SAILX is a sailing simulator used by racers around the world. It’s free and is a great training tool that challenges one to use many of the same skills needed to do well in races out on Port Townsend Bay. Most races take between five and ten minutes and you are actually racing in a one-design fleet against other sailors at home on their computers. Races occur 24 hours a day and fleets could be as small as three boats or as big as fifty.
The system models wind, including wind shifts, and current, which change for every race. There are four different types of boats that also change regularly: a big keel boat, a catamaran, a laser, and a viper640. Each behaves differently in terms of acceleration, time it takes to tack, fastest sailing angle, and use of spinnaker.
No special equipment is needed on your computer. The boat is controlled via keys on your regular keyboard (I have found, however, that the boat is more responsive with a wired keyboard rather than a wireless one). While you are learning you will be in “ghost mode”, which means the you race like normal but if you crash into someone else it won’t effect them. Once you have some experience you exit ghost mode and you get a world ranking.
The system knows the rules. So if there is a collision, for example, it will flag the party at fault who will be required to do a 360 or be disqualified, and it will show the rule that was broken in a text window. Help is available on the SAILX web site and there hare a number of videos on YouTube that can be very helpful too, especially when you are just starting out.
I have been finding it both fun and challenging and I think the experience it provides will be a big help when the PTSA racing season gets underway.
Jim Heumann (Thatuna)