Category Archives: Review

Cruisin’ #3: The Rene Marine 12, Tofinou

RM12

This month I’m reviewing three popular, contemporary cruising boats in Second Life. I’ve already posted about Analyse Dean‘s Bandit 50 and Kain Xenobuilder‘s Café del Mar 75. Both are large and fast cruisers that use the new BWind 2.5 wind engine.cruiser trio Bandit and Café also come with many on-board accommodations, including rather extensive cabin space and over two dozen animations. The boats compare favorably with my previous, ultimate 2012 favorite cruiser: Motor Loon‘s remarkable Loonetta 31.

Today I want to talk about the third cruiser on my personal short-list; it’s Rene Underby‘s RM12 Tofinou, and it’s available at the Rene Marine boatyard in Thalipolli.  The boat is modeled after the French Tofinou 12, a 40ft  Joubert/Nivelt  sloop design.  SteveLL Resident  (aka Justin) likes this boat a great deal, and his enthusiasm got me interested (thank you SteveLL !!!).

Having said that, let me also add that the RM12 is the first Rene Marine boat I’ve put under the Metaverse microscope, so please bear with me; I might not get everything right. Nonetheless, I’ve spent five months testing this boat, and think I have a reasonably good feel for it. 🙂 if I get something wrong, hopefully SteveLL will correct me here!! With those provisos on the record, let’s talk about the boat.  🙂

The RM12 is substantially smaller than the cruisers I’ve recently reviewed; RM12 might be best classified as a daysailor rather than a Coastal Cruiser.

Compared to Bandit and Cafe, RM12 has fewer animations and less “jazz” throughout, but actually that’s quite intentional. The contrast between the different design styles is present in real life, and nicely summarized by Peter Nielsen in Sail

“The aesthetic differences between American and European boats are nowhere more pronounced than in the daysailer niche. The average modern U.S. daysailer has a refined, gentlemanly air; it’s a boat your granddad would have been proud to own. A typical sporty Euro-daysailer, on the other hand, is a dashing rogue of a boat; Grandma might send it coy glances, but Granddad would eye it with suspicion.

Tofin12“If there is a boat that straddles this divide with hardly a wince, it is the Tofinou range from France. Tofinou was building pretty little daysailers long before the idea caught on in the United States. Its hulls have the sweetest of lines, and on its bigger boats, the 8, the 9.5 and the 12, gleaming varnished teak and mahogany woodwork is integrated seamlessly with expanses of black carbon fiber and subtly contoured fiberglass. …

“The 40-foot Tofinou 12 is… moderate of beam, lean and low-slung, and drawing almost 8 feet—which would be a drawback in many areas of the U.S. East Coast, but makes for an impressively stiff and precise ride to weather. Hull and bulkheads are lightweight fiberglass/foam composites, and the bare minimum of interior furniture and systems—along with a carbon fiber spar—help keep weight down to a svelte 10,500 pounds—about 40 percent less than a typical 40-foot production boat. …”

And here’s a clip of the Tofinou 12 in action:

The Rene Marine 12 “Tofinou”

Rene Marine.  Rene Underby and Jethro2112 Sands are Rene Marine. They have worked together for several years now, building boats with clean scripts and thoughtful designs; you can see the whole ReneMarine fleet over at their main location in Thalipolli. You can also hear about their philosophy of yacht building by watching the Treet.tv documentary on SL Sailing; René and Jethro are prominently featured.

René builds sailing vessels that genuinely emulate classic boat designs, and the RM12 is just one vessel in her long line of authentic sail craft that you can see at her marina.

Her RM12 is a skillful mesh build. The boat weighs in at a trim 57 prim with a Land Impact of 37. For comparison:

Bandit 50                 41 prim     32 Land Impact
Rene Marine 12     57 prim     37 Land Impact
Cafe del Mar           67 prim     48 Land Impact
Loonetta 31            32 prim    32 Land Impact

Sailors will find the RM12 mesh design to be clean, simple, and true to the real boat, and it has multiple features that should make any seasoned skipper smile.

RM12 cockpit 017

The Hull and Topside

The cockpit is nicely arranged with an ample number of port and starboard self-tailing winches within reach of the dual helm. topsideThe detailing and finish is quite thoughtfully executed, and full of fun; there’s even a winch handle already loaded, ready to crank!

The skipper and crew have a choice of multiple sit options that can be accessed through a simple hierarchical menu system that automatically pops up. A few of the poses are shown in the image sequence to the right. (click to enlarge)

Is your avatar is an odd size? Don’t worry! The sit positions are easily adjustable. 🙂

Although this boat is a solid cruiser that will carry several crew, remember when you go below that RM12 is designed for performance, and matches the real life Tofinou 12. Don’t be disappointed because there’s no shower or Cuisinart.  This boat is built to sail, and any extra features are installed to help a skipper take true command of the boat’s multiple sailing options. The RM12 is a cruiser intended for sailors. 🙂

below

Even sailors need to drop anchor occasionally, so Rene Underby has also included a set of animations for couples to use during those off-hours. 🙂

RM12 sleep cubbies

RM12 Sails.  The RM12 is fitted out with a fractional sloop rig with a Genoa and mainsail, but there’s no spinnaker.

If you’re worried about overhead clearance, please note that the fore and aft stays are physical, and so is the keel. This adds considerably to the boat’s realism, but watch out for shallow water and low bridges!  🙂

RM12 sailsThe RM12 comes with a headstay furler for the Genny, and an in-mast furler for the Main. Both have nice animations that deploy the sails when you say “Raise.”

A skipper can raise, lower, trim or reef each sail independently. That’s a truly useful feature that is also present on Trudeau Classic boats, although it’s missing on most others.

Having said that, let me add that I’m not aware of any SL boat that optimizes differences between the jib and main trim depending on sailing conditions. My guess is that’s on the laundry list for the “next step” in improvements to sailing algorithms.

While we wait, let me add that the RM12 sails are quite nicely constructed and scripted. When they fall out of tune they let you know with a realistic visible and audible “flap.” 

To adjust the sheets and bring them back into optimal position, a skipper uses the up/down arrow keys. That changes the sail angle in small  (three degree) increments until the settings are correct. I’m not aware of any chat-command control for the sheet settings on this boat.  It’s also notable that only the skipper can adjust the sails. There is option to share sail control with the crew, and crew location on board (hiking) has no impact on boat heel or boat speed.

RM12 boom angleIn my last cruising article, I commented that there was an apparent mismatch in some boats between the sheet angle setting and the visible angle of the boom and mainsail. That’s not a problem with the RM 12, however. The image to the right shows a vertex view of my RM 12 sailing a dead run with the sails full out. The maximum angle you can set for the boom on RM12 is 70° (it’s probably limited by the stays). That angle agrees quite nicely with what you can directly measure from your screen, as shown above.

One more thing about sails on the RM 12: Since the boat has dual furlers, Reefing the sails is a snap. You can let out any percentage of either the main or the Genoa with a simple chat command, and the power of the reefed sail adjusts accordingly.

RM12 reefing

The boat even has an adjustable traveler for the mainsheet, located aft of the helm station; I’ll talk more about that in the next section.

SteveLL RM12

Sailing the RM12

RM scripts. The RM12 is powered by Rene Underby’s wind engine. If I recall correctly, René originally adapted her algorithm from Kanker Greenacre’s Tako 2.x. However, over time Rene’s scripts have evolved to meet the needs and expectations of a whole generation of new sail designs and skippers in SL. At the present time, my guess is that sailors would be hard-pressed to find any Tako genes still actively expressed in the René Marine family of boats. 🙂

Wind for Two. If you like to use the wind that’s broadcast by raceline WWC windsetters in Second Life, that’s easy for RM12. All you need to do is “ID” your boat so it’s recognized by the raceline (the chat command is “ID 0000” , where “0000” is any number combination). Once you do that, the boat will search for the WWC’s broadcast.

The boat uses the WWC Cruise Wind settings (not Race Wind), and it makes use of the Wave and Current WWC features as well.

However, if you prefer to sail on your own the boat also has built-in boat wind. Just type “wind spd xx” to set the wind speed in knots, and type “wind dir xxx” to pick a wind angle. You’re not restricted to the small number of values that come with BWind boats.

RM12 HUD. The RM12 comes with a vertical stack of five multi-purpose data screens that give you all the sailing information you could ever hope for.

rm12 hud

The panel on the right below shows this info-display stack coupled with a quick guide that explains their function.

The first two instruments are analog indicators.The top one shows Real Wind Angle, but you can switch it to Apparent Wind Angle with the push of a button; and if you want numerical values, that’s shown as an inset on the gauge.

RM12_HUDThis top display is comparable to the great  info HUD that comes with   WildWind‘s  Wildcat 45 and Open 60.

The second instrument in the RM 12 stack is unique; it shows rudder angle. As you can imagine, the rudder angle determines how acutely the boat will carve a turn. I’ll talk more about this below.

The third instrument has a screen with four different command functions that can each be activated by clicking buttons next to the display. Two are pretty straightforward: “Raise” raises both sails, and “Motor” powers up the diesel.

Two other button commands are less common. One turns on ‘Autotrim,’ a utility that optimally adjusts the sails to match the AWA. The other is an ‘Autopilot‘ that locks the boat to a particular heading. If you are new sailor, these options can make sailing the RM 12 extremely easy; you just point-and-shoot. 🙂 If you’re an Old Salt in SL, you’ll also find these tools pretty great. They let you put the boat through test trials with heading and sails fixed, while you tinker with all the other options that enhance performance. 🙂

The last three HUD instruments are digital displays; a skipper can flip the info shown on the HUD screen to display any of 10 different panels. I know many sailors may feel differently, but I like the option to see a lot of numbers while underway, and the RM HUD fills that bill nicely. 🙂

Rudder Reality. The RM12 has a distinctive steering system. In nearly every other sailboat in Second Life, a skipper steers by pressing an Arrow key, and the boat actively turns until the key is released. The effect is a bit more like a ‘bow-thruster’ than a rudder. 

The RM12 is more realistic. Pressing an arrow key will cause a rudder deflection that you can monitor on the HUD gauge. The boat will turn toward the side of the rudder until the skipper centers the wheel again. However, if there’s no breeze or the boat is nose to windward and not moving (“in Irons”),  the RM12 will do what any self-respecting sailboat does in real life. It just sits there, waiting for the breeze to shift. 🙂

Polar Explorer

Once you get the hang of the steering, you’ll find that the RM12 also has rather realistic polar performance under sail.

RM12 15kt single sail polarsThe chart to the right shows a plot in blue of Boat Speed vs Real Wind Angle for the RM12 using a RWS of 15 kts. The boat is fastest on a beam reach, and it maxes out with a top speed that’s roughly 70% of RWS.

That corresponds to a Hotlaps Handicap of 0.69, a number that’s in line with the majority of midsized cruisers in Second Life.

Since each sail is independent on the RM 12, I’ve also plotted the boat speed for the Genoa (green) and the main (purple) alone. As you can see from the above chart, the boat gets most of its thrust from the main at all points of sail.

The RM12 doesn’t have a Spin and you can’t wing the main; it makes sense that the performance declines downwind with RWA>120.

RM12 8-15-25 polarThe next chart on the right shows RM12 performance with both sails flying under three different wind speeds: 8 kn, 15 kn, and 25 kn.

On a beam reach in light air (8 kn), the boat can do 75% RWS. That performance efficiency decreases a bit to 72% RWS with the wind of 15 kn, and it falls much more to 62% RWS in a strong blow of 25 kn. As shown below, at those high wind speeds the boat heels far to lee and it is hard to hold it on course, even with the Autopilot engaged.

RM12 25kn

I’d recommend a windspeed around 15 kn for routine sailing. If you’re hit by a sudden squall with big gusts, you might think about reefing or dropping the Genoa. 🙂

Mainsheet Traveler.

This boat has one other trick in its sail adjustment toolkit: it comes with a Traveler for the mainsheet. A traveler has an adjustable car that determines where the sheet connects to the boat; it helps set the sail shape by holding the boom down.

The pictures below show the traveler in action (pink arrows) on RM12. In the left frame, the traveler is located far windward. That makes the sheet angle with the boom suboptimal, since the sheet can’t pull down to hold the sail flat. However, in the right frame the traveler is all the way lee. In that location the sheet is much better able to control sail shape. If you look at the speed gauge (blue arrows), you can see there’s a modest increase in boat speed as the traveler goes into action.

Traveler

A Good Turn

RM12 takes a turn

Five months ago I wrote about sailboat turns in SL. As I said back then, I think a boat’s ability to make a realistic turn is an important part of any authentic sailing emulation. The RM12 was the first boat in SL where I could take a serious look at this issue, since it couples realistic helm control with a flood of numerical data any skipper can monitor while making a turn.
turn radius - manyI won’t repeat all the discussion about turn-testing here; you can go read it someday when your boat’s in drydock. 🙂

I just wanted to emphasize that the RM12 is the boat I used to help set the standard for all the other sailboat turn-tests. It’s a tribute to René Marine that most boats I’ve looked at have independent turning parameters that fall within the same test range defined by RM12.

Summary

The  Rene Marine 12 is René Underby’s virtual re-creation of the French Tofinou 12 daysailor; it’s a very nicely done emulation that should appeal to many SL cruisers that want a midsized boat with realistic sailing features.

The RM12 mesh build is clean and accurate, with an economical Land Impact of 37. Once aboard, a solo skipper controls all the sailing functions when underway, but the owner can also delegate the skipper role to one other sailor through chat commands. 🙂

In addition to the skipper, RM12 can carry three crew, and there’s a wealth of animations topside and below to keep everyone entertained.

The RM12 has a Mainsail and a Genoa that are powered by the Rene Marine sail engine; the sails can be independently controlled by key click or chat command. To help guide the skipper, the RM12 comes equipped with a highly detailed info HUD. It has five vertically-stacked gauges that continuously report a huge amount of sailing information. 🙂

The performance polar for this boat is realistic, and falls in the range of several other cruisers in Second Life. Consistent with the polar results, RM 12 rates a respectable (and credible) Hotlaps Handicap of 0.69.

The boat comes with a few very interesting sail adjustment tools that enhance performance. They include an active roller reefing system for the main and Genoa, and a main sheet traveler to adjust sail shape.

The combination of realistic performance, detailed numerical sail data, and multiple sail adjustment options make this boat a good choice for skippers looking for an SL daysailer that authentically reflects RL.

If you’re in the market for a cruiser, you should also know the RM12 is missing a few features that are standard equipment on several other boats. Most notably:

— RM12 has neither a Crew-HUD nor hiking scripts. The RM12 skipper is in charge, and the crew is just along for the ride. (The same thing is true for most other contemporary cruiser emulations.)
— The boat lacks a spinnaker and there is no ‘wing’ effect, so the boat may seem slow on downwind points of sail. (Nonetheless, the Hotlaps Handicap is a respectable 0.69.)
— RM12 does not have wind shadow, limiting its potential as a racer. (However this boat is primarily a cruiser. The lack of wind shadow could actually be a lag-reducing advantage.)

I’ve been sailing the RM12 off-and-on for five months, and I now understand SteveLL‘s enthusiasm over this boat. I particularly like the boat’s ease of sail with autopilot and autotrim functions, and the detailed information provided by the info-HUD screens.

Go stop by at Rene Marine, and take the RM12 for your own test drive!

Rene Marineharpoon

Cruisin’ Part 2: The Café del Mar 75

CDM75

Cafe Del Mar 75

A few days ago I talked about the Bandit 50, a BWind 2.5 cruising boat by Analyse Dean that’s available through The Mesh Shop. However, shortly after Bandit 50  launched Kain Xenobuilder released his own Mesh Shop cruiser design. It’s called the Café del Mar 75.

CM75 h02

Dutch” Xenobuilder is a true mesh-master, and he usually shows his nautical talents off with detailed and accurate emulations of contemporary race boats. I’ve written several articles about his Volvo Ocean -70, One Design -65, Nacra -17, and Laser One.

However, the new Café del Mar 75 reflects a different approach that might appeal to a wider audience. This boat is designed primarily as a cruiser, not a racer, and it has enough room and features to convey a skipper and three friends across the grid in both style and comfort. 🙂

The CM75 is not designed to match the specs of any particular boat class. This is more a ‘concept boat‘ that reflect’s Dutch’s personal preference and creative talents. The boat is actually named after Café del Mara legendary bar in Ibiza that’s a must-visit waypoint for the high-end sailing crowd (… and what bar isn’t?) 🙂 Café del Mar also has a great restaurant and wonderful sunsets, but it’s probably best known for it’s in-house techno-trance Café del Mar electronic music mix.

With that inspiration, Dutch has produced a fun and somewhat fantasy cruiser that’s quite different from the Bandit 50 I talked about last time. 🙂

CM75 trio

Café del Mar 75 Build

As you can see above, the CM75 is a rather sizable boat. It also has sharper design features in its hull and topside construction compared to the Bandit 50 or the Loonetta 31 (or even the Tetra 35, for that matter). This of course is a matter of personal taste, and several avid cruisers have spontaneously told me how much they love the CM 75‘s looks.

Helm leanThe cockpit is spacious with helm stations both port and starboard, and the skipper automatically bounces to the windward side when the boat tacks.  The helm animation has a unique feature too: When the boat heels, the skipper will lean in the opposite direction to stay upright. 🙂

There’s another rather novel feature to the helm in this boat: just in front of the wheel are two analog gauges that display the real-time Boat Speed and Apparent Wind Angle. There’s no separate Heads Up Display, so if you want more information you need to go to the boat’s center Control Station. (more on that below).

CM75 helm numbers

Cockpit comfort

Since this is primarily a cruise boat, the cockpit is fitted out with two reclining deck chairs with cushions to let guests nap and tan while aboard. Each has an attached side table large enough to hold a Margarita and some snacks, and maybe even a Kindle e-book too.

It’s all designed for a quiet night in Ibiza. If the boat heeled five degrees in RL all that stuff (plus your guests) would likely slide onto the cockpit floor, and if you head up into the waves, you may quickly find your crew washed astern from the boat’s open-aft, racing-style cockpit. 🙂

cm75 cockpit comfort 01

click for bigness

Animations. The CM75 is full of poses suited for either skipper or crew. Buttons on the ‘crewhud‘ let a sailor find a suitable location and animation by scrolling the avatar through a sequence of positions; there is no hierarchical menu. In other words, to go from the cockpit helm to sit on a bench down below, you’ll need to transit through several poses in the shower. That’s no big deal, but I admit it’s a tad inconvenient. 🙂

As you flip through the poses, you may find another interesting glitch: two avatars on CM75 can simultaneously occupy the same sit position (don’t ask me how this happens). That can lead to images of inadvertent – and possibly disturbing – excess intimacy, as shown in the second photo above.
(But hey, it’s SL– get over it!) 🙂

Cruise Cabin

The contrast between cruising features and ocean racer design in CM75 continues as one moves into the cabin; take a look below.

CM75 Pilot House and Cabin

In most ocean-going cruisers, going below deck is like entering a military bunker. The space is relatively cramped and multipurpose, and the windows are narrow slits or even worse: portholes.

That’s not true in Café Del Mar. The cabin is quite expansive, with a wall of translucent, impact resistant Glass/Plexiglas at the front end of the cockpit with full-sized sliding doors. These open into a combination Pilot House/Central Cabin with plenty of headroom that includes a large centrally-located Control Panel. There’s a wrap-around panoramic window view from the cabin level, although I admit it’s constrained vertically and gives something of a letterbox impression.

The Control Panel has many analog gauges that document critical info about sailing status. A smart skipper might do well to direct the boat from this enclosed command station, but it will take some thinking to get the camera views right, so a skipper can easy flip between views of the surrounding water and closeups of the guages on the panel. This boat might be best sailed with Mouselook, or a third party cam and info Hud. New owners will need to experiment and find out what works best for them.

This is a concept boat, remember!

CM75 cabin central

On the port side of the main cabin there is a rather fancy kitchenette, replete with a cooktop, sink, blender and espresso machine. 🙂 On the starboard side, there’s a full, stand-up shower that will accommodate two people, as long as they know each other really well.

Moving further forward, you’ll find a substantial cabin with plush benches that are more-than-adequate for the crew this boat can accommodate. At the bow end there’s a master cabin, complete with a double bed and two video monitors ready to display your favorite SL-compatible media. 🙂

foreward berth leaks

That foreward berth is a bit of a tight squeeze, and you may need a little cam-practice before you can comfortably watch the watch the television sets located there. One caution, however: don’t plug in the TV while the boat is underway; you could get electrocuted. 🙂 As you can see above, the forward cabin lies low in the bow and bilge washes though the cabin whenever the boat’s on a slight heel.

Some Sail Stuff

Keel. Let me add a few extra items here about the build that I think are relevant to sailing. First and foremost, the bulb keel is physical.  As you can see below, I ran this boat fast aground by riding the keel up on a sandbar. There was excellent match between the visible keel and the grounding point. (that’s nice) 🙂

Cafe keel

Sails. The boat has a sloop rig, with a few interesting touches. On upwind headings, the boat is powered by a mainsail and a full genoa jib, both nicely meshed out.

CM75 telltales

As I mentioned earlier, this boat does NOT have a HUD. You need to rely on the onboard analog instruments, and watch for visible and audible sail luff. The CM75 gives you another nice hint: The sails have telltales attached. When the telltales hang loose, you need to adjust the sheeting; when the telltales are streaming horizontal, you are ‘in the zone.’ 🙂

CM75 downwind sailplan

When sailing downwind, you can deploy a gennaker to get an extra boost. When you raise the sail by chat command, it automatically douses the Genoa and raises a staysail in it’s place, so you have three sails flying.

Setting the angles for three sails to get optimal drag effects downwind can be a daunting problem in real life. It’s no less an issue in SL. However, in Second Life most sail engines combine the commands for the main and foresails, and revert to an optimal sheet setting of one-half the Apparent Wind Angle.

CM75 VSAThe image to the right shows Cafe del Mar on a dead run (AWA 180°) using the optimal sheet settings for the main and gennaker. However, if you actually measure the sail angles it looks like the main is set to around  45°, only half the genn angle (90°) .

This may be a quibble that’s irrelevant for most sailors since it only involves sail appearance, but it’s nonetheless interesting and worth checking on other boats.

Sailing the Café del Mar 75

Dutch tells me that the sailing scripts in this boat are retooled and more efficient than prior Mesh Shop Bwind 2.5 boats. I believe that; I’ve sailed CM75 through many difficult grid situations over the past few months and taken it on quite lengthy leeward cruises, all with good results!

iPad2 windsetter

If you have sailed any of the mesh shop boats, you’ll be familiar with the Café del Mar 75 right out of the box. If you type the chat command “cruising,” the boat goes into standard BWind mode. That gives you six different options for wind speed and eight more options for wind direction. You make your selection by a simple chat command, and the boat echoes your choice:

[09:00:31] Jane Fossett: 11
[09:00:31] TMS Radar: Wind blowing at 11 Kts.

You can do the same thing for wind direction, and then finally check your results using the chat command “wind.”

[09:01:19] Jane Fossett: wind
[09:01:19] Cafe del Mar 75 whispers: 25 Kts. E BWind

I’m making a point of this, because there’s apparently a glitch in the settings for “15 kts.” If you say “15” in chat, the boat will correctly record that setting but it won’t give you any chat text feedback about the change. This is specific for the “15” command in CM75 (at least in my boat). All the other numbers and directions work as they should, and the “15” works correctly on similar boats, including the Bandit 50.

Once again, this is just a small issue, and you can always use the “wind” command to make sure you get the right settings.

Take two tablets…

If you want to use the boat for racing, the Café Del Mar 75 comes with the Mesh Shop iPad 2 tablet interface wind setter.

CM75 ipad2 drift is nogo

The iPad2 has the same set of options for wind speed and direction as the BWind chat commands, and it allows you to broadcast those numbers to the local racing fleet.

Even without a boat, you can get your own copy of the iPad2 for free from the SL Marketplace, and you can download the manual here.

Let me add one important update that’s not yet in the iPad2 docs: The ‘drift‘ function that sets a gradual shift in wind direction is currently disabled. The icon is still there and will change when you click on it, but the wind is not affected. Dutch reports that sailors were not using the option, so he removed it. Meaningful wind fluctuations are an important part of virtual sail-racing, but it’s less of an issue in Café Del Mar since the boat is primarily a cruiser. The race options are mostly an add-on for skippers who want to do timed laps or sail in Big Boat regattas.

Sharing the work

The skipper steers the boat and performs basic sail adjustments with a standard set of arrow keys and chat commands. 

crewhud 003The boat also comes with a crewHUD that allows any sailor aboard to trim the sheets or change the foresail. If you want even more control over your rig, there’s an undocumented sheet adjustment command available:

/29000 sheetX

X” can be a positive or a negative number. For example, the command “/29000 sheet20″ will let the sails out 20°. If you plan to sail this boat a lot, you may want to put the routine sail commands into a gesture set. Actually, Fearless Freenote already has a gesture pack for the Mesh Shop Vo-70 and OD-65, and I bet the same commands will work fine on the Café del Mar. Ask Fearless, Jane, or Hannelore Ballinger if you want a copy of the free gesture pack. 🙂

The crew HUD shown above also contains a nifty “Controls” button that allows a skipper to hand over helm responsibility to one of the crew onboard. It’s a very nice feature that permits you to give ‘demo drives’ to friends who are interested in the boat.

Autopilot

Cruisers usually want a boat that is well-built, reliable, and large enough to carry several friends across a long voyage; they are less concerned about the details of sail selection and sheeting. If that sounds like you, then Café del Mar has a feature you might really like: an Autopilot!

If you turn on the Autopilot, all you have to do is steer the boat. The Autopilot will make the appropriate sail changes and adjust the sheeting to the optimal settings along your route. The only thing you’ll have to do is keep one hand on the wheel while drinking that Margarita. 🙂

The autopilot gadget can actually be a real lifesaver when you’re in a crowded fleet under severe lag at the start of a Leeward Cruise. In that situation a skipper is often just trying to avoid collisions and can’t tinker with the sail adjustments.

I like it!

Cafe del Mar Sprints

The Autopilot makes performance testing relatively easy; the boat sets the sails optimally at each heading. However, Café del Mar does not have a detailed numbers HUD, so to collect polar data I’ve been using a separate Navigation HUD. Those third party Nav HUD numbers closely match the control panel gauge results onboard CM75. It’s a good cross-check.

With that short explanation about methods, let me say that the Café del Mar 75 turns out to be the fastest cruise boat I’ve ever tested in SL waters. With the autopilot settings the boat easily scored a Hotlaps Handicap of 1.12, meaning that it’s 12% faster than the Melges 24 raceboat. In fact, the CM75 is faster than the ACA-33 and even the VO-70.

Two very different Mesh Shop boats, the Nacra-17 and the One Design 65, have lap times that match Café del Mar 75, and the only boats that beat CM75 are the high-end ocean racers built by WildWind.  

Yikes! Next time you sail this boat, make sure to bring racing gloves and a lifeline! It’s FAST.

The polar plot below details the boat’s speedy performance. It plots boat speed under autopilot conditions with a Real Wind Speed of 15 knots. The data for Café del Mar is shown in purple, and the Bandit 50 results are shown for comparison in green.

Bandit and Cafe polars

As you can see, on every point of sail the CM 75 is faster than Bandit 50, and on a reach the CM 75 even exceeds Real Wind Speed. This kind of performance in a cruiser may seem unnatural, but please remember that this is a ‘Concept Boat.’ It’s more about what’s possible than what’s present. 🙂

Summary

The Café del Mar 75 is the latest release by Mesh Meister Kain Xenobuilder. It’s a 75 foot mesh Cruiser with a modern, angular design and many authentic and innovative sailing features. The boat is suitable for a skipper plus three crew, and there’s extensive space as well as over two dozen animations to accommodate everyone on a long voyage.

The Café del Mar 75 is powered by the new BWind 2.5 wind engine and it has options to share sailing tasks (sheet adjustment and even steering) between skipper and crew.

The boat is full of features that any sailor will like, including mesh sails with visible and audible luffing effects, working telltales, and realistic analog display gauges. It also has an Autopilot that will automatically take over most of the sailing work for you.

And for those cruisers who always want to sail at the head of the fleet, the performance of this boat will be a pleasant surprise. It is easily one of the fastest cruising boats ever built in SL.

Go try the Cafe del Mar 75 out for yourself; there are demos you can sail of Café and all the other Mesh Shop creations over in Tschotcke sim in Second Life.

CM75 002

harpoon

Modern Cruisers, Part 1: The Bandit 50



Cruising Troika

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 - LCC June 11 13

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.

bandit 50

Bandit 50

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.

50B

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. 🙂

wavingThe 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.

keel BanditOne 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.

Cabin Comforts

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.

Cruising Cabin

Bandit 50 instruments and gangway

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. 🙂 )

Ipad controlI’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.

Jane and Amy on BanditSpeaking 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.

Bandit 50b BSvRWAThe 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. 🙂

Turn Style

Bandit50Cruisers 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.

turn radius -Bandit 50

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!

Wrap-up

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. 🙂

Bandit at LCC July 23

harpoon

Turn Style

racers

It’s not the meat, it’s the motion…

When a sailboat makes a turn in Second Life (and real-life), three major things happen that a skipper needs to think about:

  1. the boat changes heading in response to the hydrodynamic forces generated by the rudder deflection;
  2. the boat travels along an arc until it establishes the new heading; and
  3. the boat speed usually drops due to a loss of momentum generated by the turn.

How well a boat accomplishes these points often has a big effect on the user’s sense of fun and realism. 

For a while now I’ve been trying to come up with a few simple ways to measure the turning properties of SL boats. That information might be useful when comparing different boat classes, and it may also help assess whether a given boat is a reasonable emulation of it’s real-life counterpart. Anyway, I admit I don’t have any big conclusions at this point, but I wanted to show a few charts here to see if any sailors have better ideas how to approach this issue.

cruisers

Half-turns

For large US merchant transport vessels, there are detailed performance standards published by the American Bureau of Shipping. The ABS is a good resource for maneuverability test requirements and discussions about the principles involved.

Probably the most common performance test is a Circle Test that monitors a boat’s ability to move through a full 360° turn. That works well for a powerboat, where the engine can maintain a constant thrust during the exercise. However, it doesn’t work very well for a sailboat, since the wind is constantly changing during the turn. A full 360° turn is pretty much never a “circle.” 🙂

It makes a lot more sense to test a sailboat using a 180° half-turn, as the boat flips into the wind from one beam reach to the other.

To do that in SL, I’ve been using FRAPS to generate screenshots each second while a boat does a standard 180° turn. I then plot the boat position data sequence on an X-Y matrix. Each data point also includes the instantaneous boat speed and heading.

Rene Marine 12

Let me give a quick shout out for the Rene Marine 12 (Tofinu). It’s a great boat for this kind of test. It’s built by Rene Underby, who has a long track record as an accomplished boatbuilder in Second Life. Her Rene Marine  boat yard is  filled with a full line of sail craft that emphasize both authentic styling and realistic performance.

racer RM12

The RM 12 is her newest creation. Apropos of this discussion, it’s designed to give a realistic response to rudder deflections, it has an option to hold the rudder at a constant angle, and it has a full info-HUD that displays the boat’s status.

Here’s a chart of boat position for the RM-12 as it does a half- turn.

RM12 turn rev

click to enlarge

It shows a plot of the X-Y map location at each second for an RM 12 with RWS= 15kn. The boat begins on a starboard tack with RWA 90°; it then turns through 180° to a new heading of RWA 270°.

The boat initially sails in a straight line with a constant boat speed of 8.6 (green arrow). The skipper then swings the wheel hard over to initiate the turn (indicated by “TILLER” above) and locks the rudder at maximum deflection until the turn is complete.

If you then follow the dots, you’ll see that within a few seconds the boat responds to the rudder deflection by turning into the wind and losing speed. At the point indicated by a red star (*),  the sails suddenly flip over, changing the boat to a port tack. That actually happens quite early, when the boat is only beginning the actual turn. It then takes approximately 15 more seconds to complete the 180° course change. By that time the boat speed has dropped  to 4.2, half the original. In addition, the arc of the turn moves the new heading approximately 30 m further windward (Red Arrow).

A boat’s initial speed and consequent momentum has a big impact on how wide a turn the boat will carve in the water. This is nicely shown in the figure below.

turn radius - RM12 two RWS

The green curve to the right shows the sequence of positions each second for a RM-12 as it goes through the half turn powered by a 15 kn wind. The dark red curve shows the same boat, but this time powered by an 8.0 kn breeze. Under the lessened wind, the boat travels more slowly (the dots are closer together), and the boat cuts a much sharper turn.

Windless

The fact that the slower boat has the sharpest turn deserves an extra comment or two.

First of all, if a boat is not moving through the water, the rudder is useless and the boat can’t turn. The force that causes the boat to change direction is generated by the deflection of the water flow passing the angled rudder. This point is sort of obvious, but it’s worth mentioning since most SL builders add a small ‘kick’ to their boats so skippers can still maneuver them even without sail power or headway. The RM-12 and a few other SL boats are more realistic, and you’ll find the RM-12 won’t turn unless it’s moving. 🙂

Second point: Once a boat is underway, the turning force produced goes up with the square of the water velocity over the rudder. In other words, the turning force at 4kn is four times the force at 2kn; the faster boat turns more quickly. However, if you look at the figure above, it shows that the faster boat actually cuts a wider turn. That’s due in large part to the greater residual forward momentum at faster speeds. The turning force may be stronger, but it has more work to do to reverse the boat direction.

A Few Comparisons

Why is any of this worth worrying about? Well actually it’s not worth worrying about, but it is interesting when you start to compare the turning ability of different boats powered by the same wind speed.

turn radius - multi-boat test

Here’s the same chart I posted above, showing the RM-12 at 15 kn (green) and 8.0 kn (purple). I’ve now superimposed two more curves. The orange curve is for the popular Melges-24 racer.

Although it’s quite a speedy boat, the M-24 can cut one of the sharpest turns of the entire sailboat fleet in SL as shown above in orange.

So if you love the maneuverability of the  Melges-24, the chart explains why! The Melges is a spry, high tech, and compact raceboat. It’s designed to slice a turn as sharply as possible and the SL data backs it up!

racers m24

Now look at the other boat I’ve added to the chart above in red. It’s the Wildwind Open 60, a new, very fast ocean racer that’s slated to replace the JMO-60 very soon. The shape of the turn in the Open 60 falls right on top of the RM-12. However, don’t let that fool you. If you look at the distance between each of the dots in the curve, you’ll see that the Open 60 is moving easily twice as fast as the more traditional and reserved RM-12. At those speeds, the Open 60 gets around race marks pretty well, but you do need to leave a lot of room!

turn plots of OP60-OD65-VO70

OK, here’s another comparison to the right. This time it’s for three pretty similar ocean racers: the Wildwind Open 60, the Mesh Shop VO 70, and the Mesh Shop OD 65.

The three boats end up with very similar turning properties. In fact, although they are totally different designs coming from boat yards in  Japan and Netherlands, the Open 60 has a turning curve that nearly exactly overlaps the VO-70. I think that indicates both builders came up with designs that reflected real life performance, and it looks like they both hit the mark. 🙂

loons

And More…

The last chart for today is shown below, and I apologize it’s really ugly; it looks like clumps of seaweed, or Lindsay Lohan’s hair after a particularly rough night.

turn radius - many

The chart overlaps turn plots from a variety of different boats, to give you a flavor of the diversity in the fleet.

There are some interesting findings. For example, the Mesh Shop OD-65 has the same turning radius as the Trudeau New York 30. However, once again the OD-65 has a much faster boat speed that likely explains the apparent similarity.

Two boats have a surprising overlap on the chart that I can’t easily explain. Motor Loon’s Loonetta 31 is an absolutely delightful, fully appointed cruiser. It’s not intended for competitive sailing, and in fact Loon went out of his way to make it clear the boat was not a racer. Well kids, here’s another reason to love your Loonetta: it turns out to have the same turning radius as the Mesh Shop Laser One, and it does it at the same boat speed!

Anyone up for a Loonetta Regatta? 🙂

racers laser

 Quo Vadis

I admit I’m still not sure what to make of these curves, if anything. For the moment, I think they just provide another way to display some performance characteristics of virtual boats we all sail. There are certainly no “good curves,” or bad ones. The results are just interesting, and maybe some are fun.

A few might even have something to do with sailing in SL. 🙂

virtual turns

Laser One

Laser One header

Noodles and Dutch getting wet

This week “Dutch” Kain Xenobuilder launched the Laser One, his latest addition to The Mesh Shop fleet. Laser One is a two-person racing dinghy that emulates the popular Laser, and it incorporates many of the innovative features found in Dutch’s earlier boats.

Laser Class

laserThe ‘real’ Laser was first introduced over forty years ago at the 1971 New York Boat Show. The cat-rigged dinghy was inexpensive, easily transported on a car roof, and very fast. It quickly caught the attention of the RL sailing community, and within three years the first World Championship was held. In 1996 the Laser was added to the Olympic sailing competition roster too.

The boat remains extremely popular now. An estimated 200,000 Lasers have been built so far.

The One Design specs are set by the  International Laser Class Association, and three versions of the boat are commonly recognized for racing. Although the Laser can hold two sailors, the great majority of competition is single-handed.

olympic lasers

Here’s a vid to get you going:

If you have the time, now check out the London 2012 Olympic Laser medal race!

Mesh Shop Laser

Dutch Xenobuilder is well-known for the detail and accuracy he puts into his Mesh boats, and the new Laser One continues that tradition.

two lasers

The boat faithfully recreates the physical dimensions of the Laser design spec, and it goes a good deal further. The image above compares the new, 100% Mesh build with Kephra Nurmi’s prim version of the Laser from 2009. Kephra’s a great boatbuilder who strove to make his Laser as realistic as possible. However,  three years ago the tools were simply not available to provide the wealth of detail that abounds in the new Xenobuilder boat.

details laser rig

click to enlarge

Let me show you what I’m talking about. If you check out Kephra’s green and white 2009 Laser above, you quickly notice that the sheets, rigging, and hardware needed to manage the sails are all missing. They simply wouldn’t fit within the SL prim limit.

Now look at the new Mesh Shop build. All that important stuff is now present, and the detailing is remarkably true to the real Laser. To illustrate my point, in the figure to the right I’ve included three close-up views of the hardware and lines for the mainsheet, the vang, the Cunningham,  and the outhaul.

The images show a lot of fancy details, but how accurate are they? Well, judge for yourself. Here is a diagram of the Laser sail shape adjustment system from one of the online Laser parts suppliers.

laser boom rig

click me

Compare my pictures above to the rigging details for the real boat. I’m impressed the SL Laser One is a very close match to what you could buy in RL. In fact, the match and the detail are so close, I’m willing to bet that’s a Harken vang system on Dutch’s boat. 🙂

Actually, that’s probably a safe bet for me to make, since if you get really close to the blocks, you’ll be able to read the Harken name-logo that’s printed on them. 🙂

Here’s the take-home message: Dutch’s build for this virtual boat is a very close match for the Standard Laser in RL.

Working Centerboard

This is the first Mesh Shop boat that comes with a centerboard, and I’m happy to report that feature is quite nicely implemented, using the PageUp/PageDwn keys. The CB is also physical and adds over a meter to the boat’s draw when fully deployed, so watch those rocks!

However, in contrast to the centerboard the Laser One‘s mast, boom, sails and rigging are all phantom. Although this detracts in some ways from the boat’s realism, Dutch points out that a sailor wouldn’t be able to stand on the boat otherwise. This was a trade-off decision by the builder.

Personal Textures

Dutch has a new, very easy system that allows texture modification for the sails, hull and rigging. A sailor just needs to take one of the included templates, modify it to their liking, then upload it and copy the texture’s UUID code. To install it, the sailor just needs to say “texture [boat part] [UUID code]” and voilà, the boat has a new paint job. You don’t need to edit or unlink anything, or drop files anywhere in the boat!

Laser One performance.

If you’ve sailed other Mesh Shop boats, you’ll be quite comfortable taking the helm of this boat. The new Laser is powered by a BWind 2.5 sail engine, and it shares a number of control features with the VO-70, OD-65, and the Nacra.

ipad2There’s a “cruising” mode that acts like a standard BWind boat, and there’s a “racing” mode that’s adjustable through a tablet interface. (You can get a free iPad tablet here, and you can also get a copy of the wind setter manual here. If you want a copy of the Laser One manual, click here).

Laser One uses an iPad2 wind setter tablet. As far as I know the only difference between iPad2 and the original iPad used by the other Mesh Shop boats is the avatar position. If you forget and use the old tablet in this boat it will still work fine, but it might be hard to find a viewing angle where you can tap on the screen.  🙂

I’ve already discussed features of the BWind 2.5 engine in Mesh Shop boats here, here, here and here. I won’t go into details in this post except to comment once again that this is a unique system and the boats are not compatible with the WWC setters found at racelines. The boats also lack wind shadow and the “usual” wind variances common to other SL boats. Dutch believes the new system has advantages, and that it will grow.

Hud and control features

xenograft hudsLaser One uses a simple, numerical info HUD that’s similar to the Nacra. It displays data about boat heading, the wind speed and apparent angle, and the degree of heel.

The tiller is controlled by the left and right arrow keys, and the sail angle is adjusted with the up and down keys.

Unfortunately, the basic BWind system of sail sheeting is notoriously inaccurate, and (in my opinion) fairly useless for racing. If you want more precision adjusting your sails, here are two undocumented override options for the Laser:

1) If you own a Nacra, you can use that boat’s control HUD with the Laser. It will give you 1° sheet adjustment accuracy.
2) if you don’t have a Nacra and are unwilling to buy that boat just to get the HUD,  you can try making chat gestures similar to the ones that come with the Volvo Open 70. Here’s a command gesture example that should let you edit your own: “/29000 sheet-1” .
(If for some reason you’re anxious about making homemade gestures, some time ago I boxed-up Fearless Freenote’s gesture set. If you want a copy, drop a note to Fearless, Hannelore Ballinger, or me in Second Life.)

Speaking of gestures and such, I was impressed during beta testing that the Laser often responded sluggishly to control commands. That issue cleared up when I changed the chat channel. The command is “channel xx” where xx is any two digits. Once you switch channels, the boat will remember the settings when returned to inventory.

Life in Balance

OK, back to practical sailing.
Real Lasers
are light weight boats with a sizable single sail and a narrow beam. That makes them quick to respond, but also relatively unstable and highly sensitive to weight distribution (hiking). The Standard Laser (aka Laser One) is usually sailed solo, and it’s recommended that a sailor weigh at least 185 pounds to provide effective ballast to counterweight the rig.

That emphasizes the importance of hiking for optimum performance, and the SL Laser One is no different. It has four hike stations for the skipper on each side.

laser hiking positions

click for biggerness

The figure above shows the approximate heel angle for each hiking position. The most extreme hike spot puts the boat on a 39° heel. Within a matter of seconds that invariably ends up hitting the 40° threshold.. and the boat capsizes. 🙂

It takes around ten seconds for the boat to spontaneously right itself. You then get a chance to raise sail and try again. 🙂

laser heelI haven’t yet plotted out the influence of different heel angles on boat speed in any detail, but as the figure to the right shows, hiking to windward on a beam reach can easily buy you a ten percent speed boost while preventing you from flipping over.)

The Laser One can hold one crewperson in addition to the skipper. I haven’t yet looked at crew effects, since most laser racing is done solo. However, I’m guessing the crew effects will be similar to the Nacra.

Polar Performance

Laser polar

The chart to the right shows a plot of boat speed versus wind angle for a Laser One with a solo skipper using a real wind speed of 15 kn with the centerboard down.

The red curve documents boat speed as a function of real wind angle, while the blue curve shows similar data plotted against apparent wind angle.

As you can see from the RWA results, the maximum boat speed is roughly 60-70% RWS and occurs on a beam reach. This is consistent with Handicap data showing the Laser One is approximately 27% slower than the Melges-24 (The Handicap Index boat). That’s realistic and appropriate; the Laser is smaller, has a single sail, and no keel.

The irregular shape of the Laser One performance curve above may be due to the inherent ‘jitter’ in the BWind 2.5  wind engine, with fairly sharp drop-offs as the headings turn windward or leeward. On the other hand, the RL Laser polar is an irregular curve as well. 🙂

LaserPolar via btinternet and Laser One

click to enlarge

Most charts of real sailboat performance are displayed using a radial (polar) format, and the chart to the right shows an example for the Standard Laser. It includes five curves that show boat speed for different RWS intensities that range from 8.5kn to 30kn.

On that same chart I’ve superimposed data for the Mesh Shop Laser One using the BWind default RWS=15kn (the dark blue curve indicated by a green arrow).

The shape of that Laser One performance curve is  similar to the RL boat polar, and the range of Laser One boat speeds for RWS=15kn falls between the RL Laser curves for RWS=13.5kn and RWS=19kn. In other words, the Second Life Laser One’s performance closely matches the “First Life” Standard Laser.

Centerboard Ups and Downs

On sailing dinghies, a retractable centerboard (CB) takes the place of a keel. The CB enhances lift and allows a boat to hold 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.

The Laser One has a CB that nicely demonstrates these effects. In the image below-left, my boat’s on a close reach with the CB down, and it has little trouble holding a constant heading. However, if you raise the CB the boat starts to slip leeward and the nose rotates downwind. As shown below-right, within half a minute my boat fell off the wind by 40 degrees!

laser cb upwind

On far downwind points of sail the CB just slows you down. You may notice on the previous polar chart that the Laser One‘s performance on a broad reach dropped off more quickly than the RL Standard Laser. That’s probably because the measurements on the virtual boat were all made with the centerboard down.

If you lift up the CB with the wind to your back, you’ll get a significant kick in performance, as shown in the sequence below.

laser centerboard downwind

Actually, with the CB raised and the boat in level balance on a dead run, you can even get Laser One to plane once the boat speed reaches 8kn or thereabouts. I can’t comment on that point yet though, since nearly all my testing of this boat used the 15kn default wind. You’ll need a much stiffer breeze to hit a boat speed of 8kn when sailing the Laser One. 🙂

By the Lee

Let me comment on just one more novel feature in this boat. When sailing a run, Lasers can get an added boost when sailing By the Lee.” Let me explain that in two minutes: 🙂

The forces driving a sailboat are a combination of dynamic lift and drag effects.

downwind airflowOn most points of sail, the boom is pushed to the lee side of the boat and the laminar flow across the airfoil travels from “luff to leach” (from the mast to the free sail edge) (first pic on the right).

On a dead run (middle pic), drag forces push from directly astern and hold the sail in place. That allows a boat to cross the wind to the opposite tack without actually flipping the sail (termed ‘sailing by the lee‘). This reverses the direction of airflow across the sail (third pic above), and in boats like the Laser a skilled skipper can use that to get a performance boost.

by the lee

The Laser One models this RL effect. The image to the right shows my boat on a Starboard tack with RWA 170 and a boat speed of 5.4kn. The next image show the boat a few seconds later. It’s crossed the wind and is now on a Port tack with RWA 166, but the boom hasn’t flipped sides. The boat’s sailing “by the lee” and it’s moving at 5.9kn, a 10% speed boost. 🙂

This is a nice effect, and the performance gain is large enough that I’ll probably end up plotting out all the angles and combinations at some point, trying to see what works best. 🙂

Summary

The Mesh Shop Laser One by Kain Xenobuilder is a cat-rigged dinghy racer inspired by the RL Laser Standard. The build is 100% mesh and the SL dimensions closely conform to the ILCA design specs. The boat’s level of detail and RL accuracy are impressive.

The  boat uses the BWind 2.5 engine, and the control and info display features are similar to (and overlap with) other boats in the Mesh Shop fleet. The boat includes a number of realistic race performance features, including a functioning centerboard and 8 skipper hiking positions to balance the boat (with a capsize animation when hiking fails). The Laser One has a polar performance curve that nicely matches the real Laser Standard, and in the hands of a good skipper the boat will plane and sail by the lee.

Like other Mesh Shop boats, Laser One is not WWCcompatible, it does not have wind shadow, and it uses a unique wind variance system. These are intentional features that distinguish the boats from most others sailing in SL. However, I doubt these issues will discourage any sailors from racing Laser One as soon as they can get it out of the box. 🙂

Bottom-line, I think the combination of a remarkably authentic build plus sailing features that emulate a real racer will make Laser One a hit with SL Sailors grid-wide. But hey, go visit Dutch over in Tschotcke, drive the boat around the block yourself, and see what you think! 🙂

laser breadnut