SA52 — Week 28

Hello everyone! Welcome to the first SA52, an experiment in blogging the world of Sailaway. We are starting at Week 28 of the year and plan on some updates of the previous weeks events each Friday.

SA52 is a place for story telling, race updates and where you can hear from sailors about their own experiences within the game. It is also meant to help bridge the gap between our most experienced and regular sailors to the newer and less experienced.

Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne

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As sailors tacked northward, some saw a window of opportunity taking Ireland to port.

On Saturday, the Vendée-Arctique, organized by Black Shark, went underway. The race is a unique and enticing triangular course, which will take the fleet up to the edge of the Arctic Circle. Travelling 3,600 miles, it is excellent for sailors seeking to prepare for the Vendée Globe.

This race follows a real world race happening at the same time. You can learn more here: https://www.imoca.org/en/races/imoca-globe-series/vendee-arctique-les-sables-d-olonne

At 4pm local time July 4th, 49 sailors crossed the starting line near Les Sables-d’Olonne, France and moved northward at a close reach in 10–15 knots. The racers slowly spread apart and night fell before passing Phare d’Eckmühl lighthouse.

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Maneuvering IMOCAs at the start of the Vendée-Arctique

The fleet moved northward on a slow tacking leg to round the West of Ireland, although some sailors saw opportunity in the Irish sea to the East.

“At some point around Belle-Ile, I was 6th due to a bad start (I was pretty hungover, to be honest, and fell asleep with the autopilot on). I was trying to find a way to catch up and well, looking at the weather and routing, there was a possible opening to hammer through the Irish Sea and get out at the other end in a better position (not a 50/50 but a possibility), so I took the bait. Sadly, first I had some issues (I ran aground around Scotland losing much of my lead), then the gamble didn’t pay off as the weather system that I was hoping would push me west didn’t show up as north as I wanted.” — Maender

Maender did gain a sizable lead coming back into open water. The winds, however, were not favorable and the lead was lost as Maender and others moved back towards the pack. Maender still sits in a great spot and should be one to watch in the second leg of the race.

After passing Ireland, the fleet sat stationary waiting for a zone of high pressure to move through. Strategy was important as the fleet spread out. Capitow positioned themselves to the West, Kreole, Knotshore, Toshik and others to the center and East.

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Capitow, in blue, sits to the west of the fleet waiting for new pressure.

At this point in the race there were no major leads as 20 boats were within 100 miles of each other and the top 7 were within 20 miles.

Capitow heading towards the North mark.

When the new low pressure system came in Capitow was lifted into first place and a small lead, confirming their plan and rewarding with a first to round the North mark.

The fleet now travels 1,260 nautical miles towards the second mark along the same longitudinal line as the first (-25).

The Roaring 40s

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The 40th Parallel South, known as the Roaring Forties.

This race receives its name for the itinerary near parallel 40 south, zone of strong winds and frequent storms, also called “the impossible route”, first made by the Argentine Vito Dumas on June 27, 1942.

While the world was in the depths of World War II, Dumas set out on a single-handed circumnavigation of the Southern Ocean. He left Buenos Aires in June, sailing LEHG II, a 31-foot ketch an acronym representing “four names which marked my life”. He had only the most basic and makeshift gear; he had no radio, for fear of being shot as a spy, and was forced to stuff his clothes with newspaper to keep warm.

With only three landfalls, the legs of his trip were the longest that had been made by a single-hander, and in the most ferocious oceans on the Earth.

The Sailaway race started on in Buenos Aires, Argentina, across the Atlantic and rounding at Capetown, South Africa. The fleet then continues East towards Australia, New Zealand, Chile and then finishing back in Buenos Aires.

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Looking North, Black Shark in Yellow, Misterbraat in Teal.

As the racers entered into the Atlantic for the first time two sailors made significant gains on the rest of the fleet on what appeared to be a risky move up the coast to catch the north end of a system. As the system began its own crossing, Black Shark and Misterbraat found themselves downwind at great speed before anyone else.

“I saw that there was a zone of calm in the East and a depression which passed in the North. From the next day, there was a wind corridor going up the coast. I took the opportunity.” — Black Shark

Moving across the Atlantic, the fleet experienced heavy weather and high winds. Ariel was seen at 42 kn SOG surfing down waves, Quimeras 43.5 kn SOG and many others at high speeds. The lead changed several times until the sailor, Tone, took it for himself. He was great enough to share with us an entry from his log on the start and crossing of the Atlantic.

Roaring 40’s Sat 27.06.2020 Start 13.00UTC.

Finished the Arctic Return 2 weeks ago, 130 odd days of sailing.

So, this race was going to be shorter, only 18,000 nm and again sailing the SA Imoca. I had arrived at the start two days prior, why I don’t know.

The weather for the first few days was for light wind….. I did not get the greatest start, late and slowly started at the north of the line a windward bias. Because of the light air I did not plan a course, I just tried to keep the boat moving west.

For 2 days I looked at Windy, no particular course still in mind. Do I follow the great circle or go north? I went north. Most of the fleet went south following the GC.

Now I had to sail fast because of the extra distance and south was full of holes, high pressures forming. To the north two low pressures were traveling west to east, I had to get on at least one of them. Two sailors when far north. I started to track NE beating into the wind, felt slow but right on my Polar Performance and I sailed straight into the centre of the Low Pressure, Result. The other two sailors to my NW were in the low and flying. Turned SE and I was on it and went from 22nd to 5th in 5 hours. For 29 hours I rode that low with speeds between 26–41 kts

1st by day 6. The pack was after me!

You want to know my secret…well you need a good polar being at a position at the right time is important. Check Windy a lot and remember Sailaways weather can be between 1 to 4 hours late. In light winds sail for speed, wind on your beam is best and in strong winds sail slower and do not be tempted to sail fast in the wrong direction. The Great Circle is usually the shortest route between A to B but does not mean it is the fastest..

I learned to sail when I was noticeably young. My father was a marine pilot and I have owned several dinghies from lasers to Flying Fifteens and Westerly cruisers and recently retired from Land yacht racing due to an injury.

Day 12 still in the lead. But still early days.


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The fleet has now began to pass the first mark at Capetown and is on its way towards Australia. Tone was the first around followed by Le Chef, elpatron, misterbraat, ariel, Jdubz, Squeeze and Jaureguiberry.

Atlantic Tour 2020

by jl_lr

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Sailors in the Atlantic Tour showing off their spinnakers on a downwind leg.

The Atlantic Tour has been going on since May 10th, 2020. It is a step by step race that navigates around the Atlantic Ocean and stops at various ports along the way. The tour takes sailors from Brest, France to Lisbon, Cape Town, Salvador, Recife, New York, Plymouth and back to Brest.

Sailors are currently on their way from Cape Town to Salvador in leg 3. In total there are 51 sailors participating. The steps can take anywhere from 3 to 32 days to complete. Sailors are scored through a points system where every sailor owns points that are his ranking in each step. At the end of the tour, there will be a small step between Plymouth and Brest without points to end the race with a great boat show.

Hurtigruten Summer Cruise

by EaglePete

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Left to right: EaglePete, PeppersGhost, Fishandfrog (mini transat), Toshik, PhilG
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The group is currently between Havoysund and Honnigsvag, heading North.

A group of sailors in Sailaway started a summer cruise along the Norwegian coast in April.

The Hurtigruten is the route of a ferry annex cruise ship, which started a long time ago as a packet boat service along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Since the Hurtigruten follows a very scenic route, it became popular as a cruise as well. But the original service are still maintained as well. If you want to know more about the Hurtigruten, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurtigruten .

So, good reason to follow the route in the form of a summer cruise in Sailaway. We start together in a port along the route and gather again at the next port. We have a lot of fun along the way, enjoy sailing together and watching the scenery of the fjords pass by. We had storms, no wind periods with fog, saw snow tops in the early part. When we arrive somewhere, we look on Google Maps what information is available for that spot and always try to identify a bar after each trip.

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PhilG (left) and Toshik (right) exchanging beer and food.

The photo’s are from our trip from Hammerfest to Havøysund. We are already very close to the North Cape of Europe, where we will admire the midnight sun (if the weather is clear). Then it’s onward to Kirkenes near the Russian border.

You can sail this route yourself via the “Hurtigruten (improved version)” challenge within Sailaway.

Polars and Weather Routing in Sailaway

by Barry Ballantines

When it comes to racing, there are two things in Sailaway that beginner sailors might not know about: Polars and Weather routing.


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[1] Polar data for the Mini-transat (available in boat information).

In a short race tactical decisions of the right upwind course and the right moment to tack are deciding between victory and defeat. This is where Polars are entering the stage.

Polars are diagrams describing how fast a boat can sail in a given angle towards the wind (the True Wind Angle, TWA). But these polars can also be used to determine the optimal true wind angle for an up-wind or down-wind course. This is done by projecting the polar onto the desired course. The mechanism is shown in diagram [1]:

A Mini transat in 10 kn of wind would not move forward when sailing directly up-wind. But on a course of 38° TWA it would travel 5 kn towards the wind (also called the Velocity Made Good VMG). By tacking with keeping the TWA at 38° you will be faster. The same is also true for a downwind course. On direct downwind the Mini Transat would reach 5 kn. But when gybing with a TWA of 152°, you would reach a VMG of 5.5 kn.

Weather Routing

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[2] GRIB file showing weather data.

The real power of Polars is unleashed when they are combined with real world wind data. Which leads us to the second topic: Weather Routing.

Weather routing becomes important, when the race gets longer and the weather conditions are changing during the race — like in a Trans-Atlantic-Race. Strategical decisions about the course are very much dependent on the prediction of the wind, waves, currents, etc.

There are a few things, that make weather routing interesting for Sailaway players as well.

First, Sailaway uses real weather data! So it is possible to go to websites like windy.com to see how the wind will change in the next time.

Second, weather data is available for free! The national agencies like the NOAA are publishing their weather forecasts in form of GRIB files (picture [2]). These files can be downloaded by everyone. (Fun fact: in real world races like the Barcelona World Race, sailors are only allowed to use these public available GRIB files, and all weather routings must be done on board!)

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[3] Isochrones and best calculated course.

Third, there are free tools available to do the weather routing, like qtVlm, Blue Water Racing, …

These tools are using an iterative algorithm to calculate the farest possible positions at a given time based on our Polars and the predicted wind. These positions are called “isochrones” and they can be used to determine the fastest course to the target (picture [3]).

Most tools let you export the predicted best course to a CSV file, which can be imported into the Sailaway route manager.

There is more information available on the Sailaway Discord on this subject. Barry streams Sailaway on Twitch.tv, you can follow him at https://www.twitch.tv/barry_ballantines


Thank you to all of those who have contributed to SA52!

This week:

  • Maender
  • Black Shark
  • Tone
  • jl_lr
  • EaglePete
  • Barry Ballantines

Do you have an interesting story to share or an update from a race or cruise? Email it to me at mavrk45@gmail.com.


SA52 is a weekly blog run by Maverick and other contributing sailors, covering the world of Sailaway, the sailing simulator. Follow us @SA52Blog on Instagram or Twitter for new posts. Posts will also be available on the Sailaway Discord.


Sailaway — The Sailing Simulator brings all the world’s oceans to the comfort of your PC or Mac for you to experience the ultimate in online virtual sailing! You can find more about Sailaway on their website or Steam page.

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