Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sailing the Clever 23

That weekend quiz was - ofcourse - about the brand new Clever from ReneMarine. It's a cute little 23 footer closely modelled after the real thing, namely the Sportina 680. I've already had the pleasure of sailing a beta version with Rene. This time I met Rene's business partner Jethro. He was in demo-mode and very eager to show off the features of this new little wonder. I hopped on board to see the show...
Boarding completed
Actually, the correct name of the boat is just "Clever". There is no 23 appended, but since this is a 23 footer, that number seems to stick. Just as it does on the Banner 23, the L23 or the X35 for that matter.
So, here we are. Boarding completed. I sat down and Jet wanted me to start the engine. I usually don't use engines for maneuvering. I am much more comfortable with sailpower, but since this was a demo-trip, I thought what the heck and clicked the outboard thingy at the back...
Motoring about
The engine plunged the prop into the water and started emitting that classic hum that outboard engines always have had. Rrrrrrrrr. I put it in reverse, and we moved away from the pier. Put it back in forward (hehe) and we sailed out the marina with the lovely Rrrrr in the ears. My mind was elsewhere. I was thinking about all those times I've done just this with my dad. The only thing missing was the change in the pitch of the engine sound as the waves raises and lowers the propeller. It gets pretty annoying after a couple of hours.
Everything works
The lil outboarder is just a 4Hp thingy, but it was quite powerful. Jet even told me to slow down while inside the harbour. I slowed down, but it was a demo-trip, so I had to see how much it could do. Way more than those famous "Two knots in the harbour, please". After  a bit of motoring I looked up and realized that everything works. Even while motoring about, the flag, the guestflag, the little windmeter and the windex all turned and rotated according to the wind. Very nice. What's even nicer is the fact that they're actually visible from the cockpit. Just like the real thing.
Sails up!
So let's see those sails up. Since there was a working windex, I steered the boat up against the wind to set sails. Didn't even think about it. It just felt natural. RL sailors will know that it is very hard work to set sails while reaching, if at all possible. Sails up. There was a tiny little thing that was weird there. The sails didn't really luff when headed precisely into the wind. I am sure Rene can fix that in a matter of minutes. Apart from that the hoisting of the sails went smooth. Furling jib and main. Not the Spinnaker though. It's a classic spinakker not a genakker.
Classic spinakker
Here it is. The Spin. The shape is super classic and it looks very nice and real. The instruments did too. I checked them to see the speed gain from the spin. There's a hud with some really nice instruments. They'll display just about anything you want. Speed, depth, windangle, apparent windangle and more. Press the buttons to switch display. Very nice and just like they are in RL, except these virtual ones will tolerate full pressure from a foot while pulling the halyard to hoist sails.
Smooth sailing
The sailing experience is quite good. That's partly due to the graphics. Sailing a highly detailed boat makes the illusion just a little better. Note the very nice mainsheet. Sadly the jibsheets are missing, but I am sure that will come in an update. The boat has full WWC support, so you get all the goodies of the WWC package: Wind, waves and current - all with local variations and more. But it gets better. While fully supporting the WWC for racing the Clever also has rez and sail. There's no popups requiring you to acknowledge the windsystems or anything, It just sails on whichever local cruisewind is available. I like.
What I miss is telltails! There's no telltails in the jib, and to be honest they are quite hard to do without in a race. However, the jib is a furling jib, and honestly.... Who'd race with that? Furling jibs rarely have the optimum shape anyway. It's not just the shape of the sail that's not perfect. There's also the problem of having no battens, - or vertical battens. Instead of the telltails there is a leechtail in the main. It seems to work pretty much as expected. If the main is too tight the leechtails folds onto the backside of the sail indicating a stalling sail. Now, this does not offer the precise steering guidance that those missing telltails in the jib would have. However, it does help the trimmer quite a bit. I am pretty sure this is the first time I've seen working leechtails in SL.
If the wind gets too strong, the furling works great on both sails. It even works while sailing, so the reefing options are endless. This is not just an eyepleaser. The furling / reefing system actually changes the power, and this allows you to sail in many different windspeeds. You can furl anywhere between 0 and 100 percent, and the sailing characteristics change with it. Here's a 70% jib and a 80% main. Check the heeling. I sat to leeward to make the heeling more visible. The crew has numerous positions and they influence the heeling. 
Here's what the heel looks like with a 100% sail area! It seems the VPP in this boat is quite comprehensive. The best thing is that even with all this math going on "under the hood", the sailing remains smooth and realistic. The steering is precise and swift, though somewhat different from other boats. Pulling the tiller makes the boat turn until you actively put the tiller back in the middle. This will require a little getting used to. However, when you think about it, it is a step towards more realistic sailing. Boats are not cars. Boats don't have autocentering of the wheels. Hey, they don't have any wheels at all.  
Refreshing boat
Back at Tradewinds, I gotta admit, this was a very nice and refreshing little demo-trip. So many things are done right in this build. It's a very nice little day-cruiser. I write daycruiser deliberately. There's no nav lights for night sailing. Mind you there's room below deck for a cozy weekend for two. Not only that. There's full WWC, so let's see some racing. That'll be fun,  - even with that furling jib. This adds another trimming option for the racing crew to play with. Racing on a boat with this level of realism makes the experience so much more immersive. I am almost glad it's winter and the RL sailing is over. That means I can go sail this one...

More on ReneMarines website, right here.


  1. Seems like this boat will be the next looneta after all, so many already on the blake sea and on Lcc cruises:) yesterday at least 2 did it! and they are fast, yes they are!

    1. If it catches on it is well deserved. Rene has done an really nice job with this one.

  2. Thankfully the Clever stays true to her RL character and isn't too fast or hooliganish like the M24. Just a nice little coastal cruiser, exactly the right stuff for cruises. I'm still at odds with the steering system, often forgetting to press both arrows to stop it from turning ... but slowly getting better.

  3. Well, on the last lcc sunday cruise there where already more clever's then loonetas;)


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