Wednesday, January 29, 2014

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A New J Class


Story by Roan Blackburn for iWinds photos iSailimages/Don Beritos
Today if you missed the launch of the New J Class to enter the grid of SL Sailing here in the Builders own words is todays christening in the Fruit Islands.
Craig Ktaba: Thank you - thank you all for coming.

Thank you all for coming today. I am grateful for your interest in my work. I can't possibly name every one who has assisted at some point along the way to make this happen, but there are a few people who deserve special mention: Joy, Isis, Maria, Trever, Tod, and IrishGent, Brendan, Drak, and Noodle. I am deeply grateful to all of you, the best team of beta testers in Second Life.

The J-Class, as most of you know, may be the most iconic racing yacht ever built. If you ask any sailor about "classic America's Cup yacht", the image in their mind is probably a J-Class. So, when I decided that my next project was to be a J-class, I knew that I would be contending with that reputation, and that whatever I did, it would be measured against that high standard.

My goals were simple... to bring an icon to the sailors of Second Life, and make them believe. I know sailors are free spirits, and dreamers, and the sailors of SL are no different, and in many ways even bigger dreamers than rl sailors. I know it's not just the boat, but we like to look good, and feel good when we're on the water. We swell with pride when other skippers hail us to admire our yachts, and salute us with their horns.

: The Ktaba J-Class, "Vanya", is built for sailors, to be sailed, and to be raced, but most importantly, that the skipper crew *feel* good, and feel *free* when at the helm. From the beginning, I wanted Vanya to be an immersive sailing experience that brings the freedom and bliss of a real sailboat to the sailors of SL.
We all know that SL was made so that people could build dreams. However, we also know that Second Life places restrictions on the dreams we build, and it's not always straightforward, or easy to bring a dream to life in SL. The difference between a good build, a great build, and a real, living dream is almost always in the details. So, let me walk you through a few of the many details you will find in Vanya...

Beginning with the skipper, to help you find your sea legs, your pose when heeled over is from an iconic photograph of Captain Charles Nicholson at the helm of Candida, peering out over the waves beneath the boom. Imagine yourself as a real J-Class captain would, defending your prize from challengers, or seeking to take it from a defender. Your crew also has a variety of custom-made animations, from sitting in the topmost spreaders, to "rail meat" on the windward beam, and mermaids lounging on the bow.

Everything about the way this boat sails is designed to bring you the real life experience of sailing the J-Class. A great example of this is the fact that the boom gybes on apparent wind, not when the stern passes through the wind.

You may also notice that Vanya is lavishly fitted with authentic hardware... a tall ship's binnacle and helm, a variety of cleats, blocks, chocks, and winches, deck lines, winch lines, and running stays. All the sailing hardware you see is not there merely for decoration - it all works! The lines are tied off at the cleats, coil around the winches, and hold fast, or let loose as they would on a real J-Class. The leeward stays gently flex as the boom is let out, and the windward jib sheets hang loosely around the mast. The jibs are tied with sailor's hitches, and the mainsheet reeves its way through a fiddle-block, which glides along its traveler.

On Vanya, you will notice many "firsts" in SL. As you raise the sails and begin your journey, you will see a real bow wave forming along the length of the boat. Your sonar will also come alive, helping you find your way through the shallow seas of SL. The sheets and stays respond to every motion of the boom and sails. As you gather speed, Vanya begins to roll, pitch, and yaw as the waves slam into her hull. When you raise the spinnaker, you will be able to trim her on both axes, with the pole and the sheet, just like a real spinnaker. Most of all, you will notice that Vanya sails as smooth as silk, crashes are rare, you should experience very little lag.

For every "first" you do see on Vanya, there is a "first" you don't see as well. If you could look into Vanya's engine, you would see a number of algorithms and logic that will not be found anywhere else ion SL. The wave algorithm I just mentioned is mathematically modeled after real wave motions. The frequency, force, and effects of waves depends on your speed, heading, and the direction of the wind and currents. The polars are dynamic, and also change according to the wind speed, and the sail plan. Vanya rewards clear-thinking skippers and crews.

.............:but her engine is still one of the smallest, most efficient, and most powerful. You might sail all day before you notice that you haven't crashed, and barely hiccuped as you crossed 100 sims.

I am only scratching the surface, and there is so much more to see, to do, and to feel on a Vanya. Thank you again for coming today - I am grateful for your interest. SAIL! Enjoy life! Have fun! Be FREE!!! And fair winds!!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

ETNZ: Back to the Extreme Sailing Series

I was asked by the J Class association to film the J Class sloops racing during the St.Barths Bucket this past winter. This was a historic event for the class as they had not had so many J's race together in decades. A J class yacht is roughly 140 ft long, has a mast height of about 170ft and takes a crew of 30 to push these 150 ton yachts around the track. It was quite a sight to see these boats racing together off St.Barths. A big thank you to the owners of the yachts and the J Class association for hiring me to shoot the event, to Greg from Caribbean Helicopters for his great flying skills and perseverance in getting to St.Barths to enable me to film the action from the air. And to Halsey Fulton, my assistant and editor who is always ready to drive the chase boat, haul the gear, set it up, double check my actions, edit the piece and does it with the best attitude.
We chartered a chase boat for two of the four racing days, spent one day filming on board Rainbow (bedankt Chris) and shot from the air on the last and breeziest day of the event.
We had great conditions to shoot the event and enjoyed filming the action of such amazing boats sailing in one of the best events anywhere. Looking forward to the 2014 St.Barths Bucket and hoping for a few more J's!