Category Archives: Flying Tako

Reprise: Epi and Oli Split Friday Takos

Two of my best friends… in fact, two people who were the best friends of every sailor they ever met in SL… are now gone forever. We all share their loss.

I feel blessed for the brief chance I had to know Epi and Oli well, and the opportunity I had through SL to share their wisdom, humor, and nobility.
Three and a half years ago at the end of a usual work-week, they got together and did a fun Tako race. Here’s the reprise recap.
Epi, Oli…

I liontaib Dé go ghcastar simm.

This article was originally posted to SLSailing.com on Oct 27, 2007

Glida Pilote is usually in charge of the Friday Tako Races at NYC. However this week, while Glida is away, this supreme responsibility fell to Jane Fossett and Oliphant Ming.

Although Glida often serves up a Friday menu of marathon courses and Force ten winds, Fossett opted for a kinder, gentler race dancecard, chosing four races on the B-1a course, each with NYC’s Standard wind (spd 11).  With unanimous consent, the Friday race sequence commenced…

Epicurus Emmons, Francois Jacques, Liv Leigh, Yuukie Onmura, Daizy Dovgal, Orca Flotta and Oliphant Ming all raced. Jane Fossett crewed while trying to find a no.2 pencil to keep track of the scores.

In the first race, Oli got over the line first, followed a few seconds later by Francois Jacques, then Yuukie Onmura. Here’s a great view of Yuukie chasing Francois:

As the first race progressed, Oli’s long experience at the tiller proved overpowering and his lead  inexorably widened. Oli took Race One with more than a minute to spare over Francois’ second place score. Yuukie finished immediately behind Francois, and Daizy Dovgal came in thirty seconds later.

Race Two: At this point, late as usual, Epicurus Emmons showed up, rezzing a distinctive tako with red sails and a wood hull. Before the fleet could inquire about Epi’s boatyard expenses to maintain that wood hull, the warning gun for the second race went off, and the fleet raised sail. This time Francois Jacques was first across the startline at 00:00 followed very quickly by the rest of the race fleet, with Epi bringing up the rear.

Epi skillfully made up for the bad start and gradually moved forward in the pack until he captured the lead at the final turn. Epi burst across the line in first place, and was immediately followed by Oli, Francois, and Yuukie. Daizy Dovgal and Liv Leigh took the fifth and sixth spots.

Race Three: In the third race, Oli changed strategy and approached the start line on a port tack, while the rest of the fleet used a more traditional starboard tack. Oli’s gambit to run for open water failed, however, when Epi and Liv Leigh made it over the line first, effectively blocking Oli’s path. Oli didn’t mind; with only miliseconds to spare he came about and fell in parallel, leeward to the lead boats. Here’s a snapshot of Oli about to make his ‘port tack’ gamble; you can see Liv and Epi waiting for him:

Once over the line, the boats beat windward, jockeying for position in Bougainville Strait. Here’s a great picture of Daizy Dovgal’s orange #53DD Tako. Daizy was caught in the twilight zone just past the “End of World” warning line; Francois Jacques moved her #08FJ tako in parallel, stealing the wind and blocking Daizy’s chance to tack free. Daizy had little choice but to bounce off the sim edge:

08FJ steals the wind from 53DD

As the boats moved south on the second leg of the B-1a course, Oliphant Ming’s tacking and sheet skills dominated, and he built a commanding lead. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the downwind run through the Solomon Sea, with Oli out front. Like a row of ducklings, the other five Takos line up to stern.

Oli went on to win the race, with Epi, Francois, and Yuukie following. A surprising duel then developed between Daizy Dovgal and Liv Leigh in the last leg, as they made the dash around the final red marker towards the finish. With textbook good sailing and a few tactical moves, Daizy finally pulled ahead, finishing scant seconds in front of Liv.

Race Four: Although the entire fleet put on a display of tight, confident sheet and sail skills, the final race of the day belonged to Epicurus Emmons from start to finish. First over the start line, he caught open air put it to good use. Here’s a view of Epi’s familiar red sail at the start, with Francois and Daizy to starboard and just behind.

Here’s a view of Yuukie and Daizy chasing Epi’s tail on the long board reach down the east shore of Bella Lavella:

And finally, here comes Epi on the final homeward lap. He lead the pack with nearly a minute to spare, followed by Francois, Yuukie, and Daizy:

It was a great conclusion to a wonderful week of racing!


Waypoint Hits the Water (reprise)

Waypoint Hits the Water

(This article was originally posted on  December 6th, 2007;
I’m reposting it in honor of Waypoints Second Birthday. WOOTS! ).

Let me give another shout-out for the new Waypoint Yacht Club.

As most sailors already know, Taku Raymaker has worked pretty tirelessly over the past many months to expand SL Racing for Japanese sailors. Sailors in the United Sailing Sims were therefore delighted when Taku’s fleet decided to drop anchor in Santa Cruz and make Waypoint Yacht Club their home port. Waypoint will join with Starboards and Nantucket Yacht Clubs to coordinate a full schedule of races and sailing events for all the interconnected waterways of USS.

And with that introduction, let me tell you: based on what I saw today, the WYC Race Fleet certainly didn’t waste any time getting up and running!

This morning I grabbed some coffee and went over to catch WYC’s first official race from the Starboards line in Hollywood.  It was pretty impressive. A large fleet of truly wonderful sailors converged by the dock, raised sail, and then took off full-throttle past the SYC clubhouse on close haul. They didn’t miss a step, lapping the Olympic Course with style and confidence. Gee, they made it look… easy.

Then it struck me: Of course they’re comfortable racing the Olympic course! Waypoint’s now part of the USS home team, and this morning’s WYC skippers were already showing the flair and swagger of athletes playing their home court advantage.

It was great fun to watch, and…  Hey Waypoint? Welcome Home!

While I was hovering over the start line and still drinking my first cup of coffee, Bea Woodget showed up!  If you haven’t been paying attention recently, let me bring you up to speed on something everybody else knows; Bea Woodget’s  been doing a wonderful job as a Race Director at both NYC and SYC. She deserves a huge round of applause for the work she has done planning and organizing races that are convenient for sailors in European time zones. Bea started the NYC Friday 9:00am Beach Cat Races, and this week she just inaugurated  a Euro-friendly Tako Race series at SYC.

The new races are scheduled for Sundays at 1:30am SLT/PST, and they are already a big hit!

While I was trying to fly, take pictures, and not spill my coffee, I was also thinking about how unique our SL Sailing community is… (Don’t worry, I’m not going to get soft and weepy here).

I mean, this morning I logged in from North America and drank my Starbucks while cheering on my Japanese friends as they crossed the SYC start line 30 meters below me, but also more than 10,000 miles West. At the same time, Bea was watching the races next to me but also 5,000 miles East. There we were, all together, nothing special; just another day in SL. Maybe we need to be careful. Somebody might get the idea that building an online community of funny, intelligent people that is unencumbered by traditional barriers of nationality, class, or distance is somehow important.

That sounds pretty tedious. Personally, I just like to play with toy boats.

_____________________________________

Sprints II: Gemma’s Got Game

Originally posted March 19, 2009 on SLSailing.com.

MBYC-1

Mowry Sprints

I started telling you about Mowry Sprints a few days ago; let’s pick up the story where we left off!

As I mentioned, there was a good deal of interest and excitement in the sailing community over the Regatta. The few week build up to the event saw a crescendo of practice sessions, qualifying races and the usual pre-race sailor trash-talk at the start lines. When race day finally arrived on March 7, skippers from eight clubs converged on Mowry Bay to join their friends, rez their boats, and compete for bragging rights.

I’ve also already discussed one of the most fascinating twists about Sprints. Although it was organized from the outset as a regatta that would return interclub racing to SLSailing, the head-to-head battle on the water between different yacht clubs never emerged. Everyone knew it was really a celebration of the sailing community and the diversity of clubs. The sailors proved that by readily flipping their affiliations around to accommodate the schedule and make the race a fun competition. Pippa Rexen made a major effort to keep things straight and identify which skipper was sailing under what colors; she finally gave up. The sailors knew who they were and why they were sailing, that was enough! And Commodore Saxxon? He just kept smiling. I’d like to say he was the calm eye in the storm, but actually it was a hurricane that never happened, an event that held much humor but little hubris.

The race skippers were: Epicurus Emmons, Taku Raymaker, Glorfindel Arrow, Tasha Kostolany, Maamon Kitaj, Jamey Sismondi, Nuggy Negulesco, Cory Copeland, Colin Nemeth, Max Starostin, Miwha Masala, Gemma Vuckovic, Bea Woodget, Julia Ceres, Aislin Keynes, nobuko Criss, and Alizia Baxton. Gashlycrumb TiniesIn keeping with the tone the skippers set and the 1960s politics espoused by the tunes on the MBYC jukebox, I’ve listed them in a totally random fashion, without regard to club, gender, or sail preference, and in complete defiance of the hegemony of alphabetical order.

Moving right along here, let’s talk sailing (for a change).

The racecourse

MBYC uses the Linden raceline in Hepurn. The line runs East – West, parallel to the SL grid lines and is set perpendicular to the racewind, which blows from dir=90 (using the SL angle system) or dir=0 (Using the RL compass angles). This means that nearly all MBYC races begin with an upwind beat to a race buoy located in one of the two sims immediately North.

MBYC-1
That’s the classic start for the well-known MBYC1 course used for all the races in the Mowry Sprints. MBYC1 is a short, Olympic triangle that begins with a beat to the first mark in Jasckle followed by a proportionate, starboard-tack broad-reach leg to the buoy in Hahne. Race boats then make a hairpin, counterclockwise turn and fall on a beam reach coming back, running parallel to the sim edge with Mare. Once the boats reach Jasckle again, they pass the green buoy and fall off to a near dead-run all the way home.

It’s a deceptively easy course that has few strategic options, particularly in a Tako. The Tako uses a simple “real wind” lift algorithm to power the boat, and the Tako’s sheet/ sail control options are similarly limited.  In fact, the combination of a short, bare-bones race course like MBYC1 and a classically simple Tako dinghy rig in my opinion turned the Mowry competition into a duel that emphasized fundamental sailing skills over complex race strategy. The Sprints challenge skippers were certainly up to the task.

Life in the Fast Lane

Every Sprint contestant launching a boat on March 7 was a Tako sailing expert, but sailors reading this article know how inadequate the term ‘expert” can be, how it misses the toil and skill racing often entails. The relationship between an SL Race skipper and a Tako sailboat extends way beyond memorized gestures, the clatter of keystrokes or the flashing images of polar plots… It’s not even reflected in those jumbled images of crashing rigging that force you bolt upright awake from a deep slumber at 2 a.m. each night, the ones that leave you clammy with sweat, plaintively screaming “Starboard!” Into the blackness.

Tako sailors know this.

Other people may think of sailing as a romance full of storybook experience, but Tako racers know the real truth. Yes, they were once young, naive, green… and in love. The fresh gleam of new gelcoat was all that mattered. Wind-powered Dharma Bums, they lived on the road, going from raceline to raceline, sleeping on their boats and Greenaching for more. Time passes though, and a life of windy salt spray takes its toll; a sim crashes once too often, you make a sincere Gesture by hitting an F-key but your boat ignores you, and then — the final straw – you sicken when three other boats, new boats with flashy scripts, show up at the raceline flaunting your ID number.

Sprints!You loved your Tako once, no one can ever take that away. You’ll always have Paris; but now…

Now all you know is that your forestay is slack and your aft grows more beamy with each passing day. Romance changed to responsibility, and you face that gritty truth without remorse. You fought the good fight, and you gave this relationship all you had to give. This past year you dragged your Tako out of bed to attend every regatta, hoping things might change. You did your best but it was to no avail. You shudder to recall that fateful night when in desperation you called Tako product support pleading for couples therapy, only to discover the line had been disconnected months ago.

You know it’s not all bad, you have just grown apart; you and your Tako will always be friends. You know there is much to look forward to; tomorrow you have a date with that Fizz 3 everyone’s talking about. And who knows? Maybe you’ll go back and finish your degree; after all, next month you’re signed up for a J-Class…

The warning horn sounds, and your thoughts come back to the moment, the task at hand. You turn your face to the wind, glancing port and starboard at the gaggle of familiar skippers joining you from disparate points across the tiny world we all share. For this one day, this moment, you are at peace.

Your mind clears and your muscles limber as your gaze fixes on the horizon. You are a sailor. You are one with all the start line skippers from all the countries and cultures and classes that surround you now. It’s no accident, mystery, or mistake; a million years of evolution on a water-covered world has brought you to this point. Now, like so many generations of sailors before you, you realize there is only one idea, one small word that has value or meaning. That single word holds the power to unlock the future beyond the horizon, and nothing else matters. A faint, familiar gun goes off, and with pride and determination, and the steely confidence you can handle whatever happens next, you join with your fellow sailors and chant: RAISE!

Starts and Finishes

Given the razor-skill of the challenge fleet and the simple, in-your-face design of the MBYC-1 racecourse, one can confidently predict the skippers would push the limits, sailing at or near the theoretical performance max of the boat.In practical terms, that means on March 7 a Sprints skipper had no margin for error, and a sailor’s slightest slip could cause Sprints to slide away. In a fleet so equally matched, a boat that fell astern would have little opportunity to build sufficient momentum to pass the leaders, and the tactical options are minimal. This is a common problem in SL and RL races actually, and there’s only one good solution: Get out in front and stay there.

There are lots of things to worry about in a race, and it’s easy to lose some perspective. however, looking at the “facts on the ground” in Mowry, I thought it was hard to deny the importance of the Start. It wasn’t the only thing to worry about, on a list of the top 10 ways to win, start line tactics was 1-8 inclusive, at least in my opinion.

The usual start line duels have a few nuances at Mowry that are worth mentioning.The first problem is that the milling area during the two minute pre-start is fairly small; there is relatively little open water to maneuver in. Thankfully, the Tako is small and carves sharp turns. Nonetheless, Mowry’s a place where extra practice sessions at the start line could pay off big.

Cory Copeland loses hair overboard

You want proof?  Straight out of the blocks in the men’s division’s first race Epicurus Emmons and Cory Copeland both crossed the raceline with matching, valid -00:01sec start times. These days, thanks to Cynthia Centaur most of the race lines in use will not give you a valid negative start.  However, the Hepurn race line at MBYC is on Linden water, and dates back to the Pleistocene era. It is perfectly serviceable, but has a few historical quirks that become obvious to a skipper willing to spend the time coddling it in pre-regatta practice. If you go back two years on the forum, you’ll find long discussions about negative start times and a whole fleet of skippers who were relentlessly doing hotlaps on different courses, hammering the start line again and again to gain a fraction of a second advantage. if you were a skipper with ice water running in your veins and an all-or-nothing mentality, you knew you could stare down the line, take your chances and get a -00:01 valid start. No tricks were involved, just guts and adrenaline.  Was Cory Copeland in that hot laps crowd?  (Insert ‘grin’ here) Actually, along with Cybrid Keats, Cory invented hotlaps. It was fun to go over the numbers and see that all the time Cory spent in cold storage hadn’t dented his nerve for negative Mowry starts.

And Epi? How can one explain his equally remarkable -00:01sec start? I wondered a bit whether hitting that remarkable score on the very first race of the regatta was attributed more to brains, skill, experience or audacity… I’m deciding its crew! Epi’s tactician For the sprints was Fanci Beebe, co-owner of the USS Sailor’s Cove / Lawson Landing estate. Fanci rarely has time to sail, so it was absolutely wonderful seeing her riding shotgun for Epi. as a team they pulled off a remarkably good series of laps, winning the first race and then coming in third and second for the races that followed. That certainly proved good enough to capture first place in the Sprints Men’s division.

Mowry Sprints TrophiesMy comments about start time skill  are certainly not just restricted to Epi and Cory; a quick look at the race line results confirms my earlier claim that this is an excellent crowd; in the second men’s race for example, Max Starostin, Tasha Kostolany, and Nuggy Negulesco all simultaneously crossed the start line at 00:00 sec.    The women’s division proved equally to the task. All those flowery words I wrote above about Cory and Epi crossing together at -00:01sec? Well Aislin Keynes and Julia Ceres sailing for SYC and MBYC duplicated that feat in the third race of the women’s division. Woots! Pretty incredible sailing.

Gemma Vuckovic lead the NYC team

In the Women’s Division, however, Gemma Vuckovic proved an undeniable superstar. Gemma and her tactician Quirky Torok sailed against a fleet of remarkable racers that included Miwha Masala, Bea Woodget, Julia Ceres, Aislin Keynes and nobuko Criss. In that tough field, Gemma and Quirky failed to win a single one of the starts. In all three heats Gemma had to fight her way forward and somehow find the strength and momentum not only to claw up alongside each competitor, but to find that extra lift – somewhere – to blow past them in order to challenge the next boat in front. Bea and Julia gave Gemma serious competition; this was far from a cakewalk, but Gemma had the heart and held the day, winning the women’s division decisively. Her win was all the more impressive when one considers she lost the starts… She had to win by outsailing Julia and Bea.  At this point, I feel forced to add a disclaimer:

Warning: To any new SL sailors reading this article, attempting to outsail Bea and Julia can be extremely hazardous, and should only be attempted by trained professionals.

What Gemma and Quirky accomplished demonstrated not only consummate sailing skill, but also a remarkable force of will in each heat of the competition.

Epicurus Emmons discusses last minute strategyFollowing Gemma’s dramatic performance, one more race was held. The two division winners, Epi and Gemma, went head-to-head  to decide the grand winner and take the prize for their club. I have already stated that Epi and Fanci made a remarkable team. They sailed with precision and flashes of brilliance, clearly deserving the first place division prize. Having said that, however, it was obvious on that day, at that time and in that place no mere mortal could match Gemma’s prowess. It might well be different next week or next month, but on March 7 the team of Gemma Vuckovic and Quirky Torok were unstoppable. In that final race they crossed the finish line a full sim ahead of their opponents, another astonishing feat considering the level of skill and the short course distance.

That flawless performance won the Mowry Sprints club prize for Nantucket Yacht Club. At the end of the day, however, when the trophies were handed out by Francois Jacques and MarkTwain White, there was no doubt that the big winner was SL Sailing, and the wonderful community Mowry Sprints celebrated.

Gemma Vuckovic

Mowry Scores with Spring Sprint (Part I)

Originally posted by Jane Fossett at slsailing.com on March 17, 2009

Jane Fossett - Sheep to Shear

I have quite a bit to tell you about what went on, so I decided to break this article into two pieces. Today I’ll tell you about the buildup prior to race day, and then In Part II of this story I’ll tell you what happened on the water. I’ve also posted the Race Results and an Awards Ceremony transcript here.

– JFos

Mowry Scores with Spring Sprint (Part I)

The 2009 Spring Sailing Season got off to an exciting start last Saturday as Saxxon Domela’s Mowry Sprints Regatta hit the water over at Mowry Bay Yacht Club.

Spirit of Mowry Sprints

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Mowry Sprints was more than ”just another boat race.” It was actually the first inter-club SL Sailing challenge in over two years. There was concern whether aggressive competition between the clubs would be the best format to promote SL Sailing.

Saxxon Domela, Resident Janitor of MBYC, wasn’t concerned. He felt a friendly rivalry between the clubs could add to the fun of a regatta, and that energy might fuel more sailing events for the remainder of the racing season. According to the rules he established for the competition, each club could sponsor one Tako  Challenge Team in both Male and Female divisions. A series of racing heats would decide the best male and female team, and those two teams would then compete against each other in a final match for the Regatta championship.

Commodore Domela’s interclub race announcement sparked a good deal of discussion and enthusiasm in the clubs, and probably a little confusion and anxiety as well. Nearly all the seasoned sailors interested in racing were members of multiple clubs; the Sprints’ format made these skippers declare allegiance to one home team over another. Commodore Domela did not see this as a problem, since  in his view most sailors had a particular affinity for one club or another, and the skippers could make their own decisions in order to fill up the slots on their racing dance card. Besides, the ability to mix up sides in a competition and even switch teams is usually considered an important element of good sportsmanship. Mowry Sprints was intended to be a celebration of club sailing, not a showdown.

MBYC

Be that as it may, the Mowry Sprints’ call for each club to certify two challenge boats proved a great excuse to get winter-weary skippers out of the bar and out on the water again. They dusted off their venerable dinghies and dug deep in Inventory, upgrading their old Tako gestures to the “active” Inventory roster. Several clubs then organized practice sessions and qualifying races in an effort to whittle down their fleet to male and female teams that would fly the club pendant on March 7.

The qualifying rounds turned out to hold a surprising surfeit of fun and good humor, where flashes of sailing pyrotechnics alternated with good-natured goof ups. Nantucket Yacht Club actually looked pretty good for a few minutes as the fleet of contenders met the first night for a practice round. A large number of boats converged on the start line to vie for a spot on the NYC team. However, as soon as the start gun fired any lofty expectations NYC’s Race Directors may have had were brought back to reality. The fleet raised sail, charged fearlessly across the line… and never came back. Every one of the skippers that evening apparently got lost on the practice course and ended up wandering around Blake Sea.

To their credit, Starboards Yacht Club projected a more organized public image. Chad Sawson built enthusiasm and recruited sailors, announcing a series of qualifying heats on the same Mowry race course that would be used for the Sprints competition.

Aislin Keynes sailed for SYC

That seemed like an exceptionally wise approach, particularly for a Texan. Sadly, however, uncontrollable forces of nature conspired to trip-up the SYC team too. During one critical qualifying session each and every SYC contender on the course crashed headlong into the linear abyss euphemistically called a ‘sim-crossing’ while their frail boats tried to make it around the notoriously lag-enriched Hepurn waterways. Eventually things worked out  however. The competition fleet began to take shape, with Co-Commodore Aislan Keynes leading Hollywood’s SYC squad, while Chad assumed responsibility as the top Race Official for the event.

J-Class

Other clubs took a somewhat more relaxed approach. As the final race day neared, I called up Commodore Epicurus Emmons asking who Fisher’s Island Yacht Club had selected to represent them.   Without skipping a beat,  Epi brightly replied ” Mowry Sprints… What’s that? … Sure we’ll race! You have a landmark?

Cory CopelandA couple weeks before the regatta, Saxxon Domela made a surprise announcement: Jamey Sismondi would represent Mowry in the Men’s Tako competition. I’ve mentioned Jamey before, noting he was a sailing legend of Homeric proportions. Given the history and tradition of Mowry sailing, given Jamey’s standing in interclub competitions from the dark past, and given the fact the Tako hadn’t had an upgrade since Jamey sailed for Greece in the Great Trojan Regatta 2,300 Linden-years ago, Saxx’s news was a real eye-opener.

The NYC Steering Committee quickly called an emergency meeting to consider how to respond to this potentially catastrophic development. Exactly what was discussed in that session must remain a secret between the NYC steering committee, The Illuminati, and the Yale Skull and Bones Club. However, when the meeting ended the six members of Steerage descended down the long passageway to the caverns beneath the club, where digital permafrost keeps club treasures in suspended animation. Each member pulled a secret key from the gold chain around their neck and inserted it into the giant freezer chest contained therein, and while saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards, they released the locks and threw open the massive door that sealed the frigid crypt below.

Cynthia Centaur went into action next, throwing a switch to overclock her laptop’s cpu, producing enough heat to melt years of ice and reanimate NYC’s secret weapon: Cory Copeland, the antidote to Jamey Sismondi. The annals of the Second Life Sailing Association were replete with tales of their epic confrontations, and like a chapter out of the comic book version of Rashomon, Mowry Sprints seemed on a course to unleash primordial forces from a dark past to do battle one more time.

To ease the transition from icy blackness to the warm breezes of SL Spring sailing, Cory chose an old friend, Chaos Mandelbrot as tactician, for Chaos had a deep intuitive understanding of not only of the Flying Tako but also the Antarctic clime.

With some gravity I must repeat that the details of these events shall remain secret for all time.

I can’t say what other clubs did, but I assume it was fairly similar to NYC’s approach.

The Teams

My comments above might suggest that the buildup to the sprints increased partisanship in the clubs and magnified the differences across sailing groups, but nope! That did not happen. In fact, during the last two or three days before the Sprints Regatta sailors convened on the water for the ultimate battle, the actions of many sailors gave striking evidence that, above and beyond all else, they considered themselves united together as the community. The clubs were just one aspect of that bigger meaning.

Skipper's meeting

Julia Ceres  was one such example. Julia’s has been a major presence at MBYC and one of their key Race Directors. She is also widely known and respected by sailors at clubs scattered all across the grid. As the Sprints Regatta approached, she offered to come to NYC and  assist Head Race Director Gemma Vuckovic and Commodore François Jacques put together a Challenge team. Julia did a pretty great job running the series of practice sessions and qualifying rounds. Shortly before the Regatta, however she gave the NYC staff a big smile, switch T-shirts and raised the Mowry pennant high. The Race Director who helped get NYC up to speed was now going home to sail for Mowry. It was a great image and a remarkable demonstration of style and substance.

But hey, Julia wasn’t the only one who reached out across the clubs. In fact she was just one example of the community spirit that seemed to emanate from all the clubs and the sailors representing them. Glorfindel Arrow somewhat humorously push this to a far limit in the Mowry Sprints: on the day of the Regatta, his name appeared twice on the challenger list. Glorfindel had qualified to sail in the Men’s Tako division as a Challenge boat not only for Tradewinds Yacht Club, but for NYC as well!

This didn’t bother Glorf… he is a sailor, and a good one. He was proud to fly as many pennants as would fit on that little dinghy.

To his credit, it didn’t bother Saxon Domela one bit either. From Saxx’s vantage point, the important thing was to unite sailors in a celebration of pride, spirit and competition. The messy rules stuff could be figured out later.

Tasha Kostolany would not to be outdone by Glorfindal’s show of communal sailing spirit. If Glorf could sail for two clubs, then Tasha could transcend the arbitrary gender distinctions that split up the divisions in the race. Tasha decided to sail in the Men’s Division. Saxx just shrugged and smiled.

Finally, you remember that frostbite sailor Cory Copeland? The cofounder and first Commodore of the new Nantucket Yacht Club? Well, after many late nights spent in a self-imposed intense crash-course to reactivate those neural circuits wired for SL racing, Cory got the news that Jamey Sismondi was not going to be able to make the race. So what did Cory do? How did he repay the elders of the NYC Coven for graciously releasing him from cold storage? He paid NYC back in the best possible way. He handed the tiller to Chaos and Glorf, and adroitly jumped into the slot reserved for Jamey.  That day Cory sailed for Mowry, for Saxx, for Jamey, and for all SL Sailing.

I told you a couple weeks ago that Jamey and Cory were among that rare breed of SL Sailing Giants. On Saturday Cory proved it once again. His simple selfless gesture showed us what it’s all about, and how it’s done.

It almost made thawing him out worthwhile…

[— to be continued—]

Tako Tricks

This article was originally posted December 15th, 2007 on SLSailing.com

You get to the start line late, you rez your boat and jump in.  The clock starts and you raise sail, but suddenly you realize something’s wrong; you don’t have race wind! So you flounder around, clicking on the windsetter, crisscrossing the start line, re-rezzing your boat, or even resetting your scripts. Eventually something works and you’re able to join the next race. Then two weeks later… the same thing happens again. What’s going on? Is there a boat problem, a wind problem, or a Tako problem? Did your “SL partner” think you sail too much and sabotage your boat? Such serious questions demand further investigation.

Cynthia Centaur's new WindsetterOver the past week we’ve been testing Cynthia Centaur’s new Windsetter on the NYC race line (Thank you, Cynthia!). I guess that started me thinking about the above issues and how they relate to Tako race wind. In case you don’t read this column frequently ( a fact that would imply you have a meaningful existence elsewhere) let me begin my comments by offering a disclaimer: I actually spend most of my cortical functioning just trying to spell correctly, and I think UNIX are people who need hormone replacement. I’m probably not your best authority on this topic.

Despite that, I’m starting to think there is an issue with Tako race wind, possibly a serious one.

I’m not being critical of the Tako; God forbid. A creation of Kanker Greenacre, the Tako is the true essence of SL Sailing, and whole generations of sailcraft were inspired by, modeled after, or genetically cloned from the Tako. The code for early versions of the Tako are now in the public domain, although the current Tako 3.3 code remains proprietary.

So what am I so worked up about then?

Well, the windsetter, start line, and Tako sailboat all need to work together for a successful race. However, sometimes this menage a trois suffers from communication breakdowns and illicit outside relationships (just like RL). To explain how this sordid tale unfolds, perhaps we should back up a bit and very quickly discuss how race wind works.

The windsetter has a single job .  Every few seconds it shouts out a string of wind parameters. If you go within whisper range of a windsetter and type “/44 settings” you’ll see what the Windsetter is transmitting. As I write this, the NYC Bismark Sea Windsetter is broadcasting the NYC default wind, so I just got this reply:

SLSF Race Wind Setter (predefs) shouts: dir: 5, spd: 11.000000, dir+-: 15, spd+-: 3.000000, rate: 1.000000A Tako listens for this message. When it gets within shouting distance of the windsetter it picks up the race wind values which are then used by the Tako’s motion algorithm to power the boat. (For a wonderful discussion about how sailboats use wind power in RL and SL, please attend M1sha Dallin’s excellent Sailing Skills class.)

As I said, the windsetter shouts the parameters every few seconds so any Tako in the vicinity is repeatedly updated. That  changes when the Tako is in a race.

Most race courses cover many sims far away from the original Windsetter, and the racing boats may pass other windsetters that could confuse the race boats.  To make sure all Takos keep the same wind for the duration of a race, the Tako is scripted to stop listening for wind updates when the boat crosses the line and registers a START time. It then uses the last race wind it heard for the duration of the race until it crosses a line and receives a FINISH time. When that happens, the boat starts listening again for new wind updates.

This system is pretty good in many ways. For example, if you are half-way through an important race and crash offline, when you log back in and rez your boat in its last position on the course the boat still remembers the race wind settings. That means you can go ahead and finish the race without a disqualification.

Unfortunately, the way a Tako handles race wind can produce problems.  As I just mentioned, if a boat stops in mid-race due to a crash or the skipper’s ennui, unless that copy of the boat  is actively deleted it will probably end up back in the sailor’s Inventory.  Although the boat will be listed like any other Tako in Inventory, it isn’t. That Tako still retains the old race wind settings, and the wind it uses cannot be reset until that boat receives a FINISH time from a race line.

Let me demonstrate this for you. Yesterday I took my Tako to Hollywood and sailed across the SYC race line. The line gave me a START time. I then moored in front of the Hollywood Marine Mall and did some shopping. When I came out, I un-rezzed my boat and went back to the NYC Clubhouse.

However, when I rezzed that Tako on the NYC race line in Bismark Sea, I still had SYC Race Wind! (Mirabile dictu!)

I started the race clock and sailed over the line; as usual, the line gave me a START time. I sailed around using the counterfeit SYC wind for a few minutes then returned to the NYC line, as shown in “A” below. I still had SYC wind, but as soon as I crossed the line and received a FINISH time, my wind popped back to the NYC default (”B“); my Tako had started listening again.

I had “tricked” my Tako to use the wrong wind settings.

Why am I wasting time talking about this? Well, because I’m pretty sure the “Wrong Wind Tako” problem is more common than we appreciate, and interferes with many races. There is no way a sailor can tell what race wind a Tako is actually using, so unintended errors could easily go unnoticed. All skippers and Race Directors do the same thing: they watch the boats and the sails, looking for something unusual. Since nearly all fleet races use wind settings that include speed and direction variance, a sailor can only detect a problem if the boat’s “bad wind” is very different from the intended race wind settings.

This might be a particular problem at NYC’s Bismark Sea line. NYC’s new Windsetter at the moment has two ‘predefs’ that skippers often switch between. The only difference between the ‘default’ and ‘hotlaps’ settings is the speed and direction variability. For the reasons discussed above, it’s easy to  assume that race boats may end up  using the wrong wind, despite the diligence and good intent of the skipper. The difference between the predefs is too small to notice easily.

Since the effect overrides the local race wind, it could also be exploited by someone trying to cheat in a Tako race.  I’m not overly concerned about it, however. I’m sure the best SL sailboat racers know a dozen ways to cheat, but they don’t. They understand SL Sailboat Racing isn’t about winning some pixel prize. They realize it’s an exciting test of skill, experience, knowledge and determination. From that vantage point, cheating is just a waste of time.

The real problem with the “Wrong Wind Tako” effect is that it can easily happen unintentionally and probably goes unnoticed unless the wind setting difference is large. It becomes a source of confusion and error in fleet races and hotlaps.

How to fix the Wrong Wind problem? I discussed this with Cory Copeland last evening, and he agreed there might be a simple solution. Before a race, all boats should do a practice run. The boats cross the start line, sail for at least one minute, then return and get a FINISH time. That would ensure all racing Takos are listening to the windsetter and using the right wind.

Wednesdays with Mowry

Originally posted to SLSailing.com on November 1st, 2007

One of the things I most love about sailing is the sense of history and tradition that suffuses all aspects of the sport.

And for many here, a lot of SL sailing history began on the deck of the Mowry Bay Yacht Club & Embalming Society. Ask any sailor who’s been around the SL docks for 18 months or more, and there’s a good chance they’ll get misty-eyed and tell you about the ‘great old days’ at MBYC.

However, over the last several months sailing at Mowry’s been pretty quiet, largely due to treacherous sim crossing problems and mainland lag. Late evenings MBYC was usually empty, except for Owen Oyen, who was frequently sitting at the Hepurn start line toiling away in solitude on his latest AC-class race boat.

Well, after several recent visits, I’m delighted to report that Mowry’s back! Saxxon Domela (Mowry’s ‘resident janitor’) has redone the clubhouse, and the Linden gods have finally fixed the sim crossing problems. Saxx has restarted the sailing program with a weekly series of fun races on Wednesday nights at 6:00pm.

Last night Pensive Mission was Race Director, so after the Beach Cat Races ended, Armchair Binder and I went over to Mowry to lend a hand.

It was a great deal of fun, and the race course worked quite nicely. Here’s a slightly modified version of the new chart for the Mowry “Olympic Course:”

It’s the same as the “Hepurn TPS Course”  many sailors used for hotlaps.  I actually like the old chart more, since it shows the location of the red buoy in Hahne sim more accurately.

Anyway, last night was a lot of fun at Mowry, and a few good races were even completed. Orca Flotta, Rett Gentil, Konradin Kappler, and Halfpint Pennell all skippered their Takos in the competition. Konradin (#62KK) got over the start line first, just ahead of Halfpint (#25HP), with Orca (#69OF) in their wake.

The two lead boats quickly diverged as they beat windward towards the first mark. Konradin chose a port tack, while Halfpint went out on  starboard. They converged again after the turn at the windward mark in Jasckle, and went neck-and-neck, trading punches while parallel overlapped over the long reach into Hahne.

At the red mark in the southwest corner of the sim, Halfpint made a beautiful inside pivot around the buoy to gain the lead and steal the wind from Konradin! Way to go, Halfpint! Here’s the view with Halfpint steaming ahead just after the turn:

The crowd could hear Konradin grinding his teeth as he strained canvas, trying to close the gap separating the boats. Digging deep and using all the skill and experience he’s gained from months of racing with the Starboards fleet in Hollywood, Konradin scraped forward, edging ahead at the next marker and grabbing for clean air.

Once KK broke free, he built on his lead, crossing the finish line a half minute ahead of Halfpint. Konradin’s one of the best sailors in the United Sailing Sims; he demonstrated it again here… but lookout everyone… Halfpint’s a real contender and she’s coming up fast! What a great race!

So gang? Give the Hepurn TPS Course a try, and put the Weds 6pm races on your calendar. And while you’re at Mowry, one other thing… visit Saxxon’s new shop there. Elisha Paklena gave me a quick tour… and WOOT!  Everything I saw I wanted.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned a particular store in these columns, but this one’s worth a shout-out. The display area is physically beautiful, and Saxxon’s artisanship is fun and unique. I mean, where else are you going to find a boat trailer for your Beach Cat or Tako? Go take a look, and visit all the other Mowry Village shops while you’re there!

Epi and Oli Split Friday Takos

This article was originally posted to SLSailing.com on Oct 27, 2007

Glida Pilote is usually in charge of the Friday Tako Races at NYC. However this week, while Glida is away, this supreme responsibility fell to Jane Fossett and Oliphant Ming.

Although Glida often serves up a Friday menu of marathon courses and Force ten winds, Fossett opted for a kinder, gentler race dancecard, chosing four races on the B-1a course, each with NYC’s Standard wind (spd 11).  With unanimous consent, the Friday race sequence commenced…

Epicurus Emmons, Francois Jacques, Liv Leigh, Yuukie Onmura, Daizy Dovgal, Orca Flotta and Oliphant Ming all raced. Jane Fossett crewed while trying to find a no.2 pencil to keep track of the scores.

In the first race, Oli got over the line first, followed a few seconds later by Francois Jacques, then Yuukie Onmura. Here’s a great view of Yuukie chasing Francois:

As the first race progressed, Oli’s long experience at the tiller proved overpowering and his lead  inexorably widened. Oli took Race One with more than a minute to spare over Francois’ second place score. Yuukie finished immediately behind Francois, and Daizy Dovgal came in thirty seconds later.

Race Two: At this point, late as usual, Epicurus Emmons showed up, rezzing a distinctive tako with red sails and a wood hull. Before the fleet could inquire about Epi’s boatyard expenses to maintain that wood hull, the warning gun for the second race went off, and the fleet raised sail. This time Francois Jacques was first across the startline at 00:00 followed very quickly by the rest of the race fleet, with Epi bringing up the rear.

Epi skillfully made up for the bad start and gradually moved forward in the pack until he captured the lead at the final turn. Epi burst across the line in first place, and was immediately followed by Oli, Francois, and Yuukie. Daizy Dovgal and Liv Leigh took the fifth and sixth spots.

Race Three: In the third race, Oli changed strategy and approached the start line on a port tack, while the rest of the fleet used a more traditional starboard tack. Oli’s gambit to run for open water failed, however, when Epi and Liv Leigh made it over the line first, effectively blocking Oli’s path. Oli didn’t mind; with only miliseconds to spare he came about and fell in parallel, leeward to the lead boats. Here’s a snapshot of Oli about to make his ‘port tack’ gamble; you can see Liv and Epi waiting for him:

Once over the line, the boats beat windward, jockeying for position in Bougainville Strait. Here’s a great picture of Daizy Dovgal’s orange #53DD Tako. Daizy was caught in the twilight zone just past the “End of World” warning line; Francois Jacques moved her #08FJ tako in parallel, stealing the wind and blocking Daizy’s chance to tack free. Daizy had little choice but to bounce off the sim edge:

08FJ steals the wind from 53DD

As the boats moved south on the second leg of the B-1a course, Oliphant Ming’s tacking and sheet skills dominated, and he built a commanding lead. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the downwind run through the Solomon Sea, with Oli out front. Like a row of ducklings, the other five Takos line up to stern.

Oli went on to win the race, with Epi, Francois, and Yuukie following. A surprising duel then developed between Daizy Dovgal and Liv Leigh in the last leg, as they made the dash around the final red marker towards the finish. With textbook good sailing and a few tactical moves, Daizy finally pulled ahead, finishing scant seconds in front of Liv.

Race Four: Although the entire fleet put on a display of tight, confident sheet and sail skills, the final race of the day belonged to Epicurus Emmons from start to finish. First over the start line, he caught open air put it to good use. Here’s a view of Epi’s familiar red sail at the start, with Francois and Daizy to starboard and just behind.

Here’s a view of Yuukie and Daizy chasing Epi’s tail on the long board reach down the east shore of Bella Lavella:

And finally, here comes Epi on the final homeward lap. He lead the pack with nearly a minute to spare, followed by Francois, Yuukie, and Daizy:

It was a great conclusion to a wonderful week of racing!