Category Archives: Leetle Cat

BBK 137 and Nemo: Two Free Tako Trainers

BBK Keelboat and Nemo Nantucket: Two Free Tako Trainers

If you are new to Second Life sailing, the initial learning curve before you feel comfortable skippering a sailboat can prove a bit tough and sometimes frustrating.

Well, two new, free boats were released in the past few weeks, both based on the original Tako engine designed by Kanker Greenacre; suddenly there are more options for old and new sailors alike! Let me tell you about Nemo and the BBK Keelboat!


I guess I first need to talk about the Tako. It was the original Second Life sailboat designed byKanker Greenacre, and it sparked a virtual explosion of sailing over the past four years. Even though Kanker Greenacre left SL at the end of 2007, his landmark creation remains incredibly popular, and remains the starting point for many new sailors. You can still buy a Tako 3.3 in Grey for $250L, and although there’s no product support and it hasn’t been upgraded in a very long time, it still lives up to its logo; Tako is “The Essence of Sailing.”

It has a single mainsail plus a separately sheeted spinnaker that can add a powerful boost on downwind points of sail. The Tako uses a simple ‘Real Wind’ algorithm with wind shadowing to power the boat rather than a more realistic Apparent Wind engine, and it can use both racewind and boatwind.

The boat’s appearance is also fully modifiable, and templates are available for the sails.


The Nemo is a brand-new 6 meter keel boat that’s patterned after the popular Laser and earlier Flying Fifteen in Real Life. The SL  one design-creation is a collaboration between Nomad Zamani and Glida Pilote from USS’ Nantucket Yacht Club, and it’s based on Kanker’s original scripts. The boat comes in two flavors; the basic Nemo Nantucket is the one I’m going to talk about today; it’s free and intended to serve as an introductory trainer, to get more new sailors quickly on the water having fun. Once an innocent new person is hooked, they can buy an upgrade for $250L and get a Nemo-R that uses race wind and has modifiable textures.

The free Nemo has a very pretty hull design and simple rig, and the textures loudly advertise “Nantucket Yacht Club.” (Hey, it’s free, so no problem with that!) The boat’s features are intentionally kept simple. Similar to the original Tako, it uses “Real Wind” instead of “Apparent;” but unlike the Tako (or the real-life Laser 2), the Nemo has no centerboard or spinnaker to fuss with. Windshadow has also been stripped out of Nemo, I assume in the interests of simplicity and lag reduction.

The free version of this boat uses fixed wind, set to what was blowing  in Blake Sea-Atlantic when Nemo originally launched; it does not have a ‘race wind option’ unless you upgrade. I tested the boat in Bingo Straight, Big Fish, Zindra, and around Danshire’s waters, and I admit I sorely missed an option to change the wind  to suit the multiple different locations. If you are a new sailor, don’t hassle with that; I’d suggest just trying Nemo out where it was built, at NYC.

The Nemo philosophy of simplification  is also evident in the boat control interface.  Pretty much any sailor with a pulse knows that Kanker’s Tako 3.3 has  multiple control options, including both an “Info- HUD” and a control ‘Button-HUD.”  However, the Tako can also be fully controlled with chat gestures. That lets many experienced sailors use just a spare, free ‘Info-HUD‘ To provide essential data while sailing .

Nemo-N attempts to avoid that kind of’ complex, numbers-oriented sailing interface so a skipper can focus on sailing. There are no ‘chat commands,’ and Nemo’s info display is graphically clean, and bare-bones (see below). The boat has a single, simple prim-based info display that shows numerical boat speed, with analog  indicators of wind angle and sheet setting, but there are no numbers. (If you want to complain about that, just talk to a RL Laser sailor. They’ll tell you God doesn’t deliver the wind with three-point precision, either.. 🙂 )

Speaking of the wind,   I’ve already mentioned this boat uses ‘fixed, real wind.” The free version does not have a race wind option, and the boat is permanently set to 15 knots. You will need to buy an upgrade to use race wind.  Maybe that’s a blessing.

A Nemo skipper uses a Spartan set of simple keyboard commands to raise sail, steer, and adjust sheeting. On any particular heading, a click of an ‘UP/DOWN’ arrow causes a ten degree adjustment in sail angle, and “PAGEUP/DOWN” fine-tunes that in one degree steps.

Since the boat intentionally lacks numerical info feedback, I apologize I can’t give you terribly accurate “numbers” for Nemo’s performance. However,  using the default settings on a fixed Close Reach, I get a 10% reduction in reported boatspeed when I am ‘one big click’ out of tune in either direction.

Having said that, I did spend time measuring the angles on ‘screen-grabs’ of the circular graphical display and factoring in the actual compass headings. Since Nemo uses Real Wind, this actually wasn’t too hard. I counted it off on my fingers, and never once had to take my shoes off. The chart to the left shows the Nemo Nantucket boatspeed plotted as a function of real wind angle, using the default 15 knot windspeed.  The chart has a nice curve to it that peaks at a beam reach, with a maximum boatspeed that’s a bit over half True Wind.

If you look at polar plots for similar RL boats, this isn’t far off;
Nemo? Nicely done!

BBK Keel boat

Maybe a week before Nemo officially launched, another Tako-based boat hit the water. This one was Becca Moulliez‘s new BBK Keelboat (the BBK- 137), and it takes a rather different approach to upgrading the Tako. Becky’s intention was to upgrade and revise the open-source Tako scripts to minimize lag, resolve bugs, and endow the boat with a simple, clean interface that might be accessible to sailors at any skill level. She came up with the BWind engine and decided to release it free and full perm as part of a remarkable ‘Starter Boatbuilding Kit.

Click to enlarge

That kit is actually contained inside The BBK- 137 itself. If you look in the “Contents” of the boat you’ll find a detailed, step-by-step  discussion of how to modify the boat, or build your own variation. It’s pretty impressive. I’ve included snapshots here of the “Danshire Yacht Club” hull textures that were whipped-up by Blackbird Latte. A few minutes after rezzing a BBK 137, I’m pretty sure you’ll be on your way to  personalizing your own version.

Unlike the original Tako, the BBK- 137 is powered by a full dose version of Apparent Wind, and so the real-life calculations for headings at different wind velocities and boats speeds all apply. Although this version of the boat kit does not include race wind (that’ll be an option in the near future), the BBK 137 has  easy, on-the-fly adjustments for both boat wind direction and speed using simple chat commands.

If you want that wind information, you can get it easily along with a lot more boat performance data: The BBK- 137 offers two versions of a centrally-located, numerical display hud.

Don’t worry, however, if you’re just cruising for fun,  you won’t need to keep squinting at the display to command the boat since the HUD colors change to alert the skipper and crew whenever sheet settings fall out of tune. The boat sails quite nicely if you just follow the colors.

Since the boat uses simple, intuitive chat commands and has a full numerical display readout, it’s very easy to collect “polar” performance data on the BBK- 137. The graph below shows boatspeed plotted as a function of both real wind angle (RWA) and apparent wind angle (AWA).



The BBK-137 shows a very steep rise in performance over 30°.  At 40° RWA the boat makes approximately 60% maximum velocity, and it peaks at 60° RWA ( 36°- 38° AWA). It then shows an essentially flat, maximum response to correct sheet settings all the way out to a broad reach of approximately 140° RWA. At that point, performance decays appropriately as the boat moves toward a dead run.

If you are looking for a more curvaceous and less boxy response than this, no problem! Please remember this is a “demo boat” for the boat-building kit; it’s just waiting for your personal, creative tinkering! So go for it!


The final figure below shows a simple chart that lists the different features of the Nemo and the BBK 137. For simple comparison, I’ve added the Shelly, Tako 3.3, and the Leetle Cat as well. The Nemo and BBK Tako-based trainers share many similar features, and both are designed for ease of use and decreased lag. They differ in several major details, however, including their wind engine, hud, and overall modifiability.

The Nemo is intended as a club-specific free trainer, and should prove very attractive to a new skipper in SL. The basic boat intentionally has few options or distractions and its simple design will get many sailors going on the water in SL with minimal hassle, at least at NYC. The Nemo upgrade turns the boat into a competition version of the same basic little Nemo keelboat, but adds modifiable textures and race wind capability. The rest of the settings remain locked, ensuring this boat will stay ‘one-design’ for each competitor that ventures to race it. If you race One Design, that’s a key feature.


In contrast, the BBK- 137 Keelboat began with a different philosophy. It was focused on cruising, and minimizing user troubles. It continues true to that path, as demonstrated by its very friendly, open-source approach. However, the boat sticks to its own very high standards of function and usability. BBK-137 upgraded to “apparent wind,” correcting a serious flaw in Tako that Kanker Greenacre didn’t have the time to address before he left. Despite that major change, Becca without apology decided not provide race wind or wind shadow options to her boat… YET.
Go back and read her comments. They are humorous, but also show a remarkable understanding, commitment, and dedication. She’s on a mission, and knows where she is going.
Watch this boat and engine very closely…
I sail the Star Bay Oceanis 160 with Becca’s BWIND engine every day, and wow… I still don’t know how her engine makes that boat fly.
Bottom Line Time.
OK, which boat should you buy?
🙂 Sorry, that’s a trick question! They are both free, but I think the answer is clear:
Get both the Nemo and BBK- 137, then thank the builders please, and sail them ’till you wear out your CPU.
Oh, don’t forget to grab a free Shelly, and if you haven’t taken Isis’s free lessons or nailed your own free set of her extensive fantastic slide series on the LCat, grab those too.
It’s up to you which boat in Second Life meets your needs.
Oh? You’re a new sailor and think you want to pay for a boat?
Grin; relax; You will.
The more any new sailor learns, the more they value the skill and effort that go in to all the boats in Second Life…
and the more they appreciate each and every new vessel that launches from an SL boatyard.
So go ahead, get amazed with the two boats above…
Very soon you’ll be clamoring for more.

Big Wins for Kei, Toraba, and Miwha in Leetle Cup

Breaking news:

In a great display of sailing finesse, Kei Cioc grabbed the start in today’s 2009 Leetle Cup Regatta and never looked back,  taking first place with a blistering 00:49:36, nearly two minutes ahead of runner-up Toraba Magic. Miwha Masala was right there on Toraba’s heels too, crossing the finish a half-minute later to capture Third place. This trio dominated the contest today; Massy Johin crossed the line in the Fourth position a full five-and-a-half minutes behind Miwha, and reia Setsuko took Fifth place more than two minutes after that!

Congratulations to Commodore Taku Raymaker, Waypoint Yacht Club and all today’s competitors for a wonderful 2009 regatta. It surpassed the high standards set in LCDR 2008, and forecasts more great racing in the New Year! Woots!

Race Results:
 1: Kei Cioc – +00:49:36
 2: Toraba Magic – +00:51:25
 3: Miwha Masala – +00:52:03

 4: Massy Johin – +00:57:35
 5: reia Setsuko – +00:59:03
 6: Takeshi Schnyder – +00:59:45
 7: Bunnie Mills – +01:01:04
 8: shinobi Woodget – +01:01:17
 9: mituko Brandenburg – +01:01:27
 10: nory Igaly – +01:03:58
 11: Silber Sands – +01:04:29
 12: belladonna Foxtrot – +01:09:07
 13: Armano Xaris – +01:14:18

Lap Times:
 Kei Cioc– lap 0: +00:00:14
 Orca Flotta– lap 0: +00:00:25
 Toraba Magic– lap 0: +00:00:25
 Miwha Masala– lap 0: +00:00:35
 nory Igaly– lap 0: +00:00:35
 Armano Xaris– lap 0: +00:00:36
 Massy Johin– lap 0: +00:00:41
 shinobi Woodget– lap 0: +00:00:56
 ahjep Kattun– lap 0: +00:01:00
 Silber Sands– lap 0: +00:01:07
 Bunnie Mills– lap 0: +00:01:16
 Takeshi Schnyder– lap 0: +00:01:27
 reia Setsuko– lap 0: +00:01:31
 mituko Brandenburg– lap 0: +00:02:07
 belladonna Foxtrot– lap 0: +00:02:32

Leetle Cat Training

Since the Leetle Cup Distance Race is scheduled to take place this Sunday, I wanted to spend a few extra minutes here talking about the Trudeau Dockbox and Leetle Cat sailing instruction.

I think we all share enthusiasm that the sailboats in Second Life are becoming more accurate and realistic. However, that actually might be a mixed blessing, since it means that learning to sail is more intimidating… and let’s face it, most SL users think the phrase “Crank a winch” has something to do with allegations about Tiger Woods…

Anyway, I think we would all agree that Second Life is actually a pretty great place where online users can get an easy, non-threatening introduction to the world of wind-powered boats. Many people in SLSailing have devoted  considerable time and sustained effort to build instructional programs for new sailors. These originally focused on the Tako, and then expanded to the Fizz engine with the introduction of the Shelly and the soon-to-be-released Nemo. 

Why taking a lesson is a good idea.

Although Trudeau boats are very popular in SL, a Trudeau training boat and Trudeau-specific sailing instruction lagged behind these other efforts… but hopefully not for long.

As some sailors may recall, the Leetle Cat was added to the Trudeau Yachts lineup as a small but nimble teaching dinghy. The boat has only one sail and no motor, but don’t let that fool you; LCat is Trudeau all the way. The wind engine uses an uncompromising  apparent wind algorithm, and the boat comes with both standard and racing Trudeau HUDs, so new students or jaded salty skippers always know what’s going on  and can modify it to suit their needs.

[Thank you to Ahjep Kattun for the great video from last year!]

Like any good teaching boat, the LCat incorporates fully functional sailing features that are usually found on larger, more expensive boats. These include Reefing, a deployable centerboard, both Hud-button and Gesture controls, and a modifiable appearance and interface. In fact, the  LCat was intentionally fitted out with all the pieces necessary to teach aspiring new skippers the basics of serious sailing and racing; That’s one reason it’s the only Trudeau with a centerboard. Epicurus Emmons and many other sailing advocates waxed enthusiastic about Leetle Cat, promoting it as a teaching boat and club racer.  In the rush to the raceline, most forgot about the “teaching part” though, and LCat ended up earning its notoriety on the race circuit instead!

Leetle Cat Dockbox

Trudeau Dockbox at Mango Yacht Club

Jacqueline Trudeau’s Leetle Cat Dockbox is a fun gadget that could change all that. It’s designed to help sailing instructors teach skills to a class of new or intermediate students. As the name implies (and the picture above demonstrates), it looks like a standard “dockbox” common at marinas around the world. However, this dockbox allows a sailing instructor to rez a fleet of up to six Leetle Cats for student teaching! Woot!

The boats in the Leetle Cat Training Fleet generated by the dockbox are fully functional, but auto-return after one hour. That way the instructor never has to worry about leaving messy crashes scattered around the harbor.

Trudeau Dockbox at Fishers Island Yacht Club

Most sailors already know that Trudeau boats have signature qualities of accuracy, style, and humor, and the Dockbox Training Fleet continues that tradition. The boats are full-fledged Leetle Cats that look exactly like the “Training Fleet Boats” you might find tied up at any Yacht Club dock on the East Coast of North America.

The paint is chipped, the colors are sun-bleached, and the boats’ ID numbers are clumsily taped on the stern! I recognized the RL-authentic “Bad Duck Tape job” on these boats immediately!

That casual appearance may have practical significance, since SL users with no prior sailing experience are frequently pretty anxious when they take their first lesson. The unpretentious appearance of the training boats, coupled with the tag “Property of Ricker’s Island Yacht Club” stenciled on the transom, should generate a smile and get new students to to relax and have some fun.   Of course, this is a Trudeau, so an instructor can always sail along with a new student, helping  then sail the boat and using the shared HUD to demonstrate saililing principles.

Sailors Cove likes this approach too, and Moontears Vought and Jerit Weiser recently started both a Beginner and Intermediate sailing instruction program at Fishers Island Yacht Club that incorporate the Dockbox Leetle Cats. Dockboxes are also set up at several other locations, including Triumphal Yacht Club, Nantucket Yacht Club, and Danshire. However, there are two new places I want to give a special shout-out to today: Mango Yacht Club and the Sunrise Sail Center!


Please give a Woot! for Isis Rexie from Mango Yacht Club.

I’m not sure exactly when Isis got addicted to SLSailing, but I first knew her well when she skippered for Liv Leigh in Round Two of the J-CLASSIC. In the most difficult race of that ten-week regatta, Isis sailed away with the fastest time of the entire fifteen-boat fleet, beating her closest competitor (Nomad Zamani) by a full three minutes.

While Isis prepared for that winning J-CLASSIC valkyrie ride, she got to know Equinox Pinion and Dennis Lagan’s Fruit Islands Estate very well.  Watching her practice, I was convinced Isis could sail the 100+ FrootLoops sims blindfolded. I guess it was therefore no surprise that Isis stayed on as Commodore of Fruit Islands’ Mango Yacht Club when Round Two ended.

One of her first decisions was to start a fun “Learn to Sail” program at Mango using the Leetle Cat Dockbox. It’s now become a weekly staple in the Fruit Islands Events Schedule, and Isis just expanded Mango’s sail instruction into a dedicated ‘Sailing skills’ area located in Fruit Islands’ Strawberry sim.

Strawberry has less traffic and is therefore more conducive to teaching and practice laps.

First two slide from Isis' Beginner Class

Isis has also done a great job putting together slideshows for  introductory and more advanced sailing topics.  You can pick up a copy of her  Beginner Class over at the teaching dock in Strawberry. The slides are free, and students can review them after taking a class (or even without taking a class).

The other clubs and sailing groups that teach Leetle Cats have integrated Isis’ slideset into their program too, so please contact Isis Rexie if you have questions or ideas about more teaching aids!

Talking about Leetle Cats and Mango Yacht Club gives me a great segue to also tell you about Elbag Gable’s new Sunrise Sailing Centre!

Sunrise Sailing Center

Elbag Gable is MYC’s Vice-Commodore, and he shares Isis’ infectious sailing bug. Since Mango is brand-new, they’ve both worked these past two months on teaching basic sailing skills and promoting Fruit Islands’ waterways. Elberg’s now taken that plans steps further; he’s recently installed six new sailing sims in Fruit Island’s Northwest Corner!! WOOT!

Elbag and his partner Brenda Hoisin didn’t stop with their contribution to Fruit Islands, however.
This week I learned they’ve opened a new “Sunrise Sailing Center”  in Horrorbag!

Horrorbag sim may have a terrible name, but as you can see from the above image, it’s in a fantastic sailing location west of Nautilus City. There is virtually unlimited sailing in all four directions. A sailor can sail South or West in the water capping the continent of Satori, travel East to Blake Sea, or even connect to the waters far North in Nautilus through the passageway in Knaptrackicon (indicated by the orange arrow in the figure above).

Horrorbag has lots of nearby sailing friends too; it lies adjacent to Triumphal Yacht Club, and it is just a short sail from both the Mowry Bay Cruising dock and Weston Marina.

It was a great place for Elbag to put his new Sunrise Sailing Center!

Elbag obviously thinks so too. Last week he announced: “The Sunrise Sailing Centre at Horrorbag is now open and available for the whole SL Sailing community to use whenever and for whatever purpose they wish…” (He then caught himself and added a tiny disclaimer: “…within reason and within the scope of the SSC’s SL Mature Sim classification!” )

Sunrise is a full service Marina, but it’s not intended as a Yacht Club. There’s nothing to join, and Sunrise’s real intention is to work with the existing clubs to help expand the burgeoning sailing community. Sailors can rez their boats and tie up at Sunrise, and have free use of the Center, which I must admit is quite gorgeous. It has classic style, two dancefloors, a real water pool, and an absolutely breathtaking view from the second floor porch.

If you like what Sunrise is doing, there are convenient donation kiosks scattered around, and as I said this is a full-service marina, so if you are tempted to stick around, Elbag can lease you a permanent dock slip or even rent you one of a small number of designated rooms in the Center.

However, I’m mostly telling you about this because one of Elbag’s primary goals at Sunset is teaching:

“We will be running beginners’ sailing lessons from SSC with classroom screen-based training sessions as well as practical hand-on lessons using Trudeau Leetle Cats. Anyone wishing to assist in this or develop the site’s use with us as a centre of sailing excellence and expertise is welcome to talk to us about any such ideas.”

If you look at the front of the Sailing Center, you’ll see there’s a large classroom building on one side that’s dedicated to New Sailor instruction. Like everything else at Sunrise, it’s quite nicely done, it’s comfy, and it’s very well thought-out.

Please join me in welcoming Elbag’s Sunrise initiative.

SL Sailing succeeds through the kindness and generosity, as well as the skill and hard work of many, many people… If any of you are keeping a list of those names, it must already be pretty long. For all their efforts, however, please add Elbag and Brenda to that list… and while you are at it, don’t forget to double-check that you included Isis, Dennis, and Equinox from Mango… Francois from NYC, Moontears, Jerit, Fanci, and Patrick from FIYC, and Charlz, Fiona, and Orca from Triumphal… they have all quietly added one more boat, the Trudeau Leetle Cat, to the list of training opportunities for beginner sailors here in Second Life.

Waypoint Leetle Cat Distance Race December 20!

Waypoint Yacht Club Announces:

The Second Annual

Leetle Cup Distance Race

December 20, 2009
5:00 am  (SLT)

Start/ Finish: Waypoint Yacht Club

The Race:

The Leetle Cup Distance Race was first held in December, 2008. As the last regatta of the year, it was a tribute to 12 months of great sailing. Perhaps even more important, Taku Raymaker intended it as a fond fairwell to the “old” United Sailing Sims, since the race occurred just before the USS resuffled and moved to Blake Sea.

2008 Start with Eighteen Boats!

For that reason, Taku designed the 2008 LCDR as a single, long distance event that also served as a  grand tour of all the USS clubs and sailing regions. the race was incredibly popular, and I think the 2008 LCDR still holds the record for the single largest one-design race fleet ever. (I count eighteen LCats with sails raised in the above startline view!)

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