While I enjoy sailing in Second Life, having my own Loonetta 31, I’ve admittedly never really taken a close look at sail racing. So, when MarkTwain White recently invited me to observe the weekly Folkboat races which take place around the islands of Blake Passage on most Sundays, I was curious to learn more.
First up, a little bit of background. Folkboats – also called Nordic Folkboats – are a class of sloop-rigged sailing boats some 7.68 metres (25 feet) in length. They came about as a result of a 1942 competition organised by the Scandinavian Yacht Racing Union for a low-cost, easy to sail boat. While there was no outright winner, the competition organisers took the best features of several of the submissions and commissioned Tord Sundén to design a boat incorporating the ideas whilst meeting the goals of the competition. In the 70 years since the design first took to the water, the Folkboat has gained global popularity as both a racing boat and cruising yacht.
In Second Life, the Folkboat has been beautifully reproduced by Analyse Dean in the form of the Bandit IF, which is available through her in-world store and via the Marketplace. Sine its introduction, the Bandit IF has become extremely popular in Second Life, and in recognition of this, the free-to-join SL Folkboat Fleet (SLIFF) group has been created to keep owners advised of Folkboat events and activities, and the Second Life International Flokboat Fleet headquarters has been established in-world at Skagway in Blake Passage, where the Alaskan setting of the regions is in keeping with the Nordic origins of the boat.
It is from the SLIFF HQ at Skagway that the weekly races are run. These are open to anyone owning the Bandit IF, and information on the races is posted through the SLIFF sub-forum available on Virtual World Sailing, together with information on other activities and on the boats themselves. The first race starts at around 07:00 SLT on race days, but participants are asked to turn up about 15 minutes ahead of this, so a count of racers can be taken and heats arranged. A nearby boathouse roof offers a spectator’s stand, providing a good view over the start / finish line.
There are a number of race courses used during events, and map of these are available at the SLIFF headquarters. A typical race session will see heats take place around one of the courses, with the winners going forward to a final race against one another, possibly around a different course.
Each race lasts around 20 minutes, and starts with contestants putting to water as the clock counts up towards zero, and the start of the race proper. During this time, the boats can be seen manoeuvring for position in order to get across the start line as quickly as possible as zero is reached, and the clock starts counting the race elapsed time. This actually requires some skill, and a couple of people in the races I watched handicapped themselves somewhat by sailing a considerable distance from the start line before looping back, the clock already running and their competitors well ahead of them.
Following a race can be difficult given the distances involved and the capabilities of your computer. I did attempt to follow the boats for part of the course using flycam mode and my Space Navigator, but the best way to enjoy things is to watch the boats head out over the start line and sail away into the distance, then wait to see which is the first to reappear around the islands and race for the line.
As the Bandit IF can be actively crewed by 2 people, the races can made for a fun shared activity, and the races I witnessed had several couples taking part. Conversation around the spectator areas is lively as well, with those awaiting their heat adding to the general chatter and greeting visitors.
In addition to hosting the races, the SLIFF also hosts sailing classes for those new to the Folkboat or who have one but don’t feel confident enough in their skills with it to enter a race. Details of classes are again posted through the SLIFF sub-forum at Virtual World Sailing.
In the meantime, if you are a Bandit IF owner, and haven’t tried your hand at the races, why not hop over the SLIFF HQ one Sunday and take a peek at activities for yourself?
- SLIFF HQ in-world
- SLIFF sub-forum on VWS
- The Bandit IF:
My thanks to MarkTwain White for the invitation to witness the races, and to Mark and Nber Medici for their input to this article.