If you are a little interested in the world of sailing, then you couldn’t have missed the event of the year: the Vendée Globe. The start of the edition was given on November 8th in Les Sables d’Olonne and the racers are currently off the Azores, in the middle of the Theta depression. You can of course follow the race live on the official Vendée Globe website, but if you want to experience it from the inside, you too can race! Virtual Regatta reproduces the race conditions identically, and more than 700 000 players are on their IMOCA at the moment.
You too want to get into the adventure and put all the chances on your side? Then nothing better than to help you with a routing to plan your trajectories.
In this article, we tell you all about how to do your routing with SailGrib for the Vendée Globe on Virtual Regatta, under Android. And it’s all accessible to beginners!
If you are not playing it yet, start by downloading Virtual Regatta
If you are not yet in the game, you must first download Virtual Regatta Offshore. And even if the official start of the race took place 7 days ago, Virtual Regatta has everything planned: a virtual frigate is positioned in the middle of the pack and you will be immediately placed on it when you create your account. This way, you won’t leave 7 days late.
Once the account is created, validated and the game launched, you will have to choose a nickname. And if you feel like it, don’t hesitate to join us in the team we have created: “Team Sailing Kerguelen”.
I won’t go into details about the game’s interface and how to play it, it’s not the purpose of this article, but the options are quite clear and intuitive.
Download SailGrib to create your routing for the Vendée Globe
SailGrib, which is also one of our partners in our adventure, is a navigation application that allows you to read weather files, do your routing, see currents, tides and much more. SailGrib exists in free and premium versions. It is possible to do the routing on the free version, but the routing distance is quite limited. With the free version of SailGrib, you will have to run by very small sections instead of larger ones. The free version is limited to 50NM and 48-hours weather forecast.
On your phone or tablet, go to Google Play (SailGrib is only available on Android) to download SailGrib. That’s it, you’re ready to perform like Armel Le Cléac’h ! Not really, but it’s already a good start.
Switch to "Virtual Regatta mode" on SailGrib WR
SailGrib is equipped with a rather nice mode: the “Virtual Regatta” mode. This mode simulates your position according to the weather conditions, your starting point and your arrival point. Without it, your boat would be positioned where you actually are right now, so of course it’s less convenient to sail alongside the Vendée Globe racers.
To activate this mode, go to the menu, then select at the bottom “Settings“, then “Virtual Regatta“. The “Virtual Regatta mode” embeds the polars of the IMOCA of the Vendée Globe. If the update is not done automatically, then click on “Update polars“.
Now that SailGrib is configured to make you experience the Vendée Globe, it’s time for the actual routing.
First step of the Vendée Globe routing: define your starting point and your arrival point
All routing is based on a starting point, an arrival point (and possibly intermediate points) as well as a weather file. Let’s start with the starting point and the arrival point.
When you do a Dunkirk => Ramsgate, the starting and arrival points are quite clear. On the other hand, you can imagine that for a round-the-world trip, your starting and arrival points cannot be “Les Sables d’Olonne”. It will take you more than two months to circumnavigate our planet and weather forecasts obviously don’t go that far.
I detail below the steps you will have to go through to do your routing as well as a summary in pictures.
Define your starting point
If you had taken the race from the beginning, then the starting point was quite clear: Les Sables d’Olonne. But what about now that the race has started, and you’re getting a little bit further ahead with each passing hour. It’s quite simple: this is where your boat is currently positioned! To find it in Virtual Regatta, you have to click in the top right corner where your logbook is as shown in the screenshot below :
Once you have retrieved the GPS coordinates in Virtual Regatta, go on SailGrib to create a route. You have to do a long press in the middle of the screen, then “Manage routes” => “Create a route” => “Give a route name: VendeeGlobe2020” . By default, the first point (waypoint) will be created where your cursor is when creating the route. Don’t panic, it is possible to edit it afterwards. I couldn’t figure out how to enter specific GPS coordinates for the starting point by hand the very first time. The trick is, once this first point is created, to first place its arrival point and then come back to edit its starting point. So place your arrival point as I explain in the next paragraph, then make a long press in the middle of the screen then “Manage routes” => “Load a route” and click on your first Waypoint “WP_0”. Here you have the possibility to enter the GPS coordinates of where your IMOCA is located (in my case: 31°N27′23″ 025°W55′46).
At each new routing, just repeat this procedure of editing the starting point and place your starting point at your new position.
Define your arrival point
So what if our arrival point can’t be Les Sables d’Olonne? We’ll have to divide our journey in several stages. Not too small stages, but not too big ones either. For example, a route “Les Sables d’Olonne” => “Cape of Good Hope” is clearly a too big stage. But a stage from “Les Sables d’Olonne” to a point in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between France and Brazil makes sense. Just as the next stage could take us off Brazil, then the South Atlantic and then the Cape of Good Hope.
To have a better idea of the route taken during this race, you can go to this address on the tracking of the runners of the Vendée Globe 2016. By placing your mouse on the map as the candidates pass by, you will have in the bottom left corner the GPS coordinates corresponding to this point.
Do not worry too much about the accuracy of the point placed. The Vendée Globe is 22,000 nautical miles (40,000 kilometers) to cover, which means that we are not too picky about placing a point within a 2 kilometers range.
For our first point, I position it right in the middle of the Atlantic, off the coast of Senegal by doing a long press at the right place then “Add a waypoint to the route”, then click on “Finish” at the bottom of the screen.
A summary of the creation of the start and end points
If you are a little lost, here is a complete summary of the actions to be done in order:
Now you are ready to proceed to the weather file recovery and routing step.
Second step of the Vendée Globe routing : get your weather file (grib)
We have just created our route, it is now necessary to retrieve a weather file to proceed with our routing. To retrieve the weather file, position the zoom so that your route is covered by the entire screen, then press the “+” at the bottom right, then “GRIB Query”.
The weather model is already pre-selected and we use the GFS model for Virtual Regatta in mesh 1°. We keep a time step of 3 hours. Concerning the number of days, it seems to me to be limited to two days on the free version of SailGrib. On the Premium version, you can go up to 15 days. It’s obviously much better to have the weather at 10 or 15 days, but if you play Virtual Regatta for fun, the two-day version is more than enough. You can uncheck the Precipitation and Cloud Cover which will not add any value to the routing.
Once the settings are correct, click on “GRIB Query” at the top of the screen and SailGrib will download the weather file.
Third step of the Vendée Globe routing: do your routing
Here we are at the actual routing step, finally! We have our route, our weather file, we just have to ask SailGrib to calculate the fastest route between our starting point and our arrival point. To do this, click again on the “+” at the bottom right => then “ROUTING”. Some parameters have to be changed on this screen :
There you go, you can now start your routing. SailGrib starts calculating the best optimized route.
How to properly read your routing and apply it in Virtual Regatta?
That’s all well and good, but what do we do with our routing now? Let’s go to the detailed table by clicking on the button that looks like an Excel table at the bottom right. This table gives us all the steps to reproduce to follow the routing that has just been done. It is obviously impossible to reproduce this routing to the degree of accuracy, for several reasons. The first one is that Virtual Regatta, in the free version, only allows you to enter two programming points (and up to 15 in the paid versions), but above all any automatic system, which is moreover predictive, has its flaws. For example, it is not uncommon for SailGrib to ask for a tack for one minute of sailing.
So you have to read the table carefully to draw your own conclusions. If, for example, SailGrib recommends a 110° course for two hours, then 112° for two hours, then 111° for hours, with the wind angle on the boat always the same, it is surely not necessary to change the course by one degree every two hours on Virtual Regatta. In the same way, it can sometimes be good to choose a course to keep, while it may be better to choose a wind angle to keep in other cases.
But in this case, it is your talent and experience as a skipper that will do the talking!
Join us in the Team Sailing Kerguelen on Virtual Regatta
A little challenge? How about a race between us? Join the “Team Sailing Kerguelen” on Virtual Regatta to find our position in the race. Don’t hesitate to send us a message directly on Virtual Regatta to tell us who you are!