Two weeks ago Jacqueline Trudeau launched the Francois Jacques, her latest addition to the Trudeau Classic Yacht fleet. The new release was the centerpiece for an American Red Cross fundraiser that collected L$300,000 to support the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The event was also a fitting memorial to François Jacques, the new vessel’s namesake.
I was away sailing and sadly missed the launch. However, I know full-well that Francois would be thrilled to know her memory is kept alive and embodied in an icon she held most dear in Second Life: a Trudeau Classic Sailboat.
The new Trudeau Francois Jacques is modeled after Gloriana, Nathaniel Herreshoff‘s legendary 1891 racer. Herreshoff not only designed and built Gloriana; he personally skippered her to eight consecutive victories on the water during the 1891 race season. The boat proved faster than anything else afloat in the 46ft-class.
What made Gloriana so special? That’s a complex question that deserves a multifaceted answer, but let me list at least a few Gloriana features that are also prominent in the Trudeau version of this classic.
- Gloriana had a tapered- wedge bow that made it efficient – and speedy -as it cut through the water.
- It also had a supersized bowsprit and a boom that far overhung the stern. That design took advantage of the “length-and-sail-area” rule that favored boats with a small water line and a large sail plan.
- The Gloriana had a full, deep keel with a modern front cutaway that counterbalanced the huge sail plan without sacrificing speed.
Each of these features were incorporated into the designs of many yachts in the decades that followed.
Gloriana‘s innovative design and solid build brought instant attention and acclaim to Herreshoff Yachts, and it set the stage for Herreshoff’s emergence as the most heralded boatbuilder of the past century.
To quote Richard Simpson:
“The victories of the Gloriana immediately elevated Capt. Nat to the forefront of American designers, and led to his six successful defenses of the America’s Cup.”
The Girl in the Boat
The new Trudeau boat is named in memory of Francois Jacques.
I first met Fran soon after I joined Second Life in 2006. RJ Kikuchiyo told me I should talk to her; he said Fran could best teach me to sail in SL. As usual, he was right.
Over the six years that followed I held a front-row seat watching François quietly evolve into a keystone of the virtual sailing community. She was the heart, head, and lifeblood of so much we now take for granted in SLSailing.
FJ had uncritical affection and respect for every wind-powered vessel in Second Life and I’m pretty certain she owned them all, but she had true passion and a special love for the Classic Yachts in the Trudeau fleet. Jacqueline Trudeau has already told this tale, and although I have much more to add I’ll defer that to another day. Today I want to focus on the boat. Actually so did Francois…
Two days before she left SL for the final time, FJ contacted me to chat. As usual she had a long to-do list of projects to discuss, but Gloriana was at the top of her agenda. She had just seen the new hull Jacqueline Trudeau was working on, and she knew Gloriana’s history. FJ was bubbling over with excitement to start planning a new regatta around the boat. She wasn’t the only one; a few weeks earlier at the SFL charity auction Blackbird Latte contributed a whopping L$25,200 to get a future Trudeau Gloriana. I thought this was pretty amazing, since when BB placed that winning bid the Trudeau Gloriana was total vaporware. It was just an idea and a couple sketches by JT. (Well, sometimes a few notes scratched on a cocktail napkin are enough to get things rolling… )
In any event, on the night FJ and I talked about Gloriana we agreed to put off discussion about a regatta. We shared the excitement, but after all, the boat wasn’t even in beta, and I argued we had all the time in the world to plan.
Well, I was wrong. Two days later FJ was suddenly gone.
It’s impossible to make sense of such a loss. Perhaps all we can do is pledge to keep their spirit alive through our thoughts and deeds, while we hold each other close. In that spirit Jacqueline Trudeau rechristened her Gloriana project, naming it Francois Jacques.
The Francois Jacques by Trudeau
The new Francois Jacques is quintessentially Trudeau, with a traditional hull design and sail plan that are flawlessly executed.
The dimensions of the François are slightly downsized from the real-life Gloriana; in SL Francois measures 19.9m LOA, 10.6m LWL and 3.34m beam, with a 2.66m draft. That’s even smaller than the Trudeau New York 30 (see below), a fact that makes the boat more easily maneuverable in a tight channel or on a busy race line.
Be careful though; unlike the NY30, the François has a large, physical bowsprit that can get you in trouble if you don’t watch out.
In the figure to the right, the tip of the bowsprit neatly bangs into a race line buoy. However, in common with several other Trudeau boats, the boom, stays and sails are all phantom while the mast is physical.
The boat is built from of sculpties, but it’s carefully constructed so the collision boundaries of the hull closely correspond to the visible boat. And despite the typical high level of Trudeau detail, the vessel weighs in with a mere LOD of 53. That size should fit within the budget of even the most prim-conscious skippers.
Speaking of details, the rig is rather beautifully adorned with five sails crafted by Bunnie Mills. The main and jib/staysail can be adjusted independently using the HUD or chat commands, and the two topsails (shown in red above) can be stowed to avoid excessive heel in high winds.
Of course, all the sails have visible and audible luffing, thanks to Trudeau’s groundbreaking TruSail system that was was first introduced with Trudeau ONE.
The boat has a nice, traditional cabin forward of the cockpit with ample space to sleep two. If you’re old enough to remember the Trudeau Knockabout (the most popular TCY boat ever launched), the Francois’ cabin is a major size-upgrade to that classic format. At least now I won’t hit my head on the roof the way I did in my old Knock!
You’ll find the usual extra goodies packed in the Francois‘ sailing kit. The boat comes with three huds, a deployable mooring buoy and line, and a wooden cradle to use when the boat’s in dry dock.
There’s a lot new under the hood as well. Just to mention a few high points:
The keyboard sail controls are more secure and reliable,
Downwind sail-winging is more realistic,
A Reefing option is back,
The tiller-waggle issue is fixed,
Right-clicking on the hull no longer stops the boat,
The scripts for the diesel are newly reworked, and
The boat’s poses are the best of any Trudeau in the past two years.
Many of the best features on this boat are not new; they’ve actually become standard trademark features of each new Trudeau release. They include:
- A fully modifiable boat build
- Downloadable original textures for the boat and sails, with easy texture install procedures for both users and third party developers.
- Shared sailing options for two extra crew using chat commands or a multifeature crew HUD;
- Options to set many user features by editing notecards in the boat and HUD;
- The choice of full feature Boat Wind or standard WCC cruising wind;
-Wind shadow that works with all other Trudeau vessels in race mode; and
- An easy card system that allows owners to share the boat with their 2,000 closest friends. Friends can ‘borrow’ your boat, even when you are offline visiting your parole officer.
The full-featured Two-Sail HUD
Few yacht builders have the confidence to give their owners the host of standard control options available in a Trudeau.
The Francois Jacques is the latest release in the generation of Trudeau boats that share mitochondrial DNA with Trudeau One. If you’ve sailed a recent Trudeau, you will be quite comfortable at the helm of this new cutter. It’s powered to race or cruise alongside similar boats in the Trudeau fleet, including the New York 30, Epicurus, Twelve, and One.
A skipper can handle the boat solo, or share active sailing tasks with up to two additional crew.
The chart shown below-right is a basic plot of Boat Speed as a function of Real Wind Angle for a solo skipper sitting windward with RWS= 10 m/s. The red curve below shows that the boat quickly accelerates as it falls off the wind, reaching a maximum boat speed that’s approximately 80% RWS on a beam reach. That result is comparable to the NY 30 and Trudeau One, but in several ways, that’s where the similarity ends.
Like the original Gloriana, the Francois has an expansive sailplan that overhangs the bow and stern.
With that large rig, the boat heels rather easily and it will generate maximum acceleration with a tilt angle of 10° - 15°. So, unlike the NY30 (or for that matter the Melges 24) that like to sail flat in the water, the François loves to lean. Racing this boat is all about hitting that 10° - 15° heel-angle-sweet-spot and holding it. If you slip out of that rather narrow window, you’ll see your performance quickly go down the drain.
Francois is a traditional 19th century cutter design, so sorry kids, there’s no spinnaker, but don’t give up hope sailing downwind! Like the NY30, Francois will let you wing the jib (flip it to the windward side) to get an added power boost. In the NY30, winging the jib increases boat speed on a run by a whopping 25-50%. That size adrenalin rush is pretty unrealistic however, so the Francois brings winging back to planet Earth and sailing reality with a more modest 15-20% boost, depending on conditions.
But please look at the curves above marked ‘wing’ again. The orange curve plots boat speed with the skipper sitting windward, while the blue curve shows it with the skipper sitting leeward. Remember this boat loves to heel, so even with a strong breeze you may well need to hike Leeward to get enough tilt to speed up on a downwind Run.
A Good Heel
As I just mentioned, the big story with this boat is the heel effect. Adjusting the sails and shifting crew position to stay at the optimal angle of 10-15 will strongly enhance boat performance.
If you want to race this boat, I’d make two suggestions to make your life easier adjusting the boat heel. The first is to set the camera angle to a point directly behind the boat. That lets you see the heel angle on both port and starboard tacks without perspective distortion. Alternatively, if you own a Trudeau One you can use that boat’s extra camera HUD with the Francois to get the right view.
The second racing suggestion I’d make is to go ask Bunnie Mills for a copy of her Goniometer HUD. While we were beta testing this boat, Bunnie came up with a simple overlay display that shows numerical heel values. It’s a great tool for practice. Pretty quickly the correct heel angle becomes second nature though, so you won’t need the goniometer crutch for long.
The easiest and best way to adjust the heel angle is to shift crew weight from side to side. Similar to other Trudeau boats, the Francois‘ skipper can sit either Windward or Leeward at the helm, and each crew member has the option to move to one of three hike positions on either side.
A solo skipper will tilt the boat by roughly 5° toward the sit-side, so moving from leeward to windward will reduce heel by a net 10°. A single crew member will have the same effect when sitting all the way out on the rail ( the third hike position). To give you a better sense of this effect, the figure below shows pictures of the different heel angles for a skipper and one crew in all the different combinations.
With real wind speeds up to 9-10 m/s, a solo skipper can do a pretty good job of balancing the boat for optimal performance. To get more insight, look at the first chart below. It plots the maximum boat speed for a single point of sail using different wind intensities. The red bars show the result when the skipper is sitting leeward, and the blue bars show it for the skipper sitting windward.
At low to moderate wind speeds, a boat may not heel sufficiently to get in the 10-15° optimal zone. A skipper sitting on the leeward side can add to the heel in that case, increasing the boat speed as shown by the red bars on the left side of the chart below. However, with stronger wind speeds (>10 m/s) the heel angle quickly exceeds the optimal range causing the performance to plummet, essentially “swamping” the boat. A skipper moving from leeward to windward will reduce that heel by 10°, and potentially get the boat ‘back in the zone.’
Wind speeds over 13 m/s (25.2 kn) are likely too much to handle for a sailor alone in either sit position. In that situation, a skipper needs to (1) stay home, (2) get more crew to sit on the rail, or (3) shorten sail.
Given the huge expanse of canvas carried by this boat in relation to its size, Trudeau’s prudently included a reefing command that douses the topsails to lessen heel and prevent the boat from swamping.
This effect is very similar to shortening the mainsail in Trudeau Twelve. Reducing sail will slow the boat under normal wind conditions, but it will prevent a knockdown with gale winds or a strong gust. The second bar graph in the figure above shows this effect. It plots Boat Speed as a function of Real Wind Speed under full sail (BLUE) or with topsails doused (GREEN). From RWS 2-11, there’s a near linear increase in boat speed, but boat speed tops out at RWS 11-13. In that range the boat is heeling excessively and more wind just makes the problem worse. Under the test conditions the boat then totally fails at RWS 14, as it heels way over and speed drops to < 1.0 m/s. It’s ‘swamped.’
However, if you look at the reefed GREEN bars you see that a short-sailed boat keeps going, even with RWS 14. So if you’re sailing in a major blow or in a race with strong gusts, reefing can keep you in the game.
Be careful if you decide to use this option though. It’s a hassle in RL to take down extra sails or set a main reef point under stormy conditions and Trudeau’s factored that into Francois‘ scripts. You will pay a brief speed penalty each time you make a sail change by reefing this boat.
OK, some of this can be tricky, so let me give you one more example to illustrate the importance of heel. In the figure below, the left image shows a boat under full sail with a heading of AWA 60°. Even though the Real Wind is blowing at 12 m/s, the boat is stalled with a speed over ground of only 1.4 m/s. That’s because the heel angle is 24°, far over the optimal range.
In the picture to the right, only one thing changed: the jib was dropped, so the boat’s only powered by the main. That reduction in sail brings the boat back to a heel angle of 15 and the boat quickly jumps to over three times the former boat speed. Of course without a jib the boat peaks out at only 4.3 m/s, so this is no race winning strategy. It simply emphasizes the relative importance of heel angle in this boat.
Speaking of heeling adjustments, with the Francois it looks like Jacqueline Trudeau’s fixed a long-standing “script exploit” found in Trudeau boats and several others (at least back to Fizz 2.0). I’m talking about the ‘tiller waggle‘ effect. If a boat starts to excessively heel, the skipper can often override it by rapidly moving the tiller back-and-forth. The figure below shows what I’m talking about in an early beta boat, but the same thing happens in T-One.
On the left side of the figure the boat is swamped with skipper and crew both sitting leeward producing a severe heel angle of 57°. However, after waggling the tiller for a few seconds the boat bounces back upright and it starts to make headway again. This is a script exploint that can provide an unfair advantage in a race.
Well, it looks like the fix is in with Francois!
In the new Francois Jacques v1.1, waggling the tiller can still reduce boat heel, but that results in minimal acceleration, as shown in the figure to the right. This is a nice improvement for an old problem that affects many boats!
The Francois Jacques is the newest release by Trudeau Yachts, and it shares many features with its sister boats in the current Trudeau fleet. The sculpti build is flawless, and the boat’s size and cuddy cabin make it perfect for a multipurpose daysailor, coastal cruiser, or club racer.
The boat is far more than a T-One knockoff, however. The Francois Jacques offers unique performance and handling features that are a tribute to it’s Herreshoff Gloriana origins. It’s a fun challenge to sail, and it truly flies with a stiff breeze and two able crew sitting on the rail.
So let me offer Mega Kudos to Jacqueline Trudeau for a great boat that brings to life the grace, beauty, and performance of a legendary sailboat. It’s a truly wonderful and lasting tribute to the memory of our friend Francois Jacques, who will always remain in the hopes and hearts of sailors everywhere.
When I think of the loss of such a close friend, I admit that words often fail me here. When that happens, I’ll now hold tight to this boat, raise sail, and for a moment be with Francois again. Thank you, JT.