Volvo Ocean Race
When new acquaintances find out I’m interested in sailing, they often say something helpful and supportive, like:
“Sailing? You’re kidding. That’s like watching the grass grow!”
In a conciliatory tone, I usually reply: ”You are thinking of Golf.“
I then send them video clips of the Volvo Ocean Race.
In case you’ve been out golfing a lot this past decade, let me give you the memo on this event:
The VOR is a grueling, 39,000 mile sail race that circumnavigates Earth, the planet most of us currently live on. The VOR is literally the race Columbus and Magellan dreamed of, and would die for.
That’s only a three-minute teaser. Remember, there’s 38,999 miles to go, so here’s the link to the full-length video that will give you the play-by-play for the 2011 – 2012 Volvo event. Got that? Now let’s talk boats!
Volvo Open 70
The competing VOR teams sail boats that all comply with design specs under Volvo Open 70 Rule V3-V4 (the “VO-7o Class”). These boats are carbon-fiber light but they’re also tough-as-nails, and amazingly fast. They have an innovative canting keel, a flat, beamy hull-and-backside for planing, daggerboards for stability, and dual rudders.
This is super-stuff skippers drool over.
I know you’re wondering to yourself: “Jane, how fast are these puppies? How do VO-70′s stand up to the Rigors of extreme Racing?” Well kids, the numbers don’t lie; VO-70′s are the alpha dogs of any multiclass race pack. In 2006 a VO-70 set the World 24-hour speed record, and last year the Abu Dhabi VO-70 team won the Fastnet Race with the Best Monohull Time in History (on this planet, anyway). Is that good enough for you?
Well, all good things come to an end unfortunately; the VO-70 Rule will retire in 2012. However, sailors know that in the few short years VO-70 ruled the Volvo, those VO-70 boats and their sail teams burned a new white-hot page into the history of sailing. For many who watched with eyes wide and mouth open, “VO-70” earned a spot as a true contemporary legend. The Open 70 had the right stuff to inspire a generation of new sailors worldwide.
SLSailors also recognized this, and in February 2009 Wildwind Sailboats launched the VOJ-70; Corry Kamichi’s interpretation of the VO-70. The boat was a big hit within the SL virtual sail-racing community, and it helped establish Wildwind’s reputation as a premier builder of large, hi-tech contemporary race boats.
Unfortunately, six months ago Wildwinds closed it’s docks and Corry took a temporary sabbatical from boat-building. That left no one to celebrate the wonderful VO-70 design…
Mesh Shop Volvo
Well, big applause goes to The Mesh Shop and “Dutch” Kain Xenobuilder. Dutch is an accomplished Mesh artisan, and he accepted the challenge to build a new emulation of the VO-70.
Dutch’s boat finally launched several weeks ago. Most sailors will probably recall that Dutch’s beautiful design was a big hit at the Sail4Life auction, where Charlz Price got the bragging rights to VO-70 Hull #1 for a winning bid of a whopping L$58,205!
Well since then, VO-70′s hit the water, and a few days ago it got it’s second post-launch update. In that context, it seemed like a good time to tell you about the boat!
The Mesh Shop VO-70 is (no surprise) a fully mesh build, and Dutch Xenobuilder is a mesh-meister. I sailed with Rim Telling last week and discussed the VO-70. Rim has lots of experience building virtual boats, and he gushed high praise for the quality of the Vo-70, calling it “beautiful,” and “expertly built.“
It’s hard to disagree. The hull has the graceful curves of a modern race boat, and the dimensions faithfully match the RL Volvo design spec (The SL VO-70 hull is 22.5m LWL). The towering carbon fiber mast, boom, spreader and stays all reveal a careful attention to detail. Without raising a sail, this boat announces it’s ready to race, and it means serious business.
To prove that point, the boat comes with a fistful of texture packs based on the sail designs of the 2011-2012 VOR competition boats.
The boat weighs in at a mere 26 prim, but that translates to a “Land Impact” of 212. Here are the numbers for three other recent mesh boats for comparison:
- Mesh Shop VO-7 Prim: 26 LI: 212
- Ktaba Teleri Prim: 22 LI: 51
- Quest Melges 24 Prim: 38 LI: 91
- Loon Loonetta 31 Prim: 32 LI: 31
The cockpit, foredeck and rigging are nicely detailed with plenty of winches and a working mainsheet. There are enough sit positions to accomodate a large crew, and there’s even a separate HUD that allows crew to help trim the sails.
The build is so nice, it convinced me I can stop doing “bump tests” on mesh sailboat hulls. All the boats I’ve looked at this summer have “collision cages” that match the visible hull.
Although the hull is solid, let me add that the mast, boom, sails, bowsprint and stays are all phantom when underway. That should make it easy passing under bridges on river passages.
Phantom Canting Keel
The RL Volvo Open 70 has a canting keel. As the boat tilts leeward due to the pressure of wind against sail, a skipper can rotate the bulb keel ballast to counteract the tilt. This feature makes the boat safer, and much faster. The Open 70′s also equipped with dagger boards on each side to enhance lift and improve lateral stability.
Both of these features are included on the Mesh Shop VO-70 as well, and they operate automatically while the boat is underway. Look under the boat next time you sail it, and you’ll see!
Like the rig however, the keel is phantom; the boat only draws one meter. A skipper won’t ground out in shallow water sailing this boat!
The VO-70 is easy to sail. It uses a new BWind sail engine with a simplified info-HUD display, and there are only a few, intuitve commands that help a skipper control the boat. It’s all fully explained in the notecards that accompany the release version, so an inexperienced sailor can be confidently underway in just a matter of minutes.
Cruising the VO-70
The VO-70 uses a BWind 2.5 sail engine developed by Becca Moulliez. When a skipper says “cruising” in chat, the boat unlocks the wind and accepts the standard BWind chat commands for wind speed and compass direction. There are six wind directions (N, NE, NW, S, SE, SW) and eight wind speeds (8, 11, 15, 18, 21, 25 knots).
The sails go up with the universal chat command “Raise,” and a standard numerical HUD appears. It’s simple and unclutterred, but it has all the basic stuff a skipper needs, including compass heading, boat speed, real wind speed, apparent wind angle, and the sail sheet setting.
The skipper adjusts the mainsail and jib together using the Up and Down arrow keys, and the sheeting movement is accompanied by great winch and ratchet sounds.
Chat gestures come along with the boat; they allow precision adjustment of the sails. The gestures use channel 29000, and here’s the command format so you can edit your own versions: “/29000 sheet-1” (Please note: The com channel is not adjustable.)
When the VO-70 sails fall out of tune, they start to visibly flap and give off loud luffing noises to get your attention. Once the sails are correctly adjusted, everything calms down again and the HUD turns green.
This probably all sounds familiar to most sailors, but let me emphasize the attention to detail on the VO-70 is pretty impressive, from the sounds of the rig to the wave action and salt spray that come over the bow as you beat up wind. If you have questions, talk to Hannelore Ballinger about it; she loves this boat, and she thinks using Mouse-Look at the VO-70 helm is a near-religious experience. .
Taking another step, let me add that the VO-70 comes equipped with a genniker that can provide a considerable boost on downwind headings.
The genniker adjusts along with the mainsail, but a skipper can fine tune it using the Page Up/ Page Down keys.
Speaking of which, the crew can also get in on the act. There’s a separate crew HUD (see image to right) that lets others aboard adjust the sheets and switch the headsails. Pretty Nice!
OK, let’s now talk a few numbers.
Before I get into boat performance though, I need to comment about speed variance in VO-70.
If you click on the chart to the right, you’ll get a graph of boat speed recorded each second over 220 continuous seconds under constant conditions. As you can see from the graph, the boat speed shows a continuous, irregular oscillation that mostly stays within 10% of the mean, although the most extreme swing in boat speed is nearly 40% of the average. This degree of built-in variation is impressive, since all wind parameters were held constant, there were no tiller or sheet changes, and the HUD direction and AWA remained unchanged (AWA fluctuated 161-162).
Of course there are many factors that contribute to boat speed in real sailing; I’m not complaining that this boat’s speed isn’t constant. In fact, what’s going on in VO-70 looks a lot like the the charts I previously published for Melges-24‘s speed oscillation. I don’t know why this speed fluctuation happens… but there are lots of things I don’t know. Sailors should just be aware of it.
I needed to bring this issue up, because it strongly affects the empirical “polar plots” a sailor can construct for the VO-70. No surprise, it will also affect any skipper’s prediction of boat performance when sailing VO-70 on a given course.
With those caveats, here’s a graph showing practical boat speed as a function of wind angle. It’s not too pretty, with a lot of sharp angles that are probably due to the oscillations I discussed above. If anybody gets a better polar for this boat, I’ll post it!
The blue line shows boat speed plotted against the Real Wind Angle, and the green line shows it for the Apparent Wind Angle. The result shows that the VO-70 (update 2) has a broad performance range. The sails fill and the boat begins to make headway with RWA in the low 20′s, and by RWA 40 the boat is already doing 75% of RWS. With just the mainsail and jib, the VO-70 hits a maximum speed of 110% RWS on a beam reach. If you raise the genniker, you can do even better, topping out at 120% of RWS on a broad reach.
The chart to the right shows how this stacks up compared to a couple other boats. The red curve shows Boat Speed vs. RWA for the Mesh Shop VO-70. The dotted blue curve shows the same thing for the real Volvo Open 70 v4. There’s pretty good agreement.
I never did a polar for Corry Kamichi’s Wildwind VOJ-70, but I’m pretty sure it’s similar to the JMO-60, RCJ-44, and ACJ-35. I’ve therefore also added the Wildwind RCJ-44 curve to the above chart. All three boats are remarkably fast, with peak speeds that well exceed the Real Wind Speed.
At this point, let me quickly summarize everything I said about sailing and cruising VO-70. I have much more to add about racing this boat, but this article is way, way too long already. I’ve therefore broken my discussion of VO-70 in half, and I promise to post the “Racing VO-70” details very soon! Here’s the skinny for this part:
The Mesh Shop VO-70 is a great boat for virtual sailors who want a fast, realistic emulation of a contemporary ocean racer. VO-70′s mesh build is meticulously detailed, and the dimensions match the RL Volvo Open 70. The boat is drop-dead gorgeous on it’s own, but you’ll probably want to pimp it out, so Dutch has loaded the VO-70 up with two handfuls of sail/hull textures that match the colors of the teams that raced the Volvo Ocean 2012.
At VO-70′s heart you’ll find a state-of-the-art BWind 2.5, and that engine’s typically low lag and no nonsense.
This boat will take you and your crew across the grid and back at high speed, flaunting sim line-crossings along the way. It’s a truly great addition to the SL Sailing fleet.
Unless you are morbidly depressed, you’ll want to try one of these super sailboats out for yourself. Dutch (Kain Xenobuilder) has just opened up a new Mesh Shop location in SL, conveniently located in Tschotcke, on the shores of Bingo Strait North.
I’ll see you there; I’ll be the one trying to clear the salt water from my ears after trying to sail this rocket sled VO-70.
Click here for:
The Mesh Shop VO-70, part II: Racing