As I stated elsewhere in this web site, sail boat racing is a specialised branch of sailing in SL.
If you are a beginner at sailing in SL, sail racing will probably not be your thing, at least not at first. But willy nilly you may get dragged into it, because almost every sailing club in SL organises sail races and they do everything to let you know about that. Its the holy grail.
As Fruit Island Sailing Manager I organise sail boat races myself already for many years on a weekly basis. In this page I will not go into all the nitty gritty of racing, but give you some entries into this specialized art. Some of the who, where, why, when and what.
For those of you who hate reading, below a few YT movies on sail boat racing I made in Fruit Islands and SLIFF Yacht Club:
Who and why Sail Racing
People who feel attracted to sail racing often have some history of cruising in SL and like to test their sailing skills against others. Do you need to be a top notch sailor to participate? Not at all, in principle all you need is a boat you can manage, some basic understanding of sailing and the main racing rules. All you do is join one or more sailing clubs and wait till they let you know when and where a race is held. You go to the start line and follow the instructions by the chief in command, often called the Race Director (RD). The race director tells you which route will be sailed and gives the details you need to know. RD tends to hang in the sky at the start line, but don’t let that impress you, its merely done so they have a good view of the contestants.
If you new to race sailing don’t expect to win in the beginning. It takes time like any other sport before you begin to understand how its done. Always there is someone who comes in last in any race, so try to be the one just before the last one and slowly climb the hierarchy.
Where and when
Sail boat races in SL are held at so called start lines. Long time ago some genius called Hay Ah created a start line which is basically a clock in the sky telling you when the race start and counting the individual times of the racers. It also can set the wind force and wind direction for that particular race.
This start line is controlled by the race director. He or she (its often a she) sets the wind and decides when the race begins by starting this clock. Once everybody started sailing you are supposed to cross under the clock a visible line in the water, which triggers a script and stores your starting time. After completing the race route, you cross that line again and the clock records your lap time. If there is only one lap, then it is your end result. The race line shows the results in chat so you know how well (or bad) you did.
Remember, if you did well its your skills and if it went bad its that bloody lag that crashed your boat. Either way, that’s all, simple and effective.There are dozens of these race lines in SL, since its easy to set up and menu controlled.
Start lines in SL
Some clubs have their own start line, others use the start lines which are placed in public places like Blake Sea and managed by a few people, often connected to a club. The names of these race lines are usually the same as the region name they are placed in. Names like Pacific, Atlantic refer to race lines in the LL Blake Sea regions with that name.
Of course you can only have one race at the time at a specific race line, so there is some need of organisation to avoid conflicts. Most people understand that, but still it creates problems now and then. Many attempts have been undertaken to set up calendars to avoid conflicts and make it easier for participants to know when and where a race is held. An example of such a calendar is found here at VirtualWorldSailing.
A new kid on the racing block is a system where sailors can sail routes which are pre-defined and activated in different places in SL, but not at specific times. Its called Hotlaps, (somehow it reminds me of MASH.)
Nice thing of this hotlaps system is you can sail when you want and your results are automatically recorded in a central database and can be seen by all on a web page.
Hotlaps races move from venue to venue, usually active in one place for about a week.
Hotlaps is created by burt Artis, for more info visit this page
Sail boat race classes
Sail boat races are often class races. Which means only one model of boat can participate. The Bandit IF races are a good example, since its popular at time of writing. So many races are organised with only the Bandit IF, most notably the races in Fruit Islands and Skagway. This type of racing has the advantage that you race against the same boats and the results are immediately known. It somehow also feels better I think, if you all race in the same boat.
There are other class races like the Trudeau 12M or the big boats like J-class and OD65 Also smaller boats like the Nacra, Flying Shadow and even Flying Fish and Nemo. The last two are free boats.
Start line for SLIFF sail racing in Skagway
But there are also mixed races, meaning different types of boats can participate, often called regatta’s. Advantage is you quickly get a nice bunch of contestants, but on the down side its more work for the race director to calculate the real end results of the race. Mixing boats means mixing performances, so a system of handicaps has been invented to correct the race time with a certain boat factor which is of course debatable. It often means the real results of a race are only known a day or so later and published on a web page.
Sailing clubs send out notices in sailing groups to announce their races. If you are a member of sailing groups you will be informed and can pick a race fitting your class and time zone.
Nantucket Race line in Blake Sea
A warning for the unwary.
If a sail boat race is about to begin or is under-way in an area you happen to be in with your boat, and often unaware of what is going on, be prepared to receive nervous warnings or worse to inform you are in an area where a race is going on. Its a bit odd, but a sail race is far higher in importance than cruising, at least in the minds of the participants. No other boats should get in their way and this often leads to hilarious situations or worse when people are bullied out of a racing area.
I remember long time ago back in 2007 when I was on my 2nd or 3rd sail trip, I was shouted away because a ‘sail boat race’ was going on. I was totally confused, because I did not understand what race, where and why. Still I left the area as fast as my sails could carry me, it felt as if I was disturbing a funeral. In other words, sail boat racing is taken very serious by the participants and management. You will only understand this fully when you participate yourself 🙂
An after race party
I spoke about rules. Any sport or game can only function when certain rules are established, which apply equally to all participants. Without rules anarchy emerges and its the end of the game. In real life sail racing rules are very detailed and established by an overseeing organisation and enforced in any official race. In SL its no different. The only problem is the overseeing organisation is basically lacking or not functioning very well. Of course many individual groups have tried to set their racing rules and that is a good thing, but its all very local.
Still a group of basic sailing rules have emerged over the years. Most notably the Rights Of Way (ROW rules). These rules describe which boat in what situation has the right of way. But rules are just as good as the enforcement of them. Its basically the RD and his or her helpers (if any) which decide how much of these rules are enforced and the consequent punishment if they are violated. SL is SL and the only rules which can be enforced are the ones laid down by the Lindens. For a sail race its basically up to the RD or the group he or she represents to decide how much of any rule is enforced. Of course you can only enforce a rule if all participants have equal access to them and opportunity to get acquainted with them and have the motivation to learn and stick to them. Not the easiest thing in a virtual world.
Videos on racing
Someone by the name of Jake SL-Sailor has created a number of very well designed videos demonstrating how these basic rules more or less are established now and how they should be followed.
They are published on YouTube and I urge the reader to take a look at them. Its not only about sailing rules, but also about basic techniques in sail races. Kudos Jake!
Jakes video lessons on right of way
Sail Boat Racing in SL is not a thing for everyone. You must fancy the thrill of competition, of trying to do better than the other, like in any sport or game, and last but not least willing to spend the time to train yourself. On the other hand its a nice way of getting a much better understanding of the art of sailing in SL and you may find yourself a few new friends. In my opinion, sailing is the largest and best community in SL with the sail boat racing clubs as its solid backbone.
May the best avatar win!