As this screen shot shows, SailSim is much richer visually than Points of Sail, as well as offering much more control and therefore encouraging more learning about points of sail, sail control, steering, etc. Here are primary features:
- Wind direction (represented by blue arrows in four corners) is set by rotating an iPhone or iPad with built-in compass, or manually by tapping the screen area from which you want the wind to blow.
- Wind speed is set by sliding a finger up or down on the speed control bar on the left.
- The wind direction and speed are given numerically at upper left.
- The point of sail is labeled at upper right.
- Other information at right: boat speed, angle of heel, leeway off heading, number of reefs in sails.
- In auto mode (indicated on screen by the A at bottom) the sail positions and reefing changes automatically as you change direction (by moving the tiller or wheel) or wind speed.
- In manual mode the jib and mainsail are both manually set by sliding your finger up or down on the jib sheet and mainsheet (simulating letting out or bring in the sheets) - such that you have to do your own trimming depending on how you've turned relative to the wind.
- The centerboard indicator shows the ideal position of the centerboard for the present point of sail.
- The small boat outline at upper left shows the angle of heel for the present conditions.
The two simulation modes allow for two types of teaching. In the auto mode, for example, just set the wind direction and speed and move the tiller or wheel to turn the boat, and the sails move automatically into the right positions and you can see the effects of the variables involved on sail trim, boat speed, heel, etc. In other words, you learn how everything ideally works together.
In the manual mode, you have to trim the sails yourself while steering to achieve the best results in different conditions. This is more challenging and requires putting into practice the principles you've learned from the auto mode demonstration of how things ideally work.
SailSim offers a lot more options, including the ability to change boat types and dimensions (using the iDevice Settings screen and the app's modeling page) in order to model the sailing characteristics of a wide range of sailboats. All these options make it a rather complex program - though it's relatively easy just to use the default boat and get started right off.
SailSim is a bit tricky to operate on the small screen of an iPhone or iPod Touch, especially if you have large fingers. Sliding your finger up and down the tiny sheets takes practice, and if you accidentally move your finger you might change the wind direction or speed accidentally and suddenly your tack abruptly, inexplicably changes. Once you get the hang of it, it works pretty well, but this is not something a child will be able to manage without help from an experienced user.
It would be nice if the app included help screens or info to help you learn the basic functions - some of which you may not even figure out on your own without watching the YouTube video that demonstrates how all they all work.
Among sailing instructors there is some debate about the best way to learn points of sail, sail trim, and how the boat behaves: classroom and explanation vs. getting out on the water immediately and learning from experience. Without entering that debate, I'd suggest that people do have different learning styles, and for some, the SailSim app will be a helpful way to learn some fundamentals. The Points of Sail app, much less so.
For an experienced sailor, SailSim is fun for a while rather than instructive - but it may not hold your attention long. It's not a game and doesn't provide incentives to keep playing around with it once you've figured out how it works. For iPad and iPhone owners, however, the Little Sailor app is a great sailing simulator and racing game.
Disclaimer: Soon after SailSim version 3 came out in 2009, I wrote a blog post about it before doing the more detailed review presented here. As of this writing, that entire post appears in the iTunes developer's description of SailSim in the iTunes Store, which was copied elsewhere at review sites such as Podnova.com. This was done without my permission or knowledge. I have no relationship with SailSim or its developer, Digital Forge, and bought the app myself.