Cruisin’ Part 2: The Café del Mar 75

CDM75

Cafe Del Mar 75

A few days ago I talked about the Bandit 50, a BWind 2.5 cruising boat by Analyse Dean that’s available through The Mesh Shop. However, shortly after Bandit 50  launched Kain Xenobuilder released his own Mesh Shop cruiser design. It’s called the Café del Mar 75.

CM75 h02

Dutch” Xenobuilder is a true mesh-master, and he usually shows his nautical talents off with detailed and accurate emulations of contemporary race boats. I’ve written several articles about his Volvo Ocean -70, One Design -65, Nacra -17, and Laser One.

However, the new Café del Mar 75 reflects a different approach that might appeal to a wider audience. This boat is designed primarily as a cruiser, not a racer, and it has enough room and features to convey a skipper and three friends across the grid in both style and comfort. 🙂

The CM75 is not designed to match the specs of any particular boat class. This is more a ‘concept boat‘ that reflect’s Dutch’s personal preference and creative talents. The boat is actually named after Café del Mara legendary bar in Ibiza that’s a must-visit waypoint for the high-end sailing crowd (… and what bar isn’t?) 🙂 Café del Mar also has a great restaurant and wonderful sunsets, but it’s probably best known for it’s in-house techno-trance Café del Mar electronic music mix.

With that inspiration, Dutch has produced a fun and somewhat fantasy cruiser that’s quite different from the Bandit 50 I talked about last time. 🙂

CM75 trio

Café del Mar 75 Build

As you can see above, the CM75 is a rather sizable boat. It also has sharper design features in its hull and topside construction compared to the Bandit 50 or the Loonetta 31 (or even the Tetra 35, for that matter). This of course is a matter of personal taste, and several avid cruisers have spontaneously told me how much they love the CM 75‘s looks.

Helm leanThe cockpit is spacious with helm stations both port and starboard, and the skipper automatically bounces to the windward side when the boat tacks.  The helm animation has a unique feature too: When the boat heels, the skipper will lean in the opposite direction to stay upright. 🙂

There’s another rather novel feature to the helm in this boat: just in front of the wheel are two analog gauges that display the real-time Boat Speed and Apparent Wind Angle. There’s no separate Heads Up Display, so if you want more information you need to go to the boat’s center Control Station. (more on that below).

CM75 helm numbers

Cockpit comfort

Since this is primarily a cruise boat, the cockpit is fitted out with two reclining deck chairs with cushions to let guests nap and tan while aboard. Each has an attached side table large enough to hold a Margarita and some snacks, and maybe even a Kindle e-book too.

It’s all designed for a quiet night in Ibiza. If the boat heeled five degrees in RL all that stuff (plus your guests) would likely slide onto the cockpit floor, and if you head up into the waves, you may quickly find your crew washed astern from the boat’s open-aft, racing-style cockpit. 🙂

cm75 cockpit comfort 01

click for bigness

Animations. The CM75 is full of poses suited for either skipper or crew. Buttons on the ‘crewhud‘ let a sailor find a suitable location and animation by scrolling the avatar through a sequence of positions; there is no hierarchical menu. In other words, to go from the cockpit helm to sit on a bench down below, you’ll need to transit through several poses in the shower. That’s no big deal, but I admit it’s a tad inconvenient. 🙂

As you flip through the poses, you may find another interesting glitch: two avatars on CM75 can simultaneously occupy the same sit position (don’t ask me how this happens). That can lead to images of inadvertent – and possibly disturbing – excess intimacy, as shown in the second photo above.
(But hey, it’s SL– get over it!) 🙂

Cruise Cabin

The contrast between cruising features and ocean racer design in CM75 continues as one moves into the cabin; take a look below.

CM75 Pilot House and Cabin

In most ocean-going cruisers, going below deck is like entering a military bunker. The space is relatively cramped and multipurpose, and the windows are narrow slits or even worse: portholes.

That’s not true in Café Del Mar. The cabin is quite expansive, with a wall of translucent, impact resistant Glass/Plexiglas at the front end of the cockpit with full-sized sliding doors. These open into a combination Pilot House/Central Cabin with plenty of headroom that includes a large centrally-located Control Panel. There’s a wrap-around panoramic window view from the cabin level, although I admit it’s constrained vertically and gives something of a letterbox impression.

The Control Panel has many analog gauges that document critical info about sailing status. A smart skipper might do well to direct the boat from this enclosed command station, but it will take some thinking to get the camera views right, so a skipper can easy flip between views of the surrounding water and closeups of the guages on the panel. This boat might be best sailed with Mouselook, or a third party cam and info Hud. New owners will need to experiment and find out what works best for them.

This is a concept boat, remember!

CM75 cabin central

On the port side of the main cabin there is a rather fancy kitchenette, replete with a cooktop, sink, blender and espresso machine. 🙂 On the starboard side, there’s a full, stand-up shower that will accommodate two people, as long as they know each other really well.

Moving further forward, you’ll find a substantial cabin with plush benches that are more-than-adequate for the crew this boat can accommodate. At the bow end there’s a master cabin, complete with a double bed and two video monitors ready to display your favorite SL-compatible media. 🙂

foreward berth leaks

That foreward berth is a bit of a tight squeeze, and you may need a little cam-practice before you can comfortably watch the watch the television sets located there. One caution, however: don’t plug in the TV while the boat is underway; you could get electrocuted. 🙂 As you can see above, the forward cabin lies low in the bow and bilge washes though the cabin whenever the boat’s on a slight heel.

Some Sail Stuff

Keel. Let me add a few extra items here about the build that I think are relevant to sailing. First and foremost, the bulb keel is physical.  As you can see below, I ran this boat fast aground by riding the keel up on a sandbar. There was excellent match between the visible keel and the grounding point. (that’s nice) 🙂

Cafe keel

Sails. The boat has a sloop rig, with a few interesting touches. On upwind headings, the boat is powered by a mainsail and a full genoa jib, both nicely meshed out.

CM75 telltales

As I mentioned earlier, this boat does NOT have a HUD. You need to rely on the onboard analog instruments, and watch for visible and audible sail luff. The CM75 gives you another nice hint: The sails have telltales attached. When the telltales hang loose, you need to adjust the sheeting; when the telltales are streaming horizontal, you are ‘in the zone.’ 🙂

CM75 downwind sailplan

When sailing downwind, you can deploy a gennaker to get an extra boost. When you raise the sail by chat command, it automatically douses the Genoa and raises a staysail in it’s place, so you have three sails flying.

Setting the angles for three sails to get optimal drag effects downwind can be a daunting problem in real life. It’s no less an issue in SL. However, in Second Life most sail engines combine the commands for the main and foresails, and revert to an optimal sheet setting of one-half the Apparent Wind Angle.

CM75 VSAThe image to the right shows Cafe del Mar on a dead run (AWA 180°) using the optimal sheet settings for the main and gennaker. However, if you actually measure the sail angles it looks like the main is set to around  45°, only half the genn angle (90°) .

This may be a quibble that’s irrelevant for most sailors since it only involves sail appearance, but it’s nonetheless interesting and worth checking on other boats.

Sailing the Café del Mar 75

Dutch tells me that the sailing scripts in this boat are retooled and more efficient than prior Mesh Shop Bwind 2.5 boats. I believe that; I’ve sailed CM75 through many difficult grid situations over the past few months and taken it on quite lengthy leeward cruises, all with good results!

iPad2 windsetter

If you have sailed any of the mesh shop boats, you’ll be familiar with the Café del Mar 75 right out of the box. If you type the chat command “cruising,” the boat goes into standard BWind mode. That gives you six different options for wind speed and eight more options for wind direction. You make your selection by a simple chat command, and the boat echoes your choice:

[09:00:31] Jane Fossett: 11
[09:00:31] TMS Radar: Wind blowing at 11 Kts.

You can do the same thing for wind direction, and then finally check your results using the chat command “wind.”

[09:01:19] Jane Fossett: wind
[09:01:19] Cafe del Mar 75 whispers: 25 Kts. E BWind

I’m making a point of this, because there’s apparently a glitch in the settings for “15 kts.” If you say “15” in chat, the boat will correctly record that setting but it won’t give you any chat text feedback about the change. This is specific for the “15” command in CM75 (at least in my boat). All the other numbers and directions work as they should, and the “15” works correctly on similar boats, including the Bandit 50.

Once again, this is just a small issue, and you can always use the “wind” command to make sure you get the right settings.

Take two tablets…

If you want to use the boat for racing, the Café Del Mar 75 comes with the Mesh Shop iPad 2 tablet interface wind setter.

CM75 ipad2 drift is nogo

The iPad2 has the same set of options for wind speed and direction as the BWind chat commands, and it allows you to broadcast those numbers to the local racing fleet.

Even without a boat, you can get your own copy of the iPad2 for free from the SL Marketplace, and you can download the manual here.

Let me add one important update that’s not yet in the iPad2 docs: The ‘drift‘ function that sets a gradual shift in wind direction is currently disabled. The icon is still there and will change when you click on it, but the wind is not affected. Dutch reports that sailors were not using the option, so he removed it. Meaningful wind fluctuations are an important part of virtual sail-racing, but it’s less of an issue in Café Del Mar since the boat is primarily a cruiser. The race options are mostly an add-on for skippers who want to do timed laps or sail in Big Boat regattas.

Sharing the work

The skipper steers the boat and performs basic sail adjustments with a standard set of arrow keys and chat commands. 

crewhud 003The boat also comes with a crewHUD that allows any sailor aboard to trim the sheets or change the foresail. If you want even more control over your rig, there’s an undocumented sheet adjustment command available:

/29000 sheetX

X” can be a positive or a negative number. For example, the command “/29000 sheet20″ will let the sails out 20°. If you plan to sail this boat a lot, you may want to put the routine sail commands into a gesture set. Actually, Fearless Freenote already has a gesture pack for the Mesh Shop Vo-70 and OD-65, and I bet the same commands will work fine on the Café del Mar. Ask Fearless, Jane, or Hannelore Ballinger if you want a copy of the free gesture pack. 🙂

The crew HUD shown above also contains a nifty “Controls” button that allows a skipper to hand over helm responsibility to one of the crew onboard. It’s a very nice feature that permits you to give ‘demo drives’ to friends who are interested in the boat.

Autopilot

Cruisers usually want a boat that is well-built, reliable, and large enough to carry several friends across a long voyage; they are less concerned about the details of sail selection and sheeting. If that sounds like you, then Café del Mar has a feature you might really like: an Autopilot!

If you turn on the Autopilot, all you have to do is steer the boat. The Autopilot will make the appropriate sail changes and adjust the sheeting to the optimal settings along your route. The only thing you’ll have to do is keep one hand on the wheel while drinking that Margarita. 🙂

The autopilot gadget can actually be a real lifesaver when you’re in a crowded fleet under severe lag at the start of a Leeward Cruise. In that situation a skipper is often just trying to avoid collisions and can’t tinker with the sail adjustments.

I like it!

Cafe del Mar Sprints

The Autopilot makes performance testing relatively easy; the boat sets the sails optimally at each heading. However, Café del Mar does not have a detailed numbers HUD, so to collect polar data I’ve been using a separate Navigation HUD. Those third party Nav HUD numbers closely match the control panel gauge results onboard CM75. It’s a good cross-check.

With that short explanation about methods, let me say that the Café del Mar 75 turns out to be the fastest cruise boat I’ve ever tested in SL waters. With the autopilot settings the boat easily scored a Hotlaps Handicap of 1.12, meaning that it’s 12% faster than the Melges 24 raceboat. In fact, the CM75 is faster than the ACA-33 and even the VO-70.

Two very different Mesh Shop boats, the Nacra-17 and the One Design 65, have lap times that match Café del Mar 75, and the only boats that beat CM75 are the high-end ocean racers built by WildWind.  

Yikes! Next time you sail this boat, make sure to bring racing gloves and a lifeline! It’s FAST.

The polar plot below details the boat’s speedy performance. It plots boat speed under autopilot conditions with a Real Wind Speed of 15 knots. The data for Café del Mar is shown in purple, and the Bandit 50 results are shown for comparison in green.

Bandit and Cafe polars

As you can see, on every point of sail the CM 75 is faster than Bandit 50, and on a reach the CM 75 even exceeds Real Wind Speed. This kind of performance in a cruiser may seem unnatural, but please remember that this is a ‘Concept Boat.’ It’s more about what’s possible than what’s present. 🙂

Summary

The Café del Mar 75 is the latest release by Mesh Meister Kain Xenobuilder. It’s a 75 foot mesh Cruiser with a modern, angular design and many authentic and innovative sailing features. The boat is suitable for a skipper plus three crew, and there’s extensive space as well as over two dozen animations to accommodate everyone on a long voyage.

The Café del Mar 75 is powered by the new BWind 2.5 wind engine and it has options to share sailing tasks (sheet adjustment and even steering) between skipper and crew.

The boat is full of features that any sailor will like, including mesh sails with visible and audible luffing effects, working telltales, and realistic analog display gauges. It also has an Autopilot that will automatically take over most of the sailing work for you.

And for those cruisers who always want to sail at the head of the fleet, the performance of this boat will be a pleasant surprise. It is easily one of the fastest cruising boats ever built in SL.

Go try the Cafe del Mar 75 out for yourself; there are demos you can sail of Café and all the other Mesh Shop creations over in Tschotcke sim in Second Life.

CM75 002

harpoon

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