The last couple of days I've been trying out Tacticat. My reaction as a beginner in the Laser races is very similar to that of Tim Coleman. I still haven't mastered the crowded starts and mark roundings but it is kind of addictive.
Fellow blogging Laser sailor (and Tillerman sprog) Litoralis spent most of Christmas sitting in my favorite chair playing the game obsessively and thereby kindly allowing Tillerwoman and myself uninterrupted time to play with his daughter, Cutest Granddaughter in the World. Tacticat can't compete with her as a source of amusement (at least not for me) but it's OK now she's gone home.
I see Litoralis is now ranked 4th out of 518 competitors and is the British National Tacticat Champion. Tim is doing pretty well too and is ranked in the Top 100.
I'm still not sure if Tacticat provides the kind of practice that will improve actual racing performance in the real world. It certainly gives you the opportunity to try out different approaches in various tactical situations, but to the extent that it can never be a perfect simulation of real sailing I wonder if it might teach some incorrect techniques too. We will see.
But who cares? Tacticat are offering a Velocitek S-10 GPS Speedometer to the winner of their Christmas Regatta. Now that beats any prize I have ever won at real sailing. So perhaps the better question is whether real sailing talent translates to success in the virtual world?