Friday, February 16, 2007

Clear Air

So if all the boats in Tacticat are sailing at the same speed, why is that some of them seem to pull ahead in the race and others fall behind?

It's just like real estate. The answer is location, location, location. Or as Stuart Walker would say Positioning: The Logic if Sailboat Racing.

I already wrote a post about one way to go faster: find the stronger wind. Another vital key to boatspeed and racing success in Tacticat is to sail in clear air. Don't get caught in the wind shadow of another boat. Just like real sailboat racing again.

It's actually easier in Tacticat than it is in real life to know if you're in another boat's wind shadow. Hit the S key and you will see the shadows cast by every boat. And if you hit the E key you will see a text display of various aspects of boat performance. The percentage shown against the word "Free" will be 100% when you are sailing in clear air and less if you are in dirty air or a wind shadow.

So when should you check if you are in clear air? Basically any time you are near other boats. Upwind and downwind. When you tack or gybe. When boats tack or gybe on your wind. Working upwind you want a lane where you will have clear air. Downwind you don't want another boat on your wind. Immediately after the start you need clear air. After you have rounded a mark you want clear air. Think about it. Plan ahead. What will you do if that boat tacks on your wind? Where should you tack to approach the mark in clear air?

To me this is one of the most valuable teaching aspects of Tacticat. It is constantly letting you know how to position yourself with respect to other boats to keep your wind clear. After a while playing it you will absorb the lessons and positioning will become second nature. Do you have a lane which enables you to tack on every shift and still be in clear air? Should you tack before or after that boat near to you? It will all become natural the more you play.

And then it will become even more interesting because you will move on from playing a defensive game and start to become aggressive about using your wind shadow to slow down other boats.

Be mean. Be nasty. It's fun.

And just to reinforce my message that looking for clear air in the silly game of Tacticat will serve you well when you play the equally silly game of real life sailboat racing, here's an article from Sailing World about Top of the Beat Tactics.

Location, location, location. Be a "vulture".


EVK4 said...

How realistic is the shadow? That alone might get me playing. Good post.

Tillerman said...

Great question Edward. My own feeling is that the effect of being in a Tacticat Laser's windshadow or dirty air is quite realistic, i.e. the amount you are slowed down by being lee-bowed or dead downwind of another boat seems about right. Conversely where you need to be with respect to other boat to have a clear lane feels right too.

But I really only know Lasers so can't comment on whether the skiff and cat simulations are as good in this respect.

Do other Tacticat players have views on this question?

Anonymous said...

In the middle of the Pacific ocean it's clear air everywhere and no boat shadows... Don't you get tired of having to sail faster than someone else all the time? Don't you ever sail just for the heck of it? On a real boat?

Tillerman said...

Hi frankie. Ain't it grand that there are so many different kinds of sailing that can be enjoyed in so many different ways?

And no I never seem to get tired of racing. But yes I do often sail just for the heck of it.

May your air ever be clear.

Anonymous said...

The Skiff shadows aren't correct. When they are moving downwind, they are often moving faster then the wind, hence they should cast no downwind shadow, but only a tail wind shadow. As the boat moves faster and faster, it'll leave a larger tail wind shadow.

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