CYC Virtual Regatta Inshore racing, Not the same as being on the water, but at least it is dry and mistakes cheap
By Jared Hickman
CYC Virtual Racing page
I have been logging in and playing with my fellow Yacht Club members on the Virtual Regatta In shore app. It is so nice to get back ‘on the water’ even if it is just virtually. There is a bit of a learning curve involved, and the program has its quirks which just adds to the fun. If you imagine the various controls as commands to the crew, it really adds to the realism.
Aside from some refreshers on how not to win a race, here is what I learned about the program the last 3 race nights:
Lesson 1. The race timer is on the top of the screen, not the one in the middle.
In my very first race I thought I had the start nailed. On my approach to the start a big red count down timer started right in the middle of the screen with a target showing where I was going to be on the line. I thought what a great feature, wish I had this on the real boat. The timer read “0” right when I got to the line, nailed it! A few seconds later a large, annoying pop up appeared declaring Miss Start! That is when I realized my error, the red timer that appears in the middle of the screen during your run up to the start is your time to the line, not the official start time.
Lesson 2. You can look around
In race two, leg one I tacked to port only to be immediately T-boned by a starboard boat that was in my ‘blind spot’. Not exactly the actions you would expect out of a 30-year veteran. I did find out how the penalties work. I was immediately made into a ghost ship and my sails flogged as the system made me sit there and think about what I had done for 10 seconds. It took me till race 5 to learn lesson 2, you can zoom in and out and change the camera to look at what’s around. It is a lot easier to see if it is safe to tack when you can move your head around.
Lesson 3. The steering controls can be a bit unpredictable.
It can fail to turn the boat entirely, or more annoyingly turn it in unexpected ways. In race 3 I discovered the ‘tack’ button. Which I highly recommend using unless you like going into irons on a lot.
Once I found myself coming into the first mark in second place! Unfortunately, I was on the dreaded port lay line. I did manage to see a 1.1 boat length ‘hole’ between the 2nd and 3rd boats coming in on starboard.
“I can make that hole, and coming out in 4th is not so bad” would be my famous last words.
In my arrogance, I turned down intending to aim for the spot. Well the loose gudgeons on my rudder caused me to turn down too far and I promptly slammed into the 3rd place boat. (2 turns). After sitting in time out for 10 seconds just above the starboard lay line on port, I used the nifty tack button.
In doing so I learned the nifty tack button takes you from the angle you were on one tack to the same angle on the other. As I was sailing about 90 degrees off the wind on port, I tacked and the boat immediate headed down to 90 AWA on starboard. Unfortunately, there was a boat occupying that spot. (4 turns). After I sat in my well-earned third time out, I sheeted in and promptly slammed into the boat ahead of me when a jammed main sheet failed to allow the boat to turn down as I hoped. (6 turns). This time I had a great view of the fleet rounding the mark as I sat in time out. It was nice to see the entire fleet ahead of me on the downwind, makes it easy to see what’s going on around the course. I spent the rest of that race wondering if I needed to shred my Judge certificate.
Lesson 4. connectivity and computer speed can be a real game changer
One night I was playing the game, my wife was streaming an action movie, and someone in the household thought it would be a great idea to have hundreds of opened web pages on their PC, all buffering and downloading content and ads. Wisely, the router knew to give priority to my wife, Unfortunately, maybe because it is holding a grudge against me, it put my data at the bottom of the pile.
This spotty connection can cause a delay in when commands are executed, to compound the issue, commands cannot be undone.
On more than one occasion I would give the command to turn and nothing would happen. I would do it again, nothing. So, the frustrated three-year-old child inside me would take over and slam the rudder hard over by wailing on the turn button. A few agonizing seconds later the connection would reestablish. But those hundreds of key stocks would still be logged, so my boat would start turning in a tight spiral of death. Taking out the mark and most of the fleet while I was at it.
This would infuriate the three-year-old child still at the helm, the tiller would be slammed the other way in order to try and stop. This would mean that once all the commands for turning to port were met (usually after a 1080), all the new commands to starboard would start and I would start spinning uncontrollably the other way.
All these needless maneuvers would put me pretty deep in the fleet, combined with the minute or so of penalties tacked on top would usually place me solidly in the back. Good news is I had enough time to go to the fridge and get a treat to calm the three-year-old back into a 43-year-old.
I highly recommend taking the following steps. Do not run the skype meeting and the Virtual regatta program on the same machine and make sure your connectivity is not being over taxed in the household. I did this last night and things went a lot better.
Lesson 5. the crew (computer) responds to your requests no matter how stupid they are.
On a far too regular basis while going upwind I would accidentally push the set/douse spinnaker button instead of the tack button. By keying in the wrong command, instead of yelling “Tacking” my virtual skipper would yell “Hoist” which would result in the crew (computer) executing the order, no matter how much I would yell STOP, BELAY THAT ORDER, YOU BLOODY MORONS.
As I watched the kite, and my dreams of victory, go to the top of the mast while beating upwind, I had no choice but to take it. It was fun explaining on the chat why the first-place boat was suddenly putting the kite up and down and spinning circles of frustration. All I could do is explain that my bowman needed a talking to. A fellow competitor said “You must be playing Virtual Regatta”, a phrase that would explain so much…
Lesson 6. the umpires on the water need some more practice.
I once I found myself in second place going around the mark onto the final downwind leg within striking distance of first place! “I know how to handle this” could be heard in my internal soundtrack.
Third place was over 100 yards back, I had some time to engage. I started sitting on the first-place boats air, keeping a third eye out for the third-place boat to make sure I was not going to give up my hard fought second. The covering was working great, the two of us played the familiar dance and I soon found myself overlapped to windward and passing. Like a good little champion, the other boat luffed and I reacted. When we both came down again, I got greedy and narrowed the gap. I could hear the match umpires saying, “All on me” and pointing out I put my-self there.
With 3rd place still 100 yards back, the first-place boat came at me again. This time I was too slow to react and we hit.
I could sense the umpires grabbing the penalty flag. While waiting for my time out to start and securing the dunce cap, I noticed the other boat went ghost and stopped. The umpires penalized the wrong boat!
Knowing that was not right, I did the seaman like thing and started doing turns until the other boat was out of jail and free to run. Then I followed them to the finish. Luckily third place was back enough I still earned 2nd, but it was close.
In that incident I also learned a virtual Star boat can make 2 turns REALLY fast. If I had done it that quick in the real world, I might be ordering a new mast today.
I am hooked, and plan on being there every night the club hosts. Kudos to those who continually give me a spanking, Flying Lili, Hair of the Dog, Hit ‘em Hardier, I’m talking to you. Fellow sailing enthusiasts, come join us for the fun, the more the merrier. Look for me on the ‘virtual’ water under the Pseudo, Cupcake77.