This year’s Melbourne to Osaka (M2O) race (Osaka Cup) included three Sunfast 3600’s so the SOL (Sailonline) virtual fleet of over 200 armchair racers were all given a virtual Sunfast 3600. This meant they were all sailing a boat that performs the same (ie. using Sunfast 3600 polars) in virtual winds derived every 6 hours from standard worldwide weather models that our IRL (in-real-life) competitors would have been using for their planning. And because it was a ‘buddy-up’ race SOL showed IRL competitors overlaid on the virtual racetrack.
It’s always fun after a buddy-up race to compare the performance of the SOL and IRL fleets. In most races the two fleets are very close but this year’s M2O race was a bit different due to extreme weather.
There are also some other differences that need to be considered. For instance the SOL fleet starts from The Heads rather than from Portsea because with people competing from all around the world via SOL the start is in the middle of their night. This year the IRL fleet was delayed at the start due to weather and mid-race due to tropical cyclone Iris, but of course the SOL fleet was able to take advantage of these winds and made some big gains as a consequence. Also, the SOL fleet doesn’t have to consider currents such as the East Australian Current or the Kuroshio current. Then of course, the IRL fleet often carries a big wind-seeker to help them through The Doldrums and can often take advantage of local weather cells that may develop.
So, what about the combined SOL-vs-IRL results? I have adjusted for the differences in the start (+1hr for SOL boats), finish (+1hr for SOL boats), and the delays experienced by the IRL boats due to TC Iris.
The SOL winner (Billy) finished in 26 days 11 hours 54 mins and #50 finished in under 29 days whereas the IRL competitors were more than a week behind with Kraken arriving in 34 days 08 hours 37 mins.
It wasn’t exactly a fair comparison this year, but SOL will be there again next time for wannabe Melbourne-to-Osaka competitors to hone their skills in few years leading up to the next race.
And did I mention that SOL boats don’t break even if you slingshot off the edge of a tropical cyclone!
– David Taylor has been responsible for creating the Sail Online articles for the 2018 event. Many thanks to David for his insights and time in creating them.