Category Archives: Wildwind

Hotlaps Update, September 2013

Hotlaps Handicaps September 17 2013

Hotlaps 2013 is a sailing format that helps skippers practice skills while doing fun, solo laps that are posted online. The Hotlaps database allows skippers to compare their lap time results with others; they can also contrast the relative performance of different boats that sail under the same ‘trial lap’ conditions.

There are six different Hotlaps raceline locations, and each has its own Hotlaps course: PLUMGUTBREADNUTKNAPTRACKICONLINKOUSSULU, and HEPURN. Sailing a Hotlap takes only ten minutes, and you can do it any time you want, in any boat.

hotlapsposters Just go to one of the racelines and click on the ‘Hotlaps 2013′ poster above the green buoy; it will give you all the info you need.

When you finish sailing the lap you can post it online by clicking a poster that’s labeled “Enter your lap time here.” It’s just as easy as that. 🙂

Sailors have been doing Hotlaps and posting their results since early in 2007, but this year we started a new 2013 cycle in deference to the large number of great, boats that have recently hit the water in SL. Since we began it in January, Hotlaps sailors have logged 442 lap scores sailing 45 different boat classes! Let me give a shout-out to that great group of 68 skippers who did all those laps:

2525, ak Topsail, Andi Merryman, Armano Xaris, B112, B117, B12, BM12, Brett Kjeller, Bunnie, Chaos Mandelbrot, CharliePakk, charliepakk, Dekka, Destiny Wescott, don Berthios, Emelia Azemus, Fearless Freenote, Glorfindel Arrow, gnupf gufler, Hannelore Ballinger, HansMarx, Hay Ah, IDBSDF61, JFos, Joy Acker, Justin Blade, Kain Xenobuilder, Kentrock Mesmer, Kris Hollysharp, Lance Corrimal, laured Cabassoun, Lesbo Charisma, Little Vixen, LucyInTheSky Afarensis, Maiko Taurog, michiya Yoshikawa, Nikif, notohama, nozomimi karu, Ome Audeburgh, pascal kira, Patrice Cournoyer, Pazzo Pestana, Peacy Cortes, Pensive Mission, poko Zepp, Popow Horbaczewski, Porter Tracy, Qyv Inshan, Rebbie Resident, Rim Telling, Ronin Zane, S11D, sailman, Samlara Vintner, SkyBlue Earthboy, Slanty, SteveLL resident, Takabou Destiny, Trapez Breen, VictorCR, Wolfhard Resident, Wrye Diabolito, Xi Larnia, xpaulx pain, yala74, Yuukie Onmura. ~~ WOOTS! ~~

2013 Hotlaps

All that hotlaps data goes into a public spreadsheet that contains multiple, linked pages that sort the results by race line and boat class, color-coded by skipper. Here’s an example, showing the submitted lap data for Plum Gut from January through September 16:

Sept 18 2013 Plum Gut Laps

click to enlarge

You can click the above image to get a larger view, but you can also just go to the live spreadsheet page any time to see the list of entered lap times.

2013 Handicaps

The pool of standardized lap data makes it possible to compare performance of different sailboats and calculate a “Handicap Factor” for each popular boat class.  Hotlaps 2013 uses the Melges-24 as it’s arbitrary reference standard. The M-24 is the Hotlaps index boat, and by definition it has a Handicap of 1.00. (You can see that shown in red in the first data row below).  All other boats have handicap values expressed relative to that standard.  

Here’s the current summary list of Handicaps for all the tested boats at each of the race courses:

summary HH

Each row in the above matrix represents a different boat class and the columns contain the handicap values for those boats for the six race lines.  Slower boats (i.e., those with longer lap times than M-24) have Handicap Factors that are less than 1.00,  and faster boats have handicap factors greater than 1.00. 

handicapsFor example, several sailors tested the Mesh Shop Laser One on each of the six Hotlaps courses. The average handicap values were 0.75, 0.73, 0.74, 0.62, 0.69, and 0.79. That’s a pretty tight clustering of results, considering the varied sailors involved and the differences of each course.

The average handicap for all courses was 0.72, suggesting that the Mesh Shop Laser One is 28% slower than  the Melges-24 on any typical racecourse (The M-24’s handicap= 1.00).

 The figure to the right shows a current list of handicaps for tested boats, averaged over all six lines. The slowest boats in the bunch include the Shelly, the Fizz,  and the Galiko NY32 (which has a Fizz engine). All these boats produced handicaps of 0.50-0.60, evidence they are roughly half as fast as the Melges-24.

Of course, a slow boat is not a bad thing; it just reflects the builder’s design and vision. Several other boats had handicaps as slow as the ones named above in the 0.50-0.60 range, including the Leetle Cat II, the Patchogue II, the RM Pilot, and the ACA Tiny.

Cruiser handicaps.

tri

powered by Rotaru

However, that’s the slow end of the spectum; most cruise boats are faster than that. The cruisers in SL tended to generate handicaps that range from 0.60- 0.90. That means they are 10-40% slower than the Melges-24, at least when sailed with a 15 knot wind. Nearly all Trudeau boats fit in this 0.60-0.90 “cruiser”-group. It’s a realistic speed-spot for them, since most Trudeaus are classic designs of earlier, multipurpose vessels; they are not hotrods.

Many other popular boats also fit in that Cruiser 0.60-0.90 speed-niche. For example, Craig Kbata’s Teleri 20 scores 0.70, Manul Rotaru‘s Beach Trimaran rates a 0.82, and Rene Marine‘s RM-12 comes in at 0.69. Quest Marine has two boats in this speed range as well; the 2M (0.74) and the Scow  (0.85).

bandit 50Analyse Dean’s recent Bandit 50 is one of the quickest of this whole cruising group. It scored a 0.89, placing it just 10% behind the Melges 24 racer. Kain Xenobuilder also has a new cruiser, the Cafe del Mar 75, that uses the same BWind 2.5 engine as the Bandit 50. You might think Cafe’s sailing performance would be similar to Bandit’s, but you’d be wrong. 🙂 CDM75The Hotlaps data shows that the Café 75 is a much faster boat, earning a handicap of 1.12; that beats Bandit 50 by over 20% !!

The Cafe Del Mar is designed to emulate a beamy mid-size cruising boat, but it sails more like an ocean racer. It’s even  12% faster than the lean-and-mean, carbon and glass Melges 24! Wowzers!

I’ll tell you much more about Bandit 50, Cafe 75, and the RM 12 in a separate post soon. 🙂

Racer Handicaps

The third large group of handicaps primarily includes the large, ocean race boats in SL. They all tended to score in the 0.90-1.20 range. 

Q M-24 launchSince Hotlaps 2013 uses the Melges 24 as it’s benchmark standard to set the other handicaps, it’s no surprise that boats that score around 1.00 are also racers. For example, Kanker Greenacre’s Tako 3.3 scored a handicap of 1.03 in this series, almost identical to the M-24. 🙂 

The Quest IACC scored a 0.94, a bit behind the ACA33 Racer with 1.03. The Mesh Shop’s two ocean racers are right in that mix as well; The OD65 ranked 1.10, and the VO70 earned a 1.03.OD-65

It’s interesting to comment that the Mesh Shop VO70 has a handicap that’s identical to  the old  Wildwind VO70 (1.03). That makes a lot of sense since both builders were modeling the same boat, but it’s great to see the consistency. 🙂

Speaking of Wildwind boats, the present lap results clearly show that WildWind is continuing its reputation for building the fastest ocean racers in SL sailing. The Wildcat-45 catamaran scored a 1.12, the WW Open-60 rated 1.07, and the (still beta) WW AC-72 came in with a rather incredible 1.54. If WildWind decides to release it, the AC-72 could be the fastest sailboat ever launched in Second Life. More important, it would be a truly remarkable emulation of this year’s RL Americas Cup racer. 🙂

ac72 crew

Handicaps for History

There are still many boats to test and extra data laps to run to get accurate numbers across the whole fleet. By December 2013, we should easily exceed 500 new database laps, and that data will be added to a pool of many thousand laps on numerous courses dating back a full seven years.

That’s prolly a good time to sit back with a stiff drink and try to make some conclusions about what Hotlaps can tell us about the diversity of boats we all share and sail in Second Life. 🙂

harpoon

Wildwind AC-72 beta Walks on Water

WW AC-72 beta one

Some raceboats are shaped sleek and sharp, so they cut their way through the water. Others rely on a flattened hull that lets them rise up and plane across the wavetops.

Well, as most readers know, this year’s Americas Cup boats take sailing to a new extreme. Using curved daggerboards and rudder wings for lift, these huge seven-ton AC-72 catamarans can fly above the water.

The boats top out over 40 knots, and they can do three times the real wind speed! (And none of this involves drugs!)

Well Woots! There’s a WildWinds version of the AC-72 in the works for SL, and it looks like a good model of the real Americas Cup racer!

Corry Kamachi is a true Diva of contemporary, high performance sail racing in Second Life, and over two years ago I posted a few pictures of her ideas for a future AC-72 build. Back then the boat had no engine and the hull and rig were without textures. Corry’s build was just “an idea.” 🙂

After many months and a huge effort, I’m happy to report that idea is now alive, and the beta is in active sea trials.

Size matters

As you can see above, the boat is proportionate to RL; that means it’s rather huge in comparison to WildWind’s two other recent boats, the Wildcat45 and the Open 60. For reference, I’ve also added a Mesh Shop Nacra 17 to the group. 🙂

It’s too early for me to tell you much about the WildWind AC72 build or it’s performance, but WOW! Even the first betas are incredibly fast, authentically built, and accurately scripted, and the textures are nicely detailed…
Wait!
Did I also mention… 
It Flies!
  🙂

The boat promises to be an accurate emulation of the real AC 34 Competition Boat. 🙂

I admit I have no idea when the WildWind AC72 will launch (if ever). That decision will be up to Corry and WildWind. The boat’s still in early beta now;  I think it looks GREAT. I’ll let you know the details as the boat nears the launch ramp.

But if anyone’s up for planning an AC regatta with these boats once they hit the water…
OMG, Count me in! 🙂

wildwind flies

harpoon

WildWind Launches Open 60

wildwind open 60 006

This week Corry Kamichi’s much-anticipated WildWind Open 60 hit the water. It’s available now through WildWind’s store on the dock at Far East Yacht Club in Borden sim. You can read all about the Open 60 here, but you’ll probably have more fun if you go to Borden and take a test drive!

racers

 

WildWind Open 60 Nears Launch

Wildwind Open 60

Corry Kamachi will soon launch her WildWind Open 60. The new boat is mesh construction and a total re-design of her 2009 JMO-60 ocean racer. Personally, I think the new Open 60 is rather awesome. 🙂

Although the boat is still technically in beta, many sailors already have ‘final beta‘ copies, and there’s a lot of buzz among racers about this latest Wildwind, so I thought I’d give you a few details about what you can expect. I know I’m “jumping the gun” here by talking about a boat that doesn’t yet exist, but please chalk that up to my youthful exuberance and enthusiasm about the boat. 🙂

When the Wildwind Open 60 finally launches, I’ll be truly delighted to write another post to emphasize the final changes in this already great sailboat.

So having said all that, here goes…

What’s an “Open 60?”

The International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA sets the box rule that defines the Open 60 Class  (LWL 60 ft or 18.3 meters) and manages the  Open 60 race fleet. IMOCA takes that job seriously, describing the Open 60 as “The most successful ocean racing class” in modern sailing.

Actually, they’re right, and the Open 60’s are designed to withstand the most grueling and audacious yacht races ever held. The Vendee Globe is probably the best known of these events; its a nonstop, 24,000 mile, around-the-world, pull-out-all-the-stops race, and each boat has just a solo sailor at the helm. This is the stuff superheroes are made of. 🙂

The boats are built for speed, but ocean racing demands they also emphasize endurance and safety. The real-life Open 60 raceboats are rather incredible examples of cutting-edge, high-tech engineering.

It’s no easy task to re-create the presence, performance, and penache of such a boat for the virtual sailing community, and Corry Kamachi is one of a very few builders in SL who have both the chops and sheer street cred to bring a credible Open 60 emulation to the SL raceline.

In that context, let me remind readers that I’ve also  recently reviewed two boats by Kain Xenobuilder that fit in the same ocean racing class: the Mesh Shop  Volvo Open 70 and One Design 65. If you’re in the market for an ocean race boat please keep reading below, but be sure to read about the other two boats as well. I like both the Mesh Shop and the WildWind versions; however they are quite different, and it’s up to individual sailors to determine which boat will suit their needs. 

With that caveat, let me introduce the Wildwind Open 60. Better grab your seat though; this could be a fast ride! 🙂

Open 60: Built by Wildwind

open 60 measurementThe Wildwind Open 60 is a carefully crafted mesh build that faithfully adheres to the RL IMOCA Open 60 specs.

The boat’s water-line length is roughly 18m, and the bowsprit extends that to nearly 20m at deck level. The beam is roughly six meters and the bulb keel is six meters as well.

The mast towers 25m above deck level and it supports both a mainsail and the skipper’s choice of a standard jib or gennaker. The sails are deployed and trimmed together by chat commands or through the HUD.

rig details

Before we talk about sail control however, let me mention a few more authentic details you’ll find on the WildWind Open 60 build.

The boat has paired rudders, daggerboards, and deck spreaders that are all automatically deployed while the boat is underway. (Note: Deck spreaders are poles that look like outriggers. They provide increased stability for the mast.)

dual rudders

The figure inserted to the right shows the nice level of accuracy and detail for the dual retractable rudders.

The upper image is the WildWind boat in the moored position, with both rudders up. The lower image is a similar view of the Safran RL Open 60 racer. 🙂 It’s a pretty close match;  the Wildwind‘s degree of detail for the rudder linkage, housing and struts is impressive.

Speaking of the those rudders,

in SL when the Open 60 heels, the leeward rudder will deploy and the windward rudder flips up. When the boat is flat in the water, both rudders automatically go down.

basketOK, let me throw in just one more example to shows the care that went into even the minor features in this boat.

The picture to the right shows a ‘mesh bag’ tagged to the cockpit bulkhead beneath the port winch. It’s a humorous – but authentic – detail. The bag’s there to keep the line stowed and untangled. It prevents a sailor from accidentally stepping on the line while releasing the sail sheet. (That mistake can have rather disastrous consequences if you’re a solo skipper sailing the Roaring 40’s.) 🙂

No one would fault Corry for leaving the bag out… but there it is. 🙂 It’s a nice detail.

Cockpit

Inside the cockpit the boat has two helm stations, and the skipper automatically flips to the windward station while under sail. (The crew flip as well!)

op60 deck spreader

Since real life Open 60‘s are usually raced single-handed, all the sailing functions on a Wildwind Open 60 are controlled by the solo skipper. Despite that, the cockpit has room for one crew member, and two more can fit in the cabin. The boat comes with a crew HUD so your passengers can see what’s happening as you sail.

Crew Quarters

OP60cabin

Races like the Vendee Globe can last for three months under very harsh conditions, so a cabin is pretty essential.

Corry’s 2009  JMO-60 acknowledged that need; it had a little cubby forward of the cockpit where a solo sailor could squeeze if they held their breath. 🙂

By contrast, as shown in the pics to the right, the Open 60 cabin is positively luxurious! 🙂 It accommodates a pair of sailors with ease, and still has lots of space left over! RL sailors never get such good treatment… 🙂

Phantom Keel Cant

A hydraulically-tilted bulb keel is an impressive, high-tech feature of the IMOCA Open 60 design.

keel cantThe Wildwind Open 60 boat also has a canting keel that helps it stay balanced and prevents excess heel.

A skipper has the option to set it by hand or let the boat make the adjustments automatically.

Although the bulb keel is quite long, don’t worry about running aground in this boat. The keel, dagger board and rudder are all phantom while sailing; the boat draws less than 1.0 m.

In fact, only the hull and bowsprit are physical. The mast, boom, deck spreader, rigging and sails are all phantom, allowing the boat to sail under very low obstructions. So if you plan to race this boat, be sure to keep your eye on the bowsprit. That frontal protuberance is the one thing that could get you into trouble, either by a collision or by triggering the race line early.

Texturizing

Corry’s come up with a new system to change all the textures in this boat. The owner just preloads a script template with the uuid’s of a new texture design, and drops that on the boat.

saveol RL and SL

Bingo! One click later all the textures change to harmoniously match your request. Corry has a number of wonderful, preloaded texture packages, but the system is wide open and you can easily make your own designs.

In fact, a sailor could easily collect a whole library of templates with various texture settings. It would then take just a few seconds to load a new script and change the boat’s appearance to fit your whim.

The figure to the right shows my current favorite texture set (at least it’s my favorite this week 🙂 ).

The top image is Samantha Davies aboard her Saveol Open 60 before it dismasted, causing Sam to crash out of the Vendee Globe. The second image shows her textures applied to the Wildwind build, courtesy of Corry. Not a bad match! Here’s a short vid of Sam Davie’s pimped-out Saveol:

[Please also note: If you break your Wildwind boat, I’m pretty sure the repair will be a lot cheaper than a new mast was for Sam’s Saveol after the Vendee Globe!]

Build Bottom Line

The WildWind Open 60 build closely follows the RL Open 60 Rule. On close inspection, the boat shows a masterful balance of features. There are many realistic (and unexpected) touches, including deck spreaders and a surprisingly spacious cabin. All the components work together in a consistent, artistic harmony.

If you’re hard-nosed racer, perhaps the textures and winch details aren’t so important. In that case, let me give you the numerical bottom line: all that gorgeous, accurate mesh build I just mentioned weighs in at a miraculously small 26 prim with an LOD=28.

Enough said.

WW OP60

Sailing Performance

The Open 60 uses a variation of the new Wildwind sail engine that was first introduced with the Wildcat45 AC catamaran.

OP60 hudsA skipper can control the boat through chat commands or with any combination of three HUDs (shown on the right).

There is a two column button HUD that fits along the left side of your viewing screen; it includes the major control functions laid out in a logical pattern for easy access.

The buttons make it very simple to switch between boat wind and race wind, to adjust the sails, and to change the keel cant. I particularly like the “view” button that lets you step through four different camera locations behind and above the boat. I also really like the small display screen on the button HUD that constantly announces the channel you’re using, your race ID number, your wind source, and the size of your sheet adjustment steps. Some of us need that kind of reassurance while sailing!

Speaking of sailing data, the boat comes with a separate Info-HUD that graphically displays just about anything you’d ever like to know to race this boat at top speed. It’s all very nicely laid out, and any SL sailor will learn all its features in less than a minute or two.

The third HUD is a full-featured head’s up numerical display that contains a compact list of the boat’s performance numbers.

Skippers have the choice to use all the HUDs, some combination, or to just go commando (no HUDs at  all 🙂 ). You’ll probably want a HUD however, because the boat doesn’t give any auditory or visual feedback when the sails go out of tune. You won’t really miss the luffing noises, since so much information is readily available on the HUD display.

Multi-Wind

Like most boats, the Open 60 defaults to SL wind. To pick your own wind, all you have to do is press the “wind lock” button. That opens a menu box that allows you to set the exact wind speed and direction. Once you’ve done it correctly, the button HUD mini-display tells you that you’re locked, and the info HUD shows the settings.

If you want to race, click the ‘Racing‘ button instead. The boat will then lock the WWC cruise wind broadcast from a raceline. The boat even has an option to use the old SLSF wind format, if that suits your needs.

At least once you’ll need to tell the boat your race ID, so the line can recognize your boat. After that the boat will remember, and your ID will display directly on the hull whenever you’re racing.

race number

Polars

The Open 60 is a speedy boat with a Hotlaps Handicap factor of 1.07, which makes it 7% faster than the Melges-24 (the Handicap Index boat).

WildWind Open 60 polar

Click on the figure to the right to see a polar plot of the Wildwind Open 60’s boat speed at different wind angles. The red line shows the numbers for Real Wind Angles (RWA) using the Main+Jib, and the blue dashed line shows similar data for Apparent Wind Angles (AWA). The curves show that the boat suddenly springs to life with a heading just over AWA 30. It hits a max boat speed that’s roughly 13% faster than Real Wind Speed, and the response curve is fairly flat from AWA 30-60 (RWA 70-120). Over RWA 120, the jib becomes much less efficient and performance quickly deteriorates.

The green line above shows boat speed for RWA using the Gennaker instead of the Jib. The Gennaker kicks in around RWA 90, and it’s clearly superior to the Jib by RWA 110. However performance again drops off with downwind angles over RWA 150.

Open 60 and OD 65 polar

Now take a look at the figure to the right. The red curve shows boat speed vs RWA for the Wildwind Open 60 using optimal sails.

On the graph in dark green I’ve also plotted results for the Mesh Shop One Design 65; it’s a very close match. These boats should be compatible with each other in mixed fleet, “big boat” races in SL.

The black dotted line on the chart shows the same numbers for the RL Open 60 Neutrogena. The SL boats are both a bit faster, but overall it’s a remarkably nice fit.

Keel Cant

The Wildwind Open 60 performs optimally when sailing with a heel angle of 30°. Adjusting the keel cant to hit that angle can give a sailor a performance edge.
heel angle v keel

The chart to the right plots the heel angle for a boat with an RWA 90° heading at six different wind speeds. The x-axis shows the effect of changing the keel cant from “-3” (leeward cant) to “+3” (windward cant).

The data shows that keel position can have a big impact on boat heel.

boat speed v keel cantThe next chart shows what this means for boat speed.

With faster wind speeds, canting the keel to the windward side can speed up the boat by keeping it in the 30° heel sweet-spot.

At much lower wind speeds you can get a modest boost by canting the keel leeward to increase heel to 30°.

Turn Radius

A week ago I wrote about the importance of turn radius to a sailboat’s performance. That’s particularly true for a high-speed racer like the Wildwind Open 60.

turn plots of OP60-OD65-VO70

The graphic to the right shows a plot of the X, Y position of an Open 60 as it goes through a standard turn. For comparison, I’ve included similar results for the Mesh Shop VO 70 and OD 65.

The three boats end up with very similar turning properties; the Open 60 has a turning curve that nearly exactly overlaps the VO-70. As I commented earlier, although these boats are extremely different from each other I think the performance similarities indicates the builders were each trying to model the real life performance of an ocean racer, and it looks like they both hit the mark. :-)

Summary: The Wildwind Open 60

In my opinion, Wildwind’s done it again. Following up on her fantastic Wildcat45 emulation of the AC45 Catamaran, Corry Kamachi‘s now releasing her Wildwind version of the Open 60 ocean racer.

Corry is one of the most popular and proficient master builders of contemporary, high-performance virtual racing yachts in Second Life, and the new Wildwind Open 60 demonstrates her consumate skill. The boat build is accurate in detail and dimensions, and it showcases many hallmark features of this ocean racing class, including dual dagger boards, deck spreaders, rudders, a surprisingly sumptuous cabin, and a skipper-controlled canting keel. All of this is amazing in a boat that weighs a mere 26 prim with LOD=28.

The boat is powered by the recently-upgraded WildWind sail engine. That means it’s compatible with several other recent boat designs that use real world apparent wind calculations and that report headings using a geographic map compass. It’s also compatible with Hay Ah’s SL raceline system and with WWC cruise wind settings.

A single skipper controls all the sailing functions with help from three different HUDs, but there’s also room for three passengers. The boat controls are low-lag and have many adjustable features.

Under sail the boat performs like a true champ. 🙂 It is quite fast, with a wind polar curve that’s a close match for the RL Open 60. In SL, the boat’s numbers are also comparable to the Mesh Shop One Design 65.

The WildWild Open 60 has a few downsides that are part of the design. These are not real problems, but are worth mentioning:

  1. The Wildwind Open 60 does not have visible or audible sail-luffing effects;
  2. Under sail, the WildWind Open 60 is nearly all phantom except for it’s hull and bowsprit.
  3. The boat does not presently have windshadow.
  4. The boat can only be operated by the owner; there is no system to let crew take over the helm during a long sail or a multi-heat race.

The above points are common issues for many other vessels in SLSailing. In the case of Open 60, most of the points reflect the builder’s effort to optimize performance while reducing lag. It’s hard to fault that explanation, given all else the boat contains. 🙂

Bottom line, if you like contemporary ocean race boats in SL, I’m certain you’re going to love the WildWind Open 60.

Go try a demo; you’ll see. 🙂

WW Open 60

Sexy Sixty

Wildwind Open60 beta - Sea of Fables

Open 60 beta

In the summer of 2009 Corry Kamichi launched her  JMO-60;  it quickly became my all-time favorite Wildwind monohull. The  JMO-60 was beautiful, blazingly fast, and chock-full of nice details and racing options.

wildwind JMO in 2009

JMO-60 sailing past the WildWind Fleet in 2009

Nonetheless, four years have gone by, and that’s a long time in SLSailing. This ocean racer was clearly due for a refit. 

Corry Kamichi knew this too. As soon as she finished her Wildcat45  catamaran, Corry started a total rebuild of her old global JMO racer.

The pieces are now falling together, and the name of her new boat is the Wildwind Open 60. It’s in beta sea-trials now, and I don’t know when it will launch or the full package of features the boat will ultimately contain.

Jane in OP60 beta waits for Fearless in OD65

That’s Fearless Freenote in the distance coming in Second Place 🙂

What I do know is the boat is fast, fun, and stable, and it’s dressed-out with every bell and whistle any die-hard, hi-tech sail-racer could want. 🙂

WW OP 60 beta

I’ll give you the full scoop when the boat’s officially released, but I just couldn’t resist posting a few pictures now, to show off what’s new from Wildwind!

WW OP 60 beta 4

Wondrous Wildwind Wildcat

Corry Kamachi and Wildwind Boats are back on the water big-time with a new, rather fantastic catamaran: the Wildcat45. The boat’s inspired by that ultimate in speed sailing, the America’s Cup 45.

America’s Cup Roots.

As most sailors know, the 34th America’s Cup is on track to take off next year in San Francisco, where race teams will compete  aboard huge, high-tech AC-72  catamarans.

Before that final shootout  takes place however, a two-year regatta series is underway using reduced-size AC-45 boats.

OK, I use the term “boat” here somewhat advisedly; I’m not talking about the dinghy your mom sails to church on Sunday. The AC-45 is different; it’s a super-speed-extreme, water-based, wind-powered platform. It’s more like something CERN would sail to near lightspeed in the Large Hadron Collider, and then smash to study the quarks emitted.

Take a look:

Ok, I admit that video uses edited clips to make a point. I also  agree there is  huge excitement, history, and spectacle associated with the Americas Cup series. This is the absolute ultimate contest of no-holds-barred sail power.

Here’s a full clip from San Francisco’s recent AC45 World Series; it’s a bit more nuanced, but just as much fun:

The global significance of the AC regatta and the mythic stature of the AC yacht designs raise a high challenge to virtual boat builders. Not many have the skill, street-cred, and frank audacity to bring this kind of boat to Second Life. Luckily, Corry Kamachi and Wildwind are at the top of the list that do!

 Wildwind wonder

Corry’s built boats in SL for several years under the Wildwind label. She’s primarily focused on contemporary, hi-tech race boats and she’s had her eye on the AC 45 for a long time.

In February 2011 Corry released an early prototype, called the ACJ-35 Wildcat. The boat was fun to sail and a good club racer, but it handled more like a Wildwind monohull and lacked the pizzazz a sailor would want from a Cup contender. Corry was aware of this, and described the ACJ-35 as a “simple, small” boat that was “race convenient.” Meanwhile, she worked on the more ambitious “45.

Well sportsfans, that new Wildcat45 just hit the water, and its pretty fantastic.  It’s the big catamaran many SL racers were wishing for this past year, and frankly it’s a good deal more. Let me fill you in on just a few of the details.

Mixed Breeding

The physical design and dimensions of the Wildcat45 very closely match the real-life AC 45 Rule. Go look at the America’s Cup blueprints, then grab a tape measure and walk around the Wildcat45 in Second Life; it’s impressive. The craft work and care that went into this realistic build is evident, from the towering sail rig down to the tiny details.

What you get

When you open the Wildcat 45 v1.0 box, you’ll actually find two versions of the boat included. They superficially look the same, but one is mesh and the other is sculpted. Although there are major advantages to mesh construction in SL, most sailors know that Second Life is having difficulty updating the grid servers to support mesh vehicles. Wildcat45 acknowledges this problem, and gives you the best of both worlds.

The box also includes detailed notecards about the boat’s operation as well as instructions about adjusting settings and textures to fit a sailor’s personal preferences. The options are full-featured; you can set the com channel, the operation mode, the sheet-step size, and adjust the sit and cam positions.

If you want to change the boat’s textures, there are several subfolders that include templates for the hull, sails, and rigging. There are also specific UV maps and sculpti textures that should give experienced sailors everything they need to pimp their ride.

Physical and Phantom

Most of my comments apply to the mesh construction version; I’m guessing in a month or so that will be the version sailors prefer. A few days ago I commented about a new realism that’s emerging in SL sailcraft, partly due to mesh construction. SL vessels are evolving an ever-closer match to their real-life counterparts, and the Wildcat45 is a great example of this trend, in both appearance and performance.

The boat has two symmetrical hulls , with all the hardware and rigging you would expect from the real boat. Collision tests with Wildwind45 show that “the boat you see is the boat that bangs into things” (that’s good). However, the mast and sails are phantom while underway, as are both rudders.

This is a catamaran, so there’s no keel, but the boat has daggerboards in each hull that automatically deploy to offset heel effects. The boards are not phantom and will stop the boat if they hit something. However, since the board only deploys on an actively moving boat, when the underwater section of a daggerboard hits an object it will automatically raise. That feature lets a skipper make a quick recovery. 🙂

Sails

Wildcat45 does not have a mainsail; it has a hard wing instead that functions like an airplane wing. On the leach end of the wing (the trailing edge) there’s also a large adjustable panel that works to adjust lift (more on that below).

In addition, the boat comes with two headsails: a normal, working jib and a much larger gennaker that provides an extra boost sailing downwind.

HUDs

Wildcat45 also comes with a redesigned Wildwind Control HUD with a dual column of buttons that control many standard sailing functions. However, a skipper can optionally do away with the HUD and sail the boat just with chat commands.

The boat comes with two additional “Info HUDs” that provide very detailed feedback about boat speed, sail status, and wind parameters. One of the Info HUDs is for a crew member, since the Wildcat45 crew can actively switch sides on this boat to adjust heel angle and maximize speed.

The boat also has a detailed numerical HUD readout typical of earlier Wildwind boats, so in high lag situations the sailing team can actually do without any of the new HUDs I just mentioned. As I said earlier, this boat has lots of options. 🙂

Performance

If you’re familiar with sailing Wildwind boats, and particularly if you know the ACJ-35 or ACJ-90, you’re in for a big surprise. A lot has changed in the Wildwind design to make the engine and features of the boat more realistic and sheer fun to sail.

Wild Wind

First of all, Wildwind has switched to use map compass headings instead of the old draftboard compass system that was a Tako legacy. That makes life a lot more convenient!

Wildcat45 has built-in boat wind, and a skipper can set the numerical wind direction and speed using chat commands. The boat has a separate racing mode that picks up cruise wind settings from a race line WWC. You can easily tell which boats are sailing in race mode since they automatically display the user-set race numbers at the top of the wing.

The biggest and best change in the Wildwind engine is the use of full-strength apparent wind effects! Nearly all earlier Wildwind boats used a ‘weighted’ headwind adjustment that was about one-third the real life Apparent Wind correction. Although there were good arguments in favor of this adjustment, the use of a proprietary wind algorithm made it difficult to race the boats in a mixed fleet, and it made the boats less realistic.

Well sports fans, that’s all history. 🙂 The Wildwind engine now uses the standard real-life calculations to turn real wind parameters into the apparent wind forces that drive the boat. That’s a very nice thing!

Sailing the Wildwind45

Let’s talk sailing! When a skipper raises sail on a catamaran, one of the first and most important goals is to get the windward hull out of the water. Riding on one hull cuts the drag effects in half, and the boat starts to fly.

Both the Info HUD and the simple numerical HUD report heel angle, and Wildwind45 is designed to generate a maximum boat speed with a heel angle of 35°. Be careful, though; if you’re caught by a gust, the boat capsizes at 45°, and you’ll be left hanging on for dear life (see below). 🙂 

You might think this is only a problem sailing upwind or on a reach, when heel effects are maximum. Well, you’d be wrong. 🙂 Ask Russell Coutts!

Wildcat45 has the same propensity to pitchpole as the AC-45. If you’re flying  with the wind behind you and the Genn up, the pitch effects increase. If your nose catches a wave and you suddenly pitch forward over 15°, there’s no looking back. You’ll go flying over the handlebars! 🙂

Flapping

Since heel is so important to boat speed, the Wildcat45 has a few ways for a sail team to adjust the angle. Both the skipper and crew can hike to either windward or lee positions to get the boat flying at optimal heel, and under high wind conditions it may be necessary to spill wind to keep from flipping over.

Wildcat45 has another tool, however; it’s a wing extension that’s adjustable and acts just like the flap on an airplane wing. Take a look at the images below, and you’ll see what I mean. The picture on the left shows the boat sailing with heel= 29° using a minimal flap effect  (Flap 1 setting). On the right, you can see that the flap has now visibly turned up (Flap 3 setting). That change increases the aerodynamic lift, and the heel angle goes to an optimal 35°, with a corresponding 10% speed boost. 🙂

I’d suggest getting some practice with those flaps before hitting the racecourse, though; they can be pretty treacherous. (Ask Coutts about it. 🙂 )

click to enlarge

The Numbers

The chart to the right should give you a rough idea of what to expect sailing this boat. It shows boat speed plotted against real wind angle with a constant breeze of 9.7 kn. Sailing with the jib at an upwind heading of RWA 50, the boat already exceeds real wind speed. As the boat falls away from the wind, it quickly maxes out at roughly 120-125% RWS, until the boat falls gets to a heading of RWA 110.

 Beyond that point the jib becomes progressively less efficient, so it’s a good time to raise the gennaker. From RWA 120°-140° the gennaker will give an extra speed boost to a maximum of 125-130% RWS. By RWA 150°, the sails are no longer providing significant lift and the boat is primarily driven by drag effects.

This boat wants to fly, not be pushed, so drag effects are pretty inefficient. There is a realistic, rapid decline in performance over RWA 150° to a boat speed that’s roughly 60% RWS.

The second chart above shows the same data, with a new curve added in green to show the boat’s performance with twice the wind strength (RWS 19.4 kn). At these wind intensities, the boat speed seems directly related to RWS; if you double the wind speed, the boat goes twice as fast. 🙂

Woots Wildwind

The combination of beautiful design, accuracy of detail, and blistering speed are all trademarks of Wildwind boats. It’s frankly a thrill to sail a new one again. I can say that with even more excitement, given the wealth of features offered by Wildcat45 and the dedication it took to bring this version of the AC-45 into Second Life. I think this is easily the best sailing vessel ever released by Wildwind, and given the large number of very popular boats skillfully crafted by Corry over the years, that’s saying a lot. 🙂

If you want to check the boat out and pick one up for yourself, stop by Wildwind over in Borden, or get one at Tradewinds in Dex!

“Lee Helm” follow-up

I wanted to post a brief update on the Lee Helm issue in SL boats;  I wrote about it last year, but Orca Flotta’s recently posted about it, and one of the boats I first discussed just got a major upgrade (the Nemo II).

This seems a good time to chime-in once more on the issue.

Deviant Helms

Many sailboats in Real Life have unbalanced rigs that make it difficult to sail on a fixed, upwind heading. Some boats will pull into the wind (called a weather helm), and others are rigged to fall away (called a lee helm). These effects are common and not necessarily bad; often a weather helm can be an advantage.

Anyway, eighteen months ago I wrote a short note about this, arguing that certain SL boats behaved as though they had a ‘lee helm’ bias. Go read that post to get the details. 🙂

Mothgirl Dibou kindly commented on the issue. She suggested the SL lee helm effect was a function of the sailing engine’s heel algorithm. As the boat tilted, the bow swung away downwind. I may not have explained that correctly, so go read her comment yourself! 🙂

I’m bringing the issue up here because I initially only found a lee helm in two boats, the TAKO and NEMO. Since then I looked at many more scenarios and it turns out a large percentage of popular SL boats have a lee helm, including Fizz-engine boats, Tako clones, and several Trudeau releases.

Here’s an example sailing Trudeau Twelve. If you set a fixed, upwind course and let go of the helm, over a couple minutes the boat gradually swings leeward. The graphic below shows apparent wind angles, but the real wind angle changes are even greater; the boat physically rotates leeward by several degrees each minute.

This is a small issue, since few skippers will walk away from the helm for several minutes, hoping the boat will sail itself. 🙂

Having said that, let me also comment that several boats in SL don’t show a helm bias. Those “helm neutral” boats include the Wildwind fleet, the boats based on the BBK engine, the Quest fleet line-up, and the recent Trudeau HepCat catamaran.

Although Nemo I had a strong lee helm, the new Nemo II is now on the hem-neutral short-list. 🙂 In my hands, Nemo II sails pretty straight against the wind, and the graphic below makes that point.

If you sail Nemo II close hauled starting from the Hepurn raceline and aim at the NE corner of Mare Sailing Center, you can let go of the tiller. 🙂 The boat will hold a straight line course the whole way. (Note that the boat speed and wind angle are unchanged in the two views below, even though the boat sailed two minutes uncontrolled, and passed over a sim border en route.)

Click (or double click) to enlarge

Anyway, I’ve probably said enough about Lee Helm. It’s a small point for most SL sailors, and I’m pretty sure there is no good-bad to this issue. It’s just a feature of boat design, and as I said earlier, many RL boats also have a helm bias.

There are now many yacht yards and boat builders in SL, and each new vessel that comes down the launch ramp has its own style, character, and ‘goal.’ It’s great that sailors now have so many options to choose from. In that context, lee helm is just a trait that’s built into many boats, and I think it’s far from the most important challenge sailors face on SL’s high seas. 🙂