When the world's attention focuses on sailing's premier event, The America's Cup in New Zealand in February 2003, what has been heralded as the most realistic sailing simulator will be launched onto PC screens in the UK.
Virtual Skipper 2 from French developer Duran Duboi is a worthy and more sophisticated successor to Virtual Skipper, the first realtime 3D regatta game which, in the last two years, has established itself as the sailing video game standard.
Played against true ISAF international racing rules, VSK2 is a must for all sailing fans - and also brings the thrills of this elitist sport to the wider audience whose interest has been fuelled by the achievements of Brits such as Ellen MacArthur.
With VSK2, you take the helm of a choice of four top racing boats - the Class America, Melges 24 and Corel 45 monotypes and the Open 60 multihull - to vie for victory on five accurately reproduced stretches of water that are among the most famous sailing venues in the world - San Franciso Bay in the US, La Trinite sur Mer in France, Porto Cervo in Italy, Cowes in the UK and the Bay of Auckland in New Zealand.
From wind strength and sea conditions to sun, rain, fog or storms, you can choose the environment you want to compete in and can also fix the type of course and number of laps you want to complete
As you manoeuvre, tack and gybe your way into the best position, raising and adjusting your four sails to take account of accurately simulated water and weather conditions, you see realtime displays of race data with navigational instruments showing speed, heeling angle and wind directions. Danger warnings must also be taken into account if you don't want to run aground or collide with an opponent.
There are four race types to choose from including a match race duel, a fleet regatta for up to eight players and championship or tournament competitions. Modes include solo against the computer, two player on split screen or multi player over Internet or LAN. Also, at the end of the race, you can analyse your performance and see where you went wrong with a unique regatta replay feature.
Along with realistic simulation of your boat's behaviour, there are superb graphics that offer special effects such as sun reflection, foam projection, bow waves and wake - and there are even transparent sails to give you better visibility of the water stretch.
VSK2 offers a minimum of 70 hours of exciting gameplay in single player mode and is as close to reality as you can get without getting wet!