Virtual Sailing (VS) has been producing the world’s only ride-on sailing simulator for 10 years. Based on fundamental principles of sailing dynamics the underlying simulation has shown great robustness permitting significant R&D to be performed and retrofitted to existing simulators.

The initial intention of the VSail-Trainer was for fitness training and physiological evaluation of elite athletes. Although this has shown promise, with four sailors at the recent Olympics using and praising the simulator as a useful tool for fitness training, tactics and strategy development, the real value in terms of human interaction with sailing has been shown in recent years to be in introducing novice sailors to sailing.

Perhaps the most exciting area that the simulator is finding extended use is in rehabilitation of spinal injury patients. For a recent spinal cord injury (SCI) patient the thought of getting into a small sailing boat must be daunting. However, combined with simulation hours the jump from wheelchair to water is becoming quite successful, with one recent participant transferring from simulator to on water sailing within 6 months and has recently been selected for the Skud 18 world championships in July 2010 and then qualifying her country (New Zealand) to compete in the 2012 Paralympics.

The essential ingredients for the success of this simulator are: its level of immersion and the degree of active involvement of the participants. As sailing is a complex interaction of cognitive, motor and perceptual skills, the correct balance of immersion and interaction is crucial to an effective simulation. This paper will describe why the VSail-Trainer might just have this balance right.

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