Qyv Inshan’s new M-24 is inspired by the popular Melges-24 racing sloop, and it’s a wonderful addition to the Quest Marine fleet. The M-24 successfully imports both the design and the excitement of the real-life racer, from the details of the build to it’s scripts, handling, and crew placement. The boat is fully WWC and BWIND compatible, and it features active crew hiking and pitch control that realistically match the racing tactics of the RL Melges. This is a boat any sailor is going to love to race.
Born with an Americas Cup legacy and attitude, the Melges 24 exploded onto the sailing scene in 1993. The boat quickly won the respect and admiration of racers around the globe, and it soon earned its own ISAF class designation. Today there are nearly 1,000 hulls on the water, and the class has an avid schedule of races hosted by clubs worldwide.
It’s easy to see why the Melges 24 grew so popular. The boat is a high-tech, 24 foot ‘pocket rocket’ that’s both affordable and easily transported. The hull is sleek, spare, and sexy, and it’s shaped to plane with a crew of four or five aboard. The spars, keel and rudder are all carbon fiber, adding strength without extra weight.
Well, kudos go to Quest Marine‘s Qyv Inshan; Qyv recognized this agile speedster was just begging to race online. She’s crafted a digital emulation of the Melges called the Quest M-24 that wonderfully translates the form and spirit of the real-life boat to the Second Life platform.
The Boat Build
The Quest M-24 is a Mesh construction. That’s a pretty good thing, assuming you have a recent, mesh compatible viewer. (If you don’t have one, stop right now and go download it!) The build is detailed and sleek, and “mesh” means it lacks many of the problems commonly seen with sculpted boats.
The M-24 measures only 8 meters at the water line, so it’s SL size nicely matches the real boat. The pictures to the right show my usual test-drill to check the collision boundary on boats, applied to the M-24 hull. This time I did it by dropping a physical platform against the side of the boat (I explained this previously). As you can see in image A, the platform hits the hull exactly at the edge of the visible boat. Image B shows a slight mismatch between the visible convexity of the hull and it’s apparent collision cage; the physical platform appears to stop in midair. This mismatch is similar to what happens in Loonetta, another mesh build. It’s interesting, but I can’t imagine it has any impact whatsoever on sailing or racing M-24. This looks like a well-crafted racing hull!
The final image C shows the platform resting on top of the bulb keel. That prim keel draws 3 meters and it’s not phantom, so watch out for shallow spots!
The boat comes with a mainsail and jib that are jointly controlled by chat commands, gestures, or arrow keys. When the sails fall out of tune, they visibly flap and generate a luffing sound to help you maintain trim. The sails themselves are actually phantom, and so is the boom. The forestay is prim however, so the leading edge of the jib will bang into things.
Speaking of things that go bang, the M-24 comes with a retractable bowsprint and asymmetrical spinnaker that give a speed boost sailing downwind. Although the spinnaker itself is phantom, the bowsprint is not. As you can see in the image below, the sprint adds considerable length to the effective bow and needs to be factored in when negotiating tight, downwind turns during a race.
I do not yet know whether the bowsprit will trigger a raceline, but I doubt it. Spinnaker starts are pretty uncommon anyway, so I would not worry about it.
As I mentioned earlier, the M-24 design and detailing is clean, stylish and faithful to the RL boat. In addition to the retractable bowsprit, the M-24 has hiking belts (padded lifeline straps) on both sides that let crew go as far windward balancing the boat as the Melges 24 Class Rules will allow.
The Quest M-24 even faithfully reproduces the boat’s vang (shown above) and the backstay flicker (shown below)! Nice job, Quest (and Qyv!)!
True to the real-life Melges-24, the Quest emulation is full of caffeine and attitude. It can accelerate briskly, and it turns on a dime. Don’t worry about taking it along to compete with those big ACA’s in a mixed fleet race either; just remember Good boats come in small packages. If you have a tactical brain and a sharp crew, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to out-race any boat that floats in the M-24.
Quest boats are already very popular on the SL sail-racing circuit, and the M-24 control interface draws heavily on Qyv’s prior experience. If you’ve sailed any boat with a “Q” in it’s name recently, you’ll feel comfortable with the M-24 pretty quickly.
The boat uses a numerical ‘Info HUD’ and in detailed mode it gives the skipper and crew a good deal of information. The display shows the Compass Heading, Speed over Ground, Base Wind Intensity, and both Real and Apparent Wind Angles. It includes three additional items: 1: It shows whether you’re using BWind or a WWC setter; 2: It shows whether you’re on a Port or Starboard tack; and 3: It shows the real-time mainsheet angle.
Actually, the HUD goes another step; It displays the sheeting “efficiency” (the ratio of apparent wind angle /2x sail sheet angle). If that number is close to 1.00, the HUD display turns green and the M-24 rockets ahead. If you fall out of that sweet-spot zone, the HUD changes color and the boat vigorously complains with flapping sails and luffing noises.
Like many other boats in SL, the M-24 uses the UP/DOWN Arrow Keys to adjust the Main and Jib. That system is easy and reliable, but it’s also pretty imprecise and inadequate for racing. Qyv has therefore added chat-level numerical sheet control, and in the boat package she’s even provided basic M-24 gestures to get both you and your crew going. One small caveat, however: although the skipper can change the communication channel for chat commands, the boat doesn’t remember that setting between races. Skippers may want to make a gesture to conveniently reset the com channel each time they sail.
The M-24 lets you chose your wind source. It has a built-in Quest version of BWind, but it’s also fully compliant with standard raceline WWC setters.
Few racers use BWind; there are only a few available options for wind direction and speed, and its too easy to accidentally change the settings while underway. In Quest boats, however, there are specific chat commands that let a skipper enter any wind angle or speed; that’s a small feature that makes BWind a lot more useful.
Before I discuss M-24′s performance details, I need to talk a bit about ’boat speed oscillation.’ The M-24 has it, and I think it may be present in a number of recent boats as well, so this isn’t a criticism. Here’s what I’m talking about:
If you sail a straight compass course in M-4 with a constant wind setting, the HUD shows a continuous variation in boat speed that looks something like the figure shown on the right. In this case I was sailing a RWA=69 with 4.86 kt wind, and current and waves were turned off. The “efficiency” of the sheeting was always 98-99%.
Nonetheless, the boat speed is pretty variable; over a few seconds the boat speed changes by as much as 7% in either direction. These rapid shifts are unrelated to boat heel, heading, or wind speed, and occur with either BWind or WWC.
I’m not sure why the boat speed oscillates so much, but frankly it’s not clear this is a “problem.” In real life all the parameters of wind, wave, and current are uncertain and add to the racing challenge. However, it does mean a race team will have difficulty fine-tuning the sails if they are watching the boat speed indicator. In this boat they would probably do better trimming the sails to keep the “Efficiency” readout at 98-99.
Within the constraints of the performance fluctuation discussed above, here’s a chart showing Boat Speed at different Wind Angles. The Orange line below shows speed as a function of Real Wind Angle (RWA) using a very slow wind speed (5 kt).
The boat gives a maximal response sailing a beam reach. Although boat speed tops out at 90% of Real Wind, the chart likely overestimates M-24′s performance since the test wind was so low, and a top speed of 60-70% RWS seems more attainable in routine sailing. Nonetheless, the shape of the curve seems about right for a high-tech, planing sailboat.
M-24′s boat speed declines considerably on downwind headings, as the driving force on the sails shifts from lift to drag effects. To compensate, the M-24 comes equipped with an asymmetrical spinnaker. The spin offers a big push when the boat’s traveling away from the wind, but be careful. If you don’t watch it closely, the sail will luff due to Apparent Wind effects and the boat speed will drop precipitously (see the green curve in the chart above). Many boats in SL have spinnakers that douse automatically, which is convenient but rather unrealistic. In contrast, M-24 lets you decide which headsail to use, and when to take it down.
The RL Melges 24 get’s it speed from high-tech construction, a caffeinated sail plan, and a hull that’s designed to plane.
These same features characterize the new Quest M-24. If you want to break speed records in SL with this baby, go grab a hiking crew, and work to keep the boat dead flat under all points of sail. The builder’s notecard suggests the boat is relatively forgiving with heel angles under ten degrees, but if you tilt further you’ll pay a big penalty in performance!
To help balance the boat, the skipper can shift at the helm from lee to windward positions. With a good breeze on a beam reach, moving to the windward side reduces the heel and can buy you roughly a ten percent speed boost as shown in the above picture.
In a stiff breeze you can gain an additional boost by adding crew in hiking positions. There’s a neutral crew spot up against the cabin bulkhead where crew can rez, but then each sailor has three hike steps to either windward or leeward of that point that will fine tune the boat’s balance.
Qyv’s added a great, realistic animation for the hiking crew. The Melges 24 Class Rules limit how far the crew can hike, so most RL boats use a lifeline strap that windward crew lean against (see the video below). The Quest M-24 reproduces the hiking positions quite nicely, and as shown in the figure to the right, the hiking strap even pops up in service when the crew needs to lean on it!
So how effective is the crew hiking? the chart to the right shows the heel angle of the boat with sails lowered. The skipper is sitting on port, and one crew member changes hiking position from the extreme portside position (P3) to the extreme starboard side position (S3). When both sailors are far to port the boat heels by 11°. The boat then comes into neutral balance when the crew moves to the first or second hike position on the starboard side. This shows that the skipper and crew are relatively equal in “weight” when hiking.
The next figure shows what this all means while sailing. The chart below shows the average boat speed on a beam reach with a constant 15 kn wind and the skipper sitting on the Windward side. The crew person then switches from the far Windward spot through all the hiking positions over to the leeward rail. No surprise, the heel will worsen as the crew moves leeward, and you can see that’s accompanied by a progressive deterioration in boat speed on the graph. In this case, there is roughly a 10% drop in speed as the sailor shifts from the “good” windward side to the “bad” lee side.
Of course, the size of the hiking effect will depend on many factors, but a 10% boost while reaching in a stiff breeze seems pretty reasonable.
Trudeau Yachts has included a hiking feature on most of their boats for several years, and the amplitude of the hiking effect is similar in the M-24; but “comparison of hiking” is a long discussion and deserves it’s own post some other time.
Windward/leeward heel balance is an important factor when sailing upwind, where camber airfoil lift effects drive the boat. However, everything changes when a sailboat turns downwind. On a Run, drag effects are the principal driving force. Since the wind is coming from behind, total sail area is key, not the heel angle. If you raise a spinnaker, that parachute shape will increase the driving force. Unfortunately, a big foresail also tends to pitch the bow down in the water, increasing the hydro resistance.
To make their boat fly on a Run , RL Melges-24 race teams hike to the stern. That brings the nose up and lets the hull surf the bow wave.
Here’s a great video of a Melges-24 race crew showing how it’s done. The first half of the video shows the boat on a reach with the crew pressed against the hiking straps. In the second half however, the boat’s on a run, and the team moves aft to hold the stern down and get the boat to leap over the waves.
Qyv’s adapted the same planing tactic for the M-24: There’s a stern crew position on starboard that works to lift the bow and speed up the boat! This is a great feature that successfully models the tactics and handling of the RL Melges. Be careful, though; it only works on a dead run, and the skipper may need to switch to the port side to keep the boat flat!
Here’s a picture of Ronin Zane jumping on the butt of my M-24 to speed it up!
The true test of any new race boat can’t be found in any technical graph, picture-set, or script discussion. It ultimately all depends on the feel of the boat and how it performs on the water. Ronin Zane and I have been racing the pre-release M-24 in mixed fleet club regattas this past month and the boat’s been great fun to sail, particularly with crew aboard.
I have a lot to say about racing the Quest M-24, but this post has gone on too-long already; let’s save that discussion for another day. Besides, tomorrow Qyv is officially launching the Quest M-24. Stop by at OrCafe at 12:30pm SLT Friday September 7 and you can ask Qyv about the details, and try one of these great boats yourself!