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Board » General Discussion » Email to Commodore McIrvine RORC re action against SOL, 9 August 2009

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As many of you know the RORC took legal action yesterday to prevent SOL running its variant of the Fastnet race. As a consequence, I have written an email this morning to Commodore McIrvine with a copy to Seahorse Magazine (the publicly available magazine of the RORC).

Below is what I have said. I just wanted y'all to know and, of course, hope you think it was the right thing to do!!

In response to comments in chat, please know that the content of this post may be copied/pasted wherever you consider it appropriate.

All I ask is that you don't bring SOL or RainbowChaser into disrepute in so doing, you attribute the letter to RainbowChaser, and you put up a post indicating where the letter can be found on other sites etc or where it has been sent.


Dear Commodore McIrvine

My name is <full name> and these days I am mostly housebound as I have become disabled with parkinson's disease, which brought short my working life.

One of the ways in which I keep my brain active is to sail in the virtual world.

I am extremely distressed to learn that the Royal Ocean Racing Club ("RORC") chose to flex its muscles via lawyers to prevent my “sailing” in a race yesterday being run by a very small Swedish company called Sailonline (“SOL”).

While I can appreciate that the RORC may well have contracted to pay or be paid to give its name and that of The Fastnet Race to Virtual Regatta ("VR"), a French company, let me explain why RORC's actions yesterday were very wrong.

VR is an organisation running a childlike point-and-click sailing game(s) on the internet. Its owner, Many Players, run many such games in different sports. The games appeal to those who like point and click games that don't require much thought. The VR games no doubt lead people to think that sailing is extremely simple. In order to succeed at VR you need to buy in to various options that will let you fix a TWA, pick a range of sails, set way points etc. Without these additional tools you can't do well. VR claims to have tens of thousands of sailing members, but the reality is very different. In The Fastnet now, for example, at no time have I seen more than 7,700 people logged in. Mind you, if they have all paid the approx £20 for the options, VR still has made £154,000!

I started sailing on VR in 2008 with some other like-minded aviation chums in the virtual Volvo Ocean Race Game ("VORG") and by the end of that race, there was a ghost fleet of unskippered virtual yachts in excess of 130,000. It became a joke as one could be overtaken or subsequently overtake this large phantom group, thereby jumping ones own yacht way up the rankings!! VR is French, the forums on the site are in French and if you try to ask a question of its alleged Customer Services (in French or English) you don't get any reply – not even an automated one. I am still waiting for replies from VORG to questions from last year!! As for weather updates? Well every 12hrs a wind grid is downloaded to the screen and that grid applies without variation for the subsequent 12hrs. If, as I learned, you try and anticipate forecast winds by looking to the 12hr 24hr 36hr predictions you will come a cropper because, naturally, by the time the 12hrs to the next update has elapsed the weather has moved on, so forget realism!! For the Fastnet race VR promised tidal currents in the game – they are not yet available. The game hangs several times a day, and during VORG was down for many hours at a time.

That the RORC has associated itself with such an organisation is a great pity because it will do nothing but lower people's opinion of the RORC itself.

Let me now tell you a little about what I know of SOL.

It is small organisation and its business is yachting software. To sail its virtual races does not require the payment of any money. All yachts in each race perform equally according to the boat polar displayed on screen. If you wish to join the SOL Yacht Club you gain no sailing advantage – your results, however, are collated in a spreadsheet so you can learn your ranking. No amount of money will afford you preferential treatment (no extra sails etc). The races it holds are currently raced by up to 1,000 people around the globe, many of whom race or have raced in reality. The site is initially quite complex because it IS virtual sailing. You need to learn basic marine navigation – reading a boat polar is key, understanding how to plot courses is also key – but you don't have to leave SOL to get help. While there are chat functions in other languages, the main chat is in English and over the few weeks I have been sailing on SOL people from many different countries have joined in to help me understand how to read a polar, how to calculate hullspeed when given wind speed and TWA etc.. I don't say that I now could navigate in reality from this (although I have experience of both land and air navigation in my past) but I have a genuine sense of having learned a little about sailing. Weather updates are downloaded every 6hrs and are maintained on the site on-the-run in 10-minute slots, i.e., every 10mins the weather moves on, as it does in reality - so you have to be on your toes, as you would in your own real-world vessel.

So now to the fiasco that the SOL version of the Fastnet race course turned out to be yesterday. It was perhaps an error for SOL to reference the Rolex Fastnet race initially in its promotion of its own variant of the race, but as the Fastnet race is known globally and many people use it in their merchandising of products and services, I personally see nothing wrong but in any event, SOL changed the name of their virtual race. On the morning of 9 August, then, our SOL yachts (based on a 90 foot monohull) were teleported to the start in Cowes (btw the VR yachts started south of the Isle of Wight!!) because of the legal intervention from RORC the race name became the Cowes Plymouth challenge, and because the RORC forbade even the course being used, the course was changed. SOL did everything it could to change the nature of the race it wanted to run. In the end the race was stopped. Why? Because RORC had retained lawyers to make this happen.

The consequences of this action, against a tiny company which runs a very professional virtual sailing engine respected by many real-life sailors, is to bring the RORC into ridicule and disrepute around the globe. SOL maybe small, and its racing base only some hundreds, but they represent real-life sailors from Saudi Arabia to the USA, from Australia to Germany. The reputation of RORC by its action yesterday against SOL will surely be tarnished. Some of the comments about British bad sportsmanship were embarrassing to read. I know I don't stamp on the little guy, I know I respect professionalism when I find it, I know I dislike the bully-boy tactics of big business but yesterday when RORC chose to take the legal action against SOL, I was ashamed to be British because I felt associated with the actions of the RORC.

Shame on you RORC. To act like a bully and side with a point-and-click childlike sailing game against a small and professionally run virtual sailing engine is just wrong and un-British.

Please at least apologise to SOL for your actions.

With kind regards


<full name>

cc (email): Seahorse Magazine

--- Last Edited by RainbowChaser at 2009-08-10 11:38:05 ---
Well you covered so much I gave up reading and skimmed to the end.
The sentiment however,I agree with completely.
By the way...its only a game so don't let it ruin your life.
There will always be some arsehole that wants to throw around there imagined self importance...give them the correct response...ignore them and get on with the fun.
Very well written.
Part owner of Britt-Marie

I posted a link to your e-mail above. Let us all know if you get a reply.

PS It may only be a game, however a fantastic way for those of us less able to still enjoy our passion
Bravo RC, your words reflect the sentiments of a lot of us :)
RC: Well done - I'm with you every cm of the way
Well done Rainbow - very well written and you could tell that it came from the heart. I too felt saddened that we were forced to cease sailing yesterday. I logged onto the VR site & was amazed to see how much they were charging for each add-on. I was also one of those ghost boats after just one leg of the VORG (I couldn't take it there anymore sailing blind)- SOL is so much better in my opinion. I live in Cork, so maybe instead of a F---N-- (is it trademarked?)race, we could race to Cork & back :-).
Well done Rainbowchaser-I am sure you have expressed sentiments felt by many if not all SOLers-
I too emailed them this morning to voice my displeasure at their actions.
Well Done RC ... I agree whole heartedly!

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