit it; for over a year now, Motor Loon’s Loonetta 31 has been my personal ‘benchmark choice’ for a contemporary cruiser. Loonetta is a remarkably well-detailed and full-featured mesh build, and all the features somehow fit very nicely into a very tiny footprint (Prim 31, LOD 32).
However, time passes, and a sailor’s eyes start to wander… my Loonetta launched 14 months ago, and maybe now is a good time now to check out the marinas for a new cruising companion. 🙂
With that modus operandi, I’d like to highlight three cruisers with contemporary designs; it might assist some sailors seeking a new maritime relationship. The three vessels I’ll discuss are the Bandit 50, the Café Del Mar 75 and the RM 12. They are all well-crafted and nicely detailed; you can see their relative sizes in the header image above. Each boat has its own merits and it’s worth checking them all out to see which might meet your personal and particular sailing interest.
The first boat I want to chime in on is the Bandit 50. It’s a 50 ft, mid-size sloop designed by Analyse Dean and available at the Mesh Shop. It’s a remarkably detailed and gracefully constructed mesh build. The beamy hull has plenty of room for crew topside, and there’s extensive forward cabin space as well.
The Bandit 50 build
Let’s click through some of the details. 🙂 The boat has so many features, it actually comes with two versions in the box. The full-featured cruiser is the Bandit 50B, while the Bandit 50R is a lightweight, stripped-down version more suitable for racing. Since the full-featured boat has a super-low LOD of 32, I nearly always sail that 50B version of the boat; I’ve had very little difficulty getting across sim borders or having parts fail to rez or fragment. I have not tried to race it, but I’ve sailed it on the Leeward Cruise, which can be a pretty big stress test.
As you can see in the above image, the cockpit is generously proportioned, with a single center wheel and binnacle with a working compass. There’s the requisite number of winches and a full set of lines to help you trim the sails, and there are a number of extras too. The most obvious one is a large, removable Bimini top that provides shade and modest weather protection to the aft cockpit and stern. To my knowledge, this is the only sailboat in Second Life that has a Bimini, and it’s a nice touch.
In her review of the boat, Orca takes a rather dim view of this extra piece of canvas, calling the Bandit 50B:
“…a “silly” version with those fuglycake booths that cover the cockpit and give your boat the appearance of a maritime home for the elderly. …
“Well, if you’re forced to skipper a boat from underneath a canopy at least you can pretend to like it. …”
To the contrary, I think a Bimini can be pretty useful if you’re sailing in the Caribbean or another subtropical latitude. The sun can be scorchingly intense, and a piece of canvas over your head comes in pretty handy when the wind dies or the boat sits moored. Anyway, whatever you may think, the Bimini is totally removable. 🙂
The boat will accommodate several friends both above and below decks. and there are a rather huge number of poses and animations built-in to accommodate them. The poses are hierarchically organized within a series of pop-up menu pages. That’s nice and orderly, and it takes only a couple seconds to find what you want and take a seat aboard. 🙂
The skipper can actually control the boat from any of these sit positions, but you will probably want to be at the helm for the best visibility while underway. Speaking of which, the boat has a simple ‘Crew Hud‘ system that lets others aboard share sailing responsibilities by adjusting the sheets and controlling the halyards. A skipper can even hand over helm control to one other designated person aboard. That useful option is similar to the helm-switching available on the Loonetta.
One more important point: unlike several other recent mesh boats, the Bandit 50 has a physical keel. That feature adds to the realism, but it means you’ll have to be careful when cruising the shallows.
Bandit 50 has a central gangway that leads below decks from the cockpit.
The main cabin has plenty of space, and a surprising amount of headroom. The layout is traditional, and it follows the design of most cruisers I’m familiar with in real life (see below). The L-shaped galley is on the port side as you enter, with the sink extending to the middle for easy access. The starboard side has space for a nav station, and forward there are curved benches on either side. As with most cruisers this size, the tables in front of the benches are collapsible, to maximize use of the space.
There is a separate, main sleeping compartment in the bow that is large enough for two very friendly people, and there are two more sleep cubbies on either side of the engine compartment below the cockpit.
Sailing the Bandit 50
BWind 2.5. The Bandit 50 Uses a BWind 2.5 sail engine by Becca Moulliez. To set the wind, the skipper uses an iPad tablet that displays familiar BWind options. The current iPad2 can also be operated by an independent race director who can broadcast the wind parameters for a fleet of racers or cruisers that are nearby and listening. (A small glitch with the iPad2: the time display is off by one hour. 🙂 )
I’ve discussed the BWind 2.5 engine before. It’s fine for cruising, but it may have significant limitations for some race applications; I’ll talk more on that in the next article in this series. Let me just emphasize here that Bandit 50 does not work with the standard raceline WWC in use across the grid, and the system for adding wind variance is quite different. Sailors will need to judge for themselves whether this represents a major handicap, depending on how you sail.
HUDs and such. The bandit 50 is controlled by a simple set of chat commands and keyboard combinations that will be very familiar to any user that owns a Mesh Shop boat. In particular, there are chat commands that turn the text HUD on or off, that engage the engine (yes, it has an engine!), and that change the communication channel.
Speaking of the HUD, the Bandit 50B has a full-featured BWind text-HUD that changes color when the sails are out of tune. It even includes text messages warning the skipper to pull in or let out the sail.
If that wasn’t enough, the sails visibly and audibly flap when they are out of tune, and a set of telltales go limp as well. It’s nice to have all that feedback while cruising. 🙂
If you not a big fan of HUDs, you can turn it off and sail by the boat’s instruments; there’s a complete display panel above the gangway full of analog dials that tell you about the wind and boat speed.
(Note: the Bandit 50R does not have a BWind text HUD; you have to race that boat by the seat of your pants. 🙂 )
Bandit 50 Polar
Speaking of racing, let’s talk about Bandit 50’s performance; it’s pretty speedy.
As I discussed a few days ago, on the Hotlaps test courses this boat earned a Handicap of 0.89. That’s pretty impressive for a beamy, full-service cruiser; it was one of the fastest boats in its class.
Here is the polar for the Bandit 50B.
The chart to the right shows boat speed for Real Wind Angles (RWA) in response to a 15 kn constant wind speed. As you can see, the performance curve using the Main+Jib looks pretty typical for a sloop, with maximum boat speed on a beam reach with RWA in the 85°–125° range. On that point of sail Bandit 50 will do approximately 80% of RWS.
The spinnaker will only go up when the boat is sailing downwind with an RWA > 135°, and it automatically douses as the boat turns windward. When it’s up, the spinnaker will allow a skipper to sail 80% of RWS to a downwind angle of 150°.
You can see on the chart that there is an interesting, small “divit” in the performance curve around 132°. That happens when the Genoa is losing power, but before the spinnaker will stay up. It’s a pretty realistic feature, but it’s probably best to avoid that heading if you want to get the best out of the boat. 🙂
One more thing; if you look closely, the boat speed actually picks up after the boat’s heading goes over 180°. This is the same “by the Lee” effect incorporated into the Mesh Shop Laser One. It’s nice to see it here too. 🙂
Cruisers are often beamy boats with lots of mass. It can be a real chore to turn them around, and it often takes considerable space. The wheel response can also seem sluggish and sloppy in RL and SL.
Well, that’s not true for Bandit 50. I did a series of 180° Half Circle tests on the boat to see if it could cut a sharp turn, and it came through like a champ.
The top image to the right shows the X-Y position of the boat measured each second during a hard turn into the wind from AWA -90° to AWA +90°. The boat has a turning radius of around 15 m, which in Second Life is actually pretty good.
To demonstrate that, in the second figure I superimposed Bandit 50’s turn onto the turn plots of a large number of other boats shown in gray. This boat handles pretty well!
The Bandit 50 is a pretty great build that meets all the criteria a cruising skipper could hope for. The construction is wonderfully detailed and accurate, there’s enough room and sit positions for a crowd of friends, and the performance is realistic for a midsize sloop.
However, the best accolades come from Admiral Chaos Mandelbrot.
He runs the Tuesday evening LCC events, so he’s a veteran cruiser if there ever was one. 🙂 Chaos tells me the Bandit 50 has now replaced Loonetta 31 as his Tuesday cruiser of choice. 🙂
Go give the boat a test drive yourself at the Mesh Shop and see what you think.
Don’t decide too fast, though. I have two more cruise boats to tell you about in upcoming days. 🙂