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.
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.