Virtual Reality Sailing Training

NauticEd Creates Partnership to Launch VR Sailing Training

Perhaps you don’t remember it, but I do – the first time I was in command of a sailboat as the most experienced person on board. And a self-defacing comment right here – I should not have been in command – no way – no how. I was too nervous and did not have enough experience. I even remember as the late afternoon was coming on saying, “Okay, time to go back to the beach – now where is it? Oh, oh it’s over there and the wind is coming from … oh, oh the same direction – bugger”. Well, we hit the beach at nightfall with no lights on our dinghy and no real way to properly navigate the reef close by.

As Global Director of Education for NauticEd, I’m not embarrassed to admit the above … because, without access to a properly structured education program in those days, that’s just what people did. These kinds of stories have driven my team and me to create the best of the best training program on the planet along with the most accessible training program – and today we can unequivocally announce that we have achieved it.

Over the past 12 years, NauticEd has developed the most modern training platform for sailing training in the world. NauticEd is the only sailing education body to be recognized by the United States Coast Guard and NASBLA as meeting the rigorous American National Standards EDU-3 for sailing training. We have over 23 online courses inside our proprietary purpose-built eLearning software. Our practical Instructor Training Program is the best and most comprehensive. Our Certifications and Licenses are recognized by port authorities and yacht charter companies worldwide. Our resume-building software produces a sailor’s resume available 24/7 in the cloud – and we could go on.

But today is a new day because today, we announce:

Virtual Reality Sailing Training For Everyone

Virtual Reality Training

My friend Lt. Col. Ret. Edward O’Connor puts it best. Ed was a Navy Top Gun adversary fighter pilot trainer. He was the bad guy in the F-16N’s. Ed says this:

“VR training for sailing is a game changer. In pilot training, staying at the top of our game required repetitive training. Simulation training allowed us to constantly train under all conditions engaging all senses and keeping our confidence and competence high and ready at any time. Just like a flight simulator, virtual reality activates the same neural pathways found in real life. By engaging the whole mind and body, VR builds muscle memory and enables longer retention. The real benefit of a VR learning environment for new trainees is that the cost of mistakes is non-existent. This leads to a relaxed and less anxious – less nervous experience. Thus, removing mental blocks and increasing cognitive learning. With NauticEd applying VR now to sailing training, students are going to be astounded at their learning rate and Instructors are going to be simply flummoxed at their new students’ abilities”.

There is no denying the benefit of virtual reality training – we are all very happy each time we step onto a commercial flight, these days, that the pilots have spent countless hours in a simulator being subjected to every emergency possible. The January 15, 2009, flt 1549 “miracle” ditching into the Hudson River by pilot “Sully” Sullenberger serves as proof. It was no miracle – pilots train in a simulator for countless hours for the engine-out possibility of bird strikes. Sully had performed this maneuver many times over already. That day, it was just real birds and real water. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, Sully certainly does deserve his ultimate hero status — in the real situation he kept his calm — he knew what to do as he’d done it before.

Watch Grant Headifen and Ret. t. Col. Edward O’Connor as they discuss the power of virtual reality training – aircraft carrier landings and sailing training.

Sailing VR Training

NauticEd has partnered with Australian company MarineVerse Cup to be the first sailing education and certification program to bring Virtual Reality to mainstream sailing training.

Currently, there are 3 Major Modules inside the NauticEd Training Room in VR:

  • Self Mastery
  • Navigation Rules
  • Maneuvering and Docking under Power

To PLAY, go to NauticEd’s Virtual Reality training course – there you will find all the instructions including the link to buy a VR headset and how to get into the NauticEd Training Room inside the VR app. In July 2023, Meta announced a major price drop for their MetaQuest headset to only $299. Besides becoming ridiculously competent at sailing in VR you can access thousands of other fun games – THIS IS THE EXCUSE YOU”VE BEEN WAITING FOR. “Honey – but this will make me a better and safer sailor for our family”.

MarineVerse also has other sailing games in the app including racing others around the buoys.

Self Mastery

Self Mastery puts a person onto a “real” boat on the “real” water in front of the helm. Eight modules later and about 45 minutes to an hour, that person can be steering, trimming, tacking, gybing, and racing around a course in a 30-foot racing sailboat with full confidence. As Ed said above, there is no nervousness or anxiety because the cost of a mistake —  an oversteer or an accidental gybe — is without consequence. It is called Self Mastery because within each module, the user can spend as much time as they like “playing” until they feel comfortable performing and mastering that one skill. For example, the first skill is to just steer the boat while on a starboard tack. As the user steers, the sails adjust automatically.

This YouTube video shows the first things you will see when you get on the boat (in VR in your kitchen). Notice all the helpful hint boards floating in the air and in particular notice the clock face and the no-go-zone on the water. Also, notice the wind arrow floating in mid-air.

Each module introduces a new skill through an instruction board floating in mid-air where again the user masters that new skill at their own pace. Eventually, the user can turn off the helpful hint boards that don’t exist on the real water and they can start to rely upon the wind vane. The final module has the user racing around a series of race buoys – tacking and gybing to a finish.

Upon completion of the VR course, MarineVerse will API the success data to the NauticEd student’s own logbook and resume, recognizing simulator time and successful completion of VR training course.

Navigation Rules

This module totally gamifies Navigation Rules. You’re on a motorized dinghy, you must navigate the channel ensuring you maneuver to the proper side of the navigation marks – which come out of the fog at you. The system uses IALA-A and IALA-B markers as well as Cardinal Marks. You must correctly give way appropriately to traffic in the channel going as fast as you can to beat the clock. Not that we encourage going fast but the point is to dial in brain muscle memory to ensure proper cognitive learning is taking place. It is so much fun to learn the Navigation Rules in this manner. We recommend taking the FREE NauticEd Navigation Rules course first to learn the rules then use this VR module to gain muscle memory.

Enjoy the gamified Navigation Rules virtual reality training module!

Watch as we navigate a channel as fast as possible with IALA-B Lateral Marks and Cardinal Marks. Although better than watching, get a MetaQuest headset yourself and PLAY.

Maneuvering and Docking Under Power

This module helps you gain confidence and competence in maneuvering and docking under power.

The module first starts out just understanding and feeling the momentum of the boat. You then progress through turning in forward and reverse. You do donuts and figure 8’s around a bouy. Then you begin to back into simulated marinas. Eventually, you are maneuvering in a “real” marina and going into slips. The final sections in the module have you using spring lines to assist you to get into tight slips and then once you have gained all this knowledge you can do the elusive Mediterranean Moorings using both the slime line and anchoring methods. A final section is called freestyle docking where you have to maneuver into 10 differently shaped and positioned slips.

What makes this better training that really real is that you can adjust the wind speed and direction so that you can encounter 360 different situations of docking. You simply can never achieve this on your own in real situations.

Think of practicing Mediterranean Mooring a dozen times right before you go to Greece or Croatia to skipper a sailboat on a sailing vacation. This brings home Ed’s first point of staying at the top of your game. How are you supposed to perfectly execute a Mediterranean Mooring between two super yachts in Greece when you have not done it for two years – sure, you were good at it two years ago but right now, when the wind is 15 knots crosswind and those boats are $10M each, wouldn’t you be glad that you practiced on your couch a dozen times prior?

Below are some videos we’ve shot while playing with this Virtual Reality Maneuvering Module.

So, how do you get started with VR Sailing Training?

Well, this is the perfect excuse to get yourself an Oculus device. They are quite inexpensive at around $350. Beyond that, you will need to get the MarineVerse Cup starter App for $20. If you have a NauticEd student account, start with the free NauticEd Virtual Reality course listed on the NauticEd Sailing Courses page. The course explains everything and how to navigate the MarineVerse App to get into the NauticEd Training Room where you will find the NauticEd Self Mastery VR course.

Does this replace anything?

There is no substitute for on-the-water training and on-the-water experience, but that comes at a cost. The naysayers may say this is bad for giving false reality. (Naysayers will always be naysayers). The reality of it all is that Virtual Reality can be real enough to offer real training, repetitive training, more time with lower cost training, and lower anxiety training so that when the student is really on the water, they have more knowledge, more experience, and are better prepared for advanced training. Instructors will then be able to spend their time teaching more advanced techniques and giving the student real experience with those advanced techniques rather than have a student spending time learning the basics which can be done now in VR.

One can easily imagine two students stepping on a real training boat with an instructor for the very first time. One student has done the VR Self Mastery course while the other student forgot to read the paper book handed to them several weeks ago because it was too boring. For sure, the instructor is going to be impressed with the VR-trained student and that student will learn more that day than the other student struggling to keep up.

Instructors are Excited

NauticEd instructors are fully embracing VR training and are excited now to start with students who have been through the Self Mastery VR program.

Get started today

Sign into NauticEd and register for the free Virtual Reality Sailing Course. All the instructions to get into the VR Self Mastery sailing training course are there.

Why Would You Not?

Watch the video below to understand the philosophy of why NauticEd and MarineVerse have partnered to make this competence training available to all sailors.

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My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.
Grant Headifen
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Last updated on July 15th, 2023