Racers on the internet with the popular sailonline know “brainaid” as the number 1 ranked sailor. He has put in yet another winning performance to win La Solitaire. On my recent trip to Noumea, brainaid supplied us with route that was outstandingly correct. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his sailing in real life.
Brainaid Ocean Racing will be doing weather services for Laura Dekker during preparation and her sail around the world.
Brain has been out sailing lately, enjoying the sport we all love, read his latest story here
Montag, 1. Februar 2010
…ist entgegen dem ersten Eindruck eine nette Stadt. Hinter den grauen Fassaden der Hafenstraße finden sich viele sehenswerte Ecken und der beginnende Karneval bringt zusätzlichen Flair in die Straßen.
Die Marina ist beim momentanen Südwind etwas schwellig und die Sanitäranlagen gehören nicht zu den besten dieser Reise, andererseits finden sich hier so einige schon bekannte Langzeitsegler und zudem noch ein paar Minisegler und -interessierte.
So ergibt sich immer wieder die Möglichkeit für einen Plausch und gar eine Essenseinladung.
Gestern Abend war ich z.B. mal wieder bei den beiden Franzosen und habe so einige Geschichten erfahren. Thierry hat bis zu seinem 15 Lebensjahr mit seinen Eltern die Welt umsegelt und sich nun mit 30 Jahren selbst vom klassischem Lebensplan verabschiedet. In Tahiti saß er früher beim berühmten Moitessier auf dem Schoß und jeden Donnerstag spendierte Bernard Eis für alle Hafenkinder.
Direkt nach unser Ankunft hier in Las Palmas ist er einem schweizer Seglerpaar über den Weg gelaufen, die ihn noch als kleinen Jungen vor 20 Jahren in der Südsee kennen gelernt haben, die Begeisterung war natürlich auf beiden Seiten groß.
Ich warte noch auf passende Winde um auch den Süden der Insel zu besegeln, auf Kreuzen hab ich keine große Lust mehr. Die Zeit bis dahin wird aber nicht zu lang werden, schließlich kann ich hier hinter jeder zweiten Straßenecke was Neues entdecken. Vermutlich gehe ich am kommenden Wochenende den Tagestörn nach Puerto Mogan an.
Tell me a little bit about your early sailing and some of the yachts
My first sailing experience was on a small yacht of a friend 24 years ago,
and it was fun. I planed to learn to sail back then, but this got lost due
to lack of time as I just finished school and started university studies.
I picked up the lost thread again in 2000, when we all got stock options
at the company I worked for and we thought we would get rich. Of course
this did not happen, but I had learned sailing on Pirat dinghies by then
and also collected some miles on an X-482. From here on I was addicted,
sailed as much as possible, and quickly moved from crew to watch captain
Today I sail an X-37 of our local yacht club and am responsible for
maintenance and planing for the boat. I also job as voluntary trainer
for the sailing school of the Deutscher Hochseesportverband Hansa,
giving back what I learned there. I sail offshore on their X-382, X-482,r
X-612 and occasionally inshore on J/80 and Folkboat.
Looking for a boat that has offshore potential and is still manageable
by myself I stumbled over the Mini 6.50 and sailed a bit on these small
monsters. I did a one week trip from Stavoren (NED) to Edinbourgh and
back together with a good friend, K3 on SOL. Next to that I crewed a
little with German Mini sailors.
How did you get involved with sail planning and who uses your reports?
This started out through virtual sailing, I was talked into racing from
Durban to Auckland. It was clear to me that this can only be done with
thorough study of the weather during the race. But buying a copy of
Maxsea or Expedition for a game was no option, so I started to write
some software myself. After some polishing this was not more, but also not
much less than commercial software could do. Still there was the
annoying problem of changing weather, breaking your strategy from one
day to the next.
To fix this problem, I started integrating statistical analysis into the
software giving me a hint at the stability of weather situations and a
much clearer view at how the weather will develop in the range of 3 to 4
days. This has proven as a killer argument during offshore races longer
than 48 hours.
Through my connection to the German Mini 6.50 scene I started using my
tools for real life sailing. On a Mini 6.50 you are not allowed any
contact to shore during race, so a thorough weather briefing showing
possible future development is essential before the start. I provide the
german Mini 6.50 skippers with my data free of charge to support them
with their often narrow budget.
Next to the Minis I have provided weather service to Maiden during the
HSH Blue Race, the Pogo 40 of Sailing Island during various races,
Outrageous Fortune during the Auckland – Noumea race, and to the X-37 of
my sailing club. I am always open for requests of ambitioned crews on
longer offshore races to improve my service and learn from their
feedback about my data and real life weather.
When a new race is announced on SOL, what boat excites you the most and why?
Generally I am excited by the combination of race and boat. As I am more
the long distance offshore type, I like races that take at least 3 to 4
days more, several weeks is even better. Sailonline Ocean Race Leg 5
from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro was very exciting, as was the virtual
OSTAR from Plymouth to Newport. Both races went over the weather
horizon, there was no way to predict weather up to the finish line,
making the choice of option difficult but interesting. Of course the
Volvo 70 is a very cool boat, and has a lot of thrill to itself. I get a
lot of excitement out of the smaller and slower boats like the OSTAR or
the Figaro, as the strategic decision making is very similar.
When you decide which direction you want to go. How do you steer? TWA, CC, both, as fast as possible in the general direction, a series of delayed commands?
This all depends on the situation. When there is a pure upwind or
downwind or we are close around a tack or gybe I will stear on TWA
around optimum VMG with a smidge of 1 or 2 degrees towards optimum VMC.
During parts of the course where the weather is quite stable and we sail
on almost straight course, I will steer on CC rounded to full degrees,
only when passing marks or corners I will switch to 1/10s degree CCs.
During situations of great uncertainty in weather I sometimes run on a
course that is optimum VMC with a correction of a few (3 to 5) degrees
towards what my software suggests.
When clear of any coast and to sleep or work I set a series of DCs
calculated from my planned course, if I have a course change of 6
degrees over the next hour, I will set 6 separate DCs for this each
doing 1 degree course change every 10 minutes. I do not use TWA DCs very
often, only when there is a tack or gybe ahead and I am not able to work
the manoeuvre online. Usually every tack, gybe, and rounding of marks or
land are times of steering by hand, initiated by an alarm clock going of
at least 15 minutes ahead of the action.
Do you steer the boat by hand or does your software have full control?
As said above, I often steer by hand, almost always during tricky
manoeuvres and when running somewhere between my suggested route and
optimum VMC. In the latter case this is often some close combat boat
against boat for a single place in the ranking. During open ocean
crossings I often calculate DCs from my software and use these.
There is no direct link from my software to the boat, so all of this
is checked and verified by myself and then set on the boat.
On the last leg of the solitaire, you missed a turn, what happened?
This happened on Leg4 of the Solitaire, I did the same during Leg3 of
the Volvo, so I must be getting better… Here you see how much steering
by hand I do, I had set an alarm clock for the rounding of Lizard Point
and no safety DC that would kick in maybe 15 minutes after the rounding.
As I slept peacefully through the alarm, the boat continued on an ESE
course for 3 hours instead of turning ENE as planned. All my data
clearly showed favourable winds on the northern side of the channel,
with optimization between distance travelled and speed resulting in
passing a little north of mid channel between Cherbourgh and Portland.
After a short looks to see if there is a southern option from where I
was after my sleep (there was none, of course) I changed course by 25
degrees to port at 0501 utc. I knew this was going to hurt, the course
was giving me less good VMC than the rest of the fleet moving eastward
close to the rhumbline from Lizard Point to Dieppe. A tactical disaster,
I had to pass the fleet behind the leading boats, dropping places in the
ranking like sand in the hour glass. I needed place 25 for the overall
win of the series, the overall second, Salmon, was right in the north
where I wanted to be. After dropping below place 100 I stopped watching
and set a few DCs for the next 3 hours.
To my surprise nobody covered my boat when I passed behind everyone
else, and my course brought me well north of the fleet, behind Salmon,
but only surrounded by a few boats on the same strategy. As we where
driving into light winds and the Figaro is not a very fast boat in these
conditions, time to correct strategies was running out. I was just lucky
to have had enough wind to bring me north of the fleet. With the
stronger wind in the northern part of the channel our few handful of
boats in the north soon passed the fleet, and the chance for the overall
victory was back. Here I saw myself finishing in the top 20.
From there on, with about 150nm to go, my weather analysis showed some
interesting weak trough of the low pressure over Iceland passing right west
of Dieppe, right when we where supposed to be there. This would bring
very light airs with a full 360 degree turn in wind direction during the
last 24 hours of the race. This was visible 48 hours ahead, just the
exact location was still variable.
I really do not like these winds, everything happens in slow motion, and
you can’t correct mistakes. In real sailing such situations can give you
a headache, you see others a few miles away pass by if they have more
luck, and they always do have more luck. Still I am very good at sailing
in these conditions, it seems to be these calms that give me an
advantage by having a good analysis of where to be when entering the
light airs and how to pass through. This was almost brutal, one after
the other lost track of where to go, bringing me up up up in the
ranking. This was unbelievable.
One out of 724 skippers did outsmart me. He did what I feared 100 boats
would do when I passed behind the fleet. He covered my position in a
very concentrated manner, keeping himself between me and the line for
more than 36 hours. This can’t have been easy as there where some course
changes and manoeuvres during this time. Winston has my deepest respect
and truly deserved winning the Leg. For myself I am still surprised
this ended up on the podium as 2nd.
I enjoy virtual sailing a lot. And I owe a platform like Sailonline a
lot, as the near perfect simulation of sailing helps me develop my
skill. I would also like to thank all the people sailing on Sailonline,
the level is very high and only this competition drives me to push a bit
harder, to sleep a bit less, to want to see clearer into the weather to
Then I have the feeling that we are almost ready for real racing and
switching from virtual sailing towards consulting crews during offshore
events would be the next step to take. Working with committed crews
during notable offshore events would be very welcome.
Getting our software ready for market is another big goal, often enough
held up by our main jobs (to feed families) and what else can get in
between when there is only two people working on a large project. I
really hope we get there some day soon.
brainaid: Bonjour a tous (That is about all I can say in french)
FR Amiral29: He!
FR_TOULBRAZ: Bonjour Brainaid.
FR Tolerance: bonjour brainaid soit le bien venu ici, fine to meet you here
FR Tolerance: and welcome !
FR_TOULBRAZ: Pourrais tu nous dire qui tu es c x y Ou tu habites c x y et si tu es informaticien c x y
FR Tolerance: Can you tell us who are you, where do you live and… are you computer specialist c x y
brainaid: Yes, I am 41 years old, male, live near Aachen in Germany. I started real life sailing only 9 years ago, so I am a late starter. I love offshore sailing, not seeing a port for several days makes me feel good.
brainaid: And yes, I am a computer specialist. I work for a small company building network equipment, where I am in charge of the software development. Next to that I write software in my spare time.
brainaid: To combine job and hobby I started to work on software for sailing, which I use here on SOL and to do weather briefings for the german Mini 6.50 sailors among others.
more French chat here
650 more videos of Frank Zappa here