This month I’m reviewing three popular, contemporary cruising boats in Second Life. I’ve already posted about Analyse Dean‘s Bandit 50 and Kain Xenobuilder‘s Café del Mar 75. Both are large and fast cruisers that use the new BWind 2.5 wind engine. Bandit and Café also come with many on-board accommodations, including rather extensive cabin space and over two dozen animations. The boats compare favorably with my previous, ultimate 2012 favorite cruiser: Motor Loon‘s remarkable Loonetta 31.
Today I want to talk about the third cruiser on my personal short-list; it’s Rene Underby‘s RM12 Tofinou, and it’s available at the Rene Marine boatyard in Thalipolli. The boat is modeled after the French Tofinou 12, a 40ft Joubert/Nivelt sloop design. SteveLL Resident (aka Justin) likes this boat a great deal, and his enthusiasm got me interested (thank you SteveLL !!!).
Having said that, let me also add that the RM12 is the first Rene Marine boat I’ve put under the Metaverse microscope, so please bear with me; I might not get everything right. Nonetheless, I’ve spent five months testing this boat, and think I have a reasonably good feel for it. if I get something wrong, hopefully SteveLL will correct me here!! With those provisos on the record, let’s talk about the boat.
The RM12 is substantially smaller than the cruisers I’ve recently reviewed; RM12 might be best classified as a daysailor rather than a Coastal Cruiser.
Compared to Bandit and Cafe, RM12 has fewer animations and less “jazz” throughout, but actually that’s quite intentional. The contrast between the different design styles is present in real life, and nicely summarized by Peter Nielsen in Sail:
“The aesthetic differences between American and European boats are nowhere more pronounced than in the daysailer niche. The average modern U.S. daysailer has a refined, gentlemanly air; it’s a boat your granddad would have been proud to own. A typical sporty Euro-daysailer, on the other hand, is a dashing rogue of a boat; Grandma might send it coy glances, but Granddad would eye it with suspicion.
“If there is a boat that straddles this divide with hardly a wince, it is the Tofinou range from France. Tofinou was building pretty little daysailers long before the idea caught on in the United States. Its hulls have the sweetest of lines, and on its bigger boats, the 8, the 9.5 and the 12, gleaming varnished teak and mahogany woodwork is integrated seamlessly with expanses of black carbon fiber and subtly contoured fiberglass. …
“The 40-foot Tofinou 12 is… moderate of beam, lean and low-slung, and drawing almost 8 feet—which would be a drawback in many areas of the U.S. East Coast, but makes for an impressively stiff and precise ride to weather. Hull and bulkheads are lightweight fiberglass/foam composites, and the bare minimum of interior furniture and systems—along with a carbon fiber spar—help keep weight down to a svelte 10,500 pounds—about 40 percent less than a typical 40-foot production boat. …”
And here’s a clip of the Tofinou 12 in action:
The Rene Marine 12 “Tofinou”
Rene Marine. Rene Underby and Jethro2112 Sands are Rene Marine. They have worked together for several years now, building boats with clean scripts and thoughtful designs; you can see the whole ReneMarine fleet over at their main location in Thalipolli. You can also hear about their philosophy of yacht building by watching the Treet.tv documentary on SL Sailing; René and Jethro are prominently featured.
René builds sailing vessels that genuinely emulate classic boat designs, and the RM12 is just one vessel in her long line of authentic sail craft that you can see at her marina.
Her RM12 is a skillful mesh build. The boat weighs in at a trim 57 prim with a Land Impact of 37. For comparison:
Bandit 50 41 prim 32 Land Impact
Rene Marine 12 57 prim 37 Land Impact
Cafe del Mar 67 prim 48 Land Impact
Loonetta 31 32 prim 32 Land Impact
Sailors will find the RM12 mesh design to be clean, simple, and true to the real boat, and it has multiple features that should make any seasoned skipper smile.
The Hull and Topside
The cockpit is nicely arranged with an ample number of port and starboard self-tailing winches within reach of the dual helm. The detailing and finish is quite thoughtfully executed, and full of fun; there’s even a winch handle already loaded, ready to crank!
The skipper and crew have a choice of multiple sit options that can be accessed through a simple hierarchical menu system that automatically pops up. A few of the poses are shown in the image sequence to the right. (click to enlarge)
Is your avatar is an odd size? Don’t worry! The sit positions are easily adjustable.
Although this boat is a solid cruiser that will carry several crew, remember when you go below that RM12 is designed for performance, and matches the real life Tofinou 12. Don’t be disappointed because there’s no shower or Cuisinart. This boat is built to sail, and any extra features are installed to help a skipper take true command of the boat’s multiple sailing options. The RM12 is a cruiser intended for sailors.
Even sailors need to drop anchor occasionally, so Rene Underby has also included a set of animations for couples to use during those off-hours.
RM12 Sails. The RM12 is fitted out with a fractional sloop rig with a Genoa and mainsail, but there’s no spinnaker.
If you’re worried about overhead clearance, please note that the fore and aft stays are physical, and so is the keel. This adds considerably to the boat’s realism, but watch out for shallow water and low bridges! :-)
The RM12 comes with a headstay furler for the Genny, and an in-mast furler for the Main. Both have nice animations that deploy the sails when you say “Raise.”
A skipper can raise, lower, trim or reef each sail independently. That’s a truly useful feature that is also present on Trudeau Classic boats, although it’s missing on most others.
Having said that, let me add that I’m not aware of any SL boat that optimizes differences between the jib and main trim depending on sailing conditions. My guess is that’s on the laundry list for the “next step” in improvements to sailing algorithms.
While we wait, let me add that the RM12 sails are quite nicely constructed and scripted. When they fall out of tune they let you know with a realistic visible and audible “flap.“
To adjust the sheets and bring them back into optimal position, a skipper uses the up/down arrow keys. That changes the sail angle in small (three degree) increments until the settings are correct. I’m not aware of any chat-command control for the sheet settings on this boat. It’s also notable that only the skipper can adjust the sails. There is option to share sail control with the crew, and crew location on board (hiking) has no impact on boat heel or boat speed.
In my last cruising article, I commented that there was an apparent mismatch in some boats between the sheet angle setting and the visible angle of the boom and mainsail. That’s not a problem with the RM 12, however. The image to the right shows a vertex view of my RM 12 sailing a dead run with the sails full out. The maximum angle you can set for the boom on RM12 is 70° (it’s probably limited by the stays). That angle agrees quite nicely with what you can directly measure from your screen, as shown above.
One more thing about sails on the RM 12: Since the boat has dual furlers, Reefing the sails is a snap. You can let out any percentage of either the main or the Genoa with a simple chat command, and the power of the reefed sail adjusts accordingly.
The boat even has an adjustable traveler for the mainsheet, located aft of the helm station; I’ll talk more about that in the next section.
Sailing the RM12
RM scripts. The RM12 is powered by Rene Underby’s wind engine. If I recall correctly, René originally adapted her algorithm from Kanker Greenacre’s Tako 2.x. However, over time Rene’s scripts have evolved to meet the needs and expectations of a whole generation of new sail designs and skippers in SL. At the present time, my guess is that sailors would be hard-pressed to find any Tako genes still actively expressed in the René Marine family of boats.
Wind for Two. If you like to use the wind that’s broadcast by raceline WWC windsetters in Second Life, that’s easy for RM12. All you need to do is “ID” your boat so it’s recognized by the raceline (the chat command is “ID 0000” , where “0000” is any number combination). Once you do that, the boat will search for the WWC’s broadcast.
The boat uses the WWC Cruise Wind settings (not Race Wind), and it makes use of the Wave and Current WWC features as well.
However, if you prefer to sail on your own the boat also has built-in boat wind. Just type “wind spd xx” to set the wind speed in knots, and type “wind dir xxx” to pick a wind angle. You’re not restricted to the small number of values that come with BWind boats.
RM12 HUD. The RM12 comes with a vertical stack of five multi-purpose data screens that give you all the sailing information you could ever hope for.
The panel on the right below shows this info-display stack coupled with a quick guide that explains their function.
The first two instruments are analog indicators.The top one shows Real Wind Angle, but you can switch it to Apparent Wind Angle with the push of a button; and if you want numerical values, that’s shown as an inset on the gauge.
This top display is comparable to the great info HUD that comes with WildWind‘s Wildcat 45 and Open 60.
The second instrument in the RM 12 stack is unique; it shows rudder angle. As you can imagine, the rudder angle determines how acutely the boat will carve a turn. I’ll talk more about this below.
The third instrument has a screen with four different command functions that can each be activated by clicking buttons next to the display. Two are pretty straightforward: “Raise” raises both sails, and “Motor” powers up the diesel.
Two other button commands are less common. One turns on ‘Autotrim,’ a utility that optimally adjusts the sails to match the AWA. The other is an ‘Autopilot‘ that locks the boat to a particular heading. If you are new sailor, these options can make sailing the RM 12 extremely easy; you just point-and-shoot. If you’re an Old Salt in SL, you’ll also find these tools pretty great. They let you put the boat through test trials with heading and sails fixed, while you tinker with all the other options that enhance performance.
The last three HUD instruments are digital displays; a skipper can flip the info shown on the HUD screen to display any of 10 different panels. I know many sailors may feel differently, but I like the option to see a lot of numbers while underway, and the RM HUD fills that bill nicely.
Rudder Reality. The RM12 has a distinctive steering system. In nearly every other sailboat in Second Life, a skipper steers by pressing an Arrow key, and the boat actively turns until the key is released. The effect is a bit more like a ‘bow-thruster’ than a rudder.
The RM12 is more realistic. Pressing an arrow key will cause a rudder deflection that you can monitor on the HUD gauge. The boat will turn toward the side of the rudder until the skipper centers the wheel again. However, if there’s no breeze or the boat is nose to windward and not moving (“in Irons”), the RM12 will do what any self-respecting sailboat does in real life. It just sits there, waiting for the breeze to shift.
Once you get the hang of the steering, you’ll find that the RM12 also has rather realistic polar performance under sail.
The chart to the right shows a plot in blue of Boat Speed vs Real Wind Angle for the RM12 using a RWS of 15 kts. The boat is fastest on a beam reach, and it maxes out with a top speed that’s roughly 70% of RWS.
That corresponds to a Hotlaps Handicap of 0.69, a number that’s in line with the majority of midsized cruisers in Second Life.
Since each sail is independent on the RM 12, I’ve also plotted the boat speed for the Genoa (green) and the main (purple) alone. As you can see from the above chart, the boat gets most of its thrust from the main at all points of sail.
The RM12 doesn’t have a Spin and you can’t wing the main; it makes sense that the performance declines downwind with RWA>120.
The next chart on the right shows RM12 performance with both sails flying under three different wind speeds: 8 kn, 15 kn, and 25 kn.
On a beam reach in light air (8 kn), the boat can do 75% RWS. That performance efficiency decreases a bit to 72% RWS with the wind of 15 kn, and it falls much more to 62% RWS in a strong blow of 25 kn. As shown below, at those high wind speeds the boat heels far to lee and it is hard to hold it on course, even with the Autopilot engaged.
I’d recommend a windspeed around 15 kn for routine sailing. If you’re hit by a sudden squall with big gusts, you might think about reefing or dropping the Genoa.
This boat has one other trick in its sail adjustment toolkit: it comes with a Traveler for the mainsheet. A traveler has an adjustable car that determines where the sheet connects to the boat; it helps set the sail shape by holding the boom down.
The pictures below show the traveler in action (pink arrows) on RM12. In the left frame, the traveler is located far windward. That makes the sheet angle with the boom suboptimal, since the sheet can’t pull down to hold the sail flat. However, in the right frame the traveler is all the way lee. In that location the sheet is much better able to control sail shape. If you look at the speed gauge (blue arrows), you can see there’s a modest increase in boat speed as the traveler goes into action.
A Good Turn
RM12 takes a turn
Five months ago I wrote about sailboat turns in SL. As I said back then, I think a boat’s ability to make a realistic turn is an important part of any authentic sailing emulation. The RM12 was the first boat in SL where I could take a serious look at this issue, since it couples realistic helm control with a flood of numerical data any skipper can monitor while making a turn.
I won’t repeat all the discussion about turn-testing here; you can go read it someday when your boat’s in drydock.
I just wanted to emphasize that the RM12 is the boat I used to help set the standard for all the other sailboat turn-tests. It’s a tribute to René Marine that most boats I’ve looked at have independent turning parameters that fall within the same test range defined by RM12.
The Rene Marine 12 is René Underby’s virtual re-creation of the French Tofinou 12 daysailor; it’s a very nicely done emulation that should appeal to many SL cruisers that want a midsized boat with realistic sailing features.
The RM12 mesh build is clean and accurate, with an economical Land Impact of 37. Once aboard, a solo skipper controls all the sailing functions when underway, but the owner can also delegate the skipper role to one other sailor through chat commands.
In addition to the skipper, RM12 can carry three crew, and there’s a wealth of animations topside and below to keep everyone entertained.
The RM12 has a Mainsail and a Genoa that are powered by the Rene Marine sail engine; the sails can be independently controlled by key click or chat command. To help guide the skipper, the RM12 comes equipped with a highly detailed info HUD. It has five vertically-stacked gauges that continuously report a huge amount of sailing information.
The performance polar for this boat is realistic, and falls in the range of several other cruisers in Second Life. Consistent with the polar results, RM 12 rates a respectable (and credible) Hotlaps Handicap of 0.69.
The boat comes with a few very interesting sail adjustment tools that enhance performance. They include an active roller reefing system for the main and Genoa, and a main sheet traveler to adjust sail shape.
The combination of realistic performance, detailed numerical sail data, and multiple sail adjustment options make this boat a good choice for skippers looking for an SL daysailer that authentically reflects RL.
If you’re in the market for a cruiser, you should also know the RM12 is missing a few features that are standard equipment on several other boats. Most notably:
– RM12 has neither a Crew-HUD nor hiking scripts. The RM12 skipper is in charge, and the crew is just along for the ride. (The same thing is true for most other contemporary cruiser emulations.)
— The boat lacks a spinnaker and there is no ‘wing’ effect, so the boat may seem slow on downwind points of sail. (Nonetheless, the Hotlaps Handicap is a respectable 0.69.)
— RM12 does not have wind shadow, limiting its potential as a racer. (However this boat is primarily a cruiser. The lack of wind shadow could actually be a lag-reducing advantage.)
I’ve been sailing the RM12 off-and-on for five months, and I now understand SteveLL‘s enthusiasm over this boat. I particularly like the boat’s ease of sail with autopilot and autotrim functions, and the detailed information provided by the info-HUD screens.
Go stop by at Rene Marine, and take the RM12 for your own test drive!