Having just come from reviewing "East India Company: PIRATE BAY" I was flabbergasted to find that "Sail Simulator 2010" has NO CANNONS! Well, that's not strictly true, when you graduate from learning to sail the three dinghies and two keel-boats in singleplayer, and move onto on-line racing, the boom of cannon make a welcome appearance.....to mark the start and end of races.
"SAIL SIMULATOR" is primarily aimed at the sailing fraternity as a tool for teaching racing sailing and tactics. There is also a racing course designer which will prove to be a good tool for those tasked with such matters in sailing clubs throughout the world. God knows, remembering some of the tedious, repetitive courses I've raced in the past, this could be worth the cost of the whole program on it's own! The courses provided in the program are challenging and tricky the first time you encounter them. They like to throw you a curve such as a mark just out of reach to windward if you have misjudged your tacks, been sailing a rather weak line, or not allowed enough for leeway. Sound boring as hell so far? Well, let me just tell you that the sting is in the tail. Perhaps the nicest surprise with this program lies in the "On-Line" racing which is excellent and addictive as hell. It tends to be best at "European" times...ie. fairly early evening, as I don't think many Americans have the program yet. Hopefully this is about to change as I recently saw GamersGate offering the program at 50% off, or just under twenty bucks, which is a great deal for what is a truly unique and eminently replayable racing game, let alone all the accurate and useful teaching stuff. The standard of racing is good, and I'm getting my butt kicked as a total Noob. Trying to sail the lazer or the Dutch Valk reminded me what a bloody awful dingy-sailor I am! But just like learning to drive a car before you enter the Monaco Grand Prix, or learning to fly the planes before you get into a dogfight, time spent in learning to sail the various boats well and fast is indispensable. You are not going to just jump into online sailing and pwn all those noobs because you are ownage and have the twitch-reactions of a mongoose on speed.
The game "ships" with six boat-types: A LASER modelled on a standard Olympic-class design. A VALK which is a National Dutch Class 2-man dinghy complete with spinnaker (whose technical name among the cognoscenti is "The Big Pretty Sail"). A 470 Olympic Class 2-man dinghy, again with spinnaker. Then we come to three beauties that even I can sail without capsizing: A YD-40 forty foot keel-boat with roller reefing for single-handed sailing. A BAVARIA 36, and finally, what I consider the crown-jewel of the collection, a Stentec Open 70, designed to the standard of the 2008/9 Volvo Ocean Racer class. A true "Formula One" racing boat with all the high-tech features like canting keel and adjustable backstays. Eleven more boats are planned as DLC (Downloadable Content) for release very soon and will include 3 catamarans (Yes, a HOBIE 16) and 6 "youth boats" like the "OPTIMIST" the "SPLASH" and the "FLASH".
Using button and mouse controls, all the sails and sheets are controllable, or can be delegated to an AI crewman. Crewman weight and reaction speeds can be adjusted since they are your primary moveable "ballast" on the dingies. I really appreciated all the "toys" from adjustable backstays, dagger-boards and travellers to something I have never had the opportunity to use in RL, a swing keel....not the common-or-garden up -and-down swinger such as I had on my Beneteau First, but a side-to-side swinger which counteracts "heel" remarkably. The attention to detail on the controls is amazing and accurately-modelled in it's effects on boat performance. If you are like me and lucky to even get a boat headed in the right direction and stay upright, then outhauls, cunninghams and downhauls to alter sail-shape for better performance won't help much, but for the hard-core these can win a race, and they are all there and working! Steering and camera views also use the same button (or hotkey) and mouse controls (joystick can be included) which makes the mechanics of sailing the boats a "breeze" leaving lots of brain-waves available for the tactics of racing the boat and tuning her for top speed. Nicely done Stentec!
"Sail Simulator 2010" claims to be The Ultimate Realistic Sailing Simulator" and barring setting up fans around your monitor to blow wind in your face, having your son throw buckets of water at you, your daughter throw-up on your lap, and your wife scream conflicting orders and warnings in your ear, I really can't see how they could have made a better or more immersive simulation. Having done a little racing-sailing in the English channel many moons ago, I was transported right back to those days by the lovely soundtrack of rising and falling wind noise, the sound of flogging mylar, and the excellently-rendered seas. That most evocative of all boatyard sounds, halliards rattling against the mast, also raises it ugly head as you drift with bare poles awaiting the start of a race. I also love the behaviour of the vessels which realistically tend to broach on a waveback when sailing at the limit, just like the real thing, calling for a constant attention to the helm. The only thing missing is the "feel" of the wheel or tiller in your hand, perhaps I need a force-feedback stick!
"Sail Simulator 2010" already has an active community with a race schedule and ranking system HERE, and INPORTRACE has set up a TEAMSPEAK 2 channel where you can talk to other sailors while racing for help, advice, to co-ordinate tactics or just plain hurl abuse and bellow "Starboard Tack!" at oncoming skippers.
Should you buy this sim? Well, if you have any interest in sailing, racing or simulations whatever then yes, especially with the great deals currently on offer. If you are a racing sailor or learning to sail (isn't every sailor still learning?) and can't wait to get back aboard at the weekend then this will get you through the days between races. But like any good sim, there is a learning curve. How steep it is will depend on your sailing experience. Stentec has reduced the learning curve for the software to virtually nil with a simple and very intuitive interface.....What remains is learning to sail, and race well. Like every good sim this can be a lifetime learning curve. As a fellow simulator pilot said recently: "whether in real life or on the servers. I've no doubt that some of the people that play here would have no trouble at all learning to fly a real plane." Others who fly comment on how sims have helped them practice skills like landing, take-off, navigation, aerobatics etc. "Sail Simulator" will do the same for your sailing skills, racing skills, situational awareness, and in handling weather that sane sailors will not intentionally venture out into. And all with absolutely no ripped sails, broken masts, hospital stays or expensive holes in the fibreglass!