Apologies in advance, is a bit of a hefty one! The "challenge" is all written in-character and is actually what I plan to do IRL, but if you want the TL:DR, I've explained what I plan to do right at the bottom of the log, out of character
First proper log in a pretty long time I will get to my inane "in-character" ramblings below, but before I do, just wanted to pop a VERY belated quick shout to some friends! Shortly after coming back to Elite after a little break, I bumped into/reconnected with some lovely folks from a while back, one of whom (Cmdr Arburich) was just off to do a charity event for Extra Life.
Pic courtesy of Arburich@Alchemy Den and Paige@FDev
This basically involved a 24 hour race from one pole of a body down to the other - then back up again - in an SRV. I very briefly tagged along for some of it (head was still recovering from having holes poked in it, at least that was my excuse for wussing out early! ) and I have to say, it was really wonderful. It wasn't just fun but at the risk of getting a bit "Hallmarky", it was really heartwarming to see people having such a good giggle for a really good cause. From the bottom of my heart, fantastic achievement to Arburich and all the lovely people from Alchemy Den and beyond who supported both him and the charity. A perfect return to Elite.
Right - on with the dumb stuff! I popped some hotlinks in to give a bit of background to my ramblings, hope that helps!
Soooo...it kinda happened again.
I am once again sat in the rather well-worn chair of my dear old Clair de Lune
about to do something really, really
dumb. Yes, what else is new.
My dear sleepy crew is snoozing and as usual, I have the jitters about the coming challenge so am sat up here in the cockpit, chewing fingernails and trying to convince basic jump maths to change the rules and fit my wishful thinking! I know, I know
I always say this but I really really do think I've bitten off more than I can chew with this one. It is right
on the edge of being "theoretically doable" but it's tighter than anything I've ever done before. My previous dumb stuff was always "you can do it - IF you can stick it out". This one though...
Anyhoo - going back a little while. Completely forgot! After that beyond-stupid Andromeda challenge
, we creaked our poor old Conda back in through the mailslot at Jameson, 80 days and 2.5 million light years after we'd left. The daft thing was - rather than being super excited and cheering, the crew and I were just kinda quiet - talk about jump fatigue! I will never ever EVER do anything like that again, the mental exhaustion was just horrendous! I'm glad we did it, but it was one of those "once in a lifetime" things.
VERY long story short - we tracked down that loudmouth gasbag
who'd challenged us, showed our logs to prove we'd hit the distance, grumble grumble attempt-to-renege-on-deal, realise he was about to get pummeled into goo by seven very tired, in-no-mood people and FINALLY handed over the title to his ship. Which actually turned out to be a rather swish little Krait Phantom! But that's for another time.
Right - so what do you do after you've travelled an intergalactic distance in under three months?
You go exploring, obviously!
The crew scuffled off, pockets figuratively stuffed with the most ridiculous amount of money from Unicart for some well deserved rest and relaxation. I just have to very quickly say those guys
are just absolutely now my family, I love them all to bits (yes even Flynn
) and would die for any one of them (or get mildly injured in the case of Flynn
). They kept me sane through those godawful distances and I could never ever have done this without them.
And the most ludicrous thing is - standing alone on the docks, as our poor old conda got dragged away for a comprehensive overhaul, my lovely little courier caught my eye. On my own for a while, "afternoon" just drifting by - why not take her for a spin! Somehow I just ended up in her cockpit, quietly firing up that zippy little thing and almost on autopilot I was out the dock and into the cool dark of space beyond. Now, where to go, bit of canyon running, she was built as a racer after all, nice chonky enhanced drags...
I really didn't plan to, but I think I was still a bit zonked and next thing I knew, I was 5k out of the bubble and happily cruising along towards the distant lights of the Bubble Mk II. My lovely little courier is usually my racing toy, she's a bit of a hellcat and runs very toasty, so making lots of little jumps with a teaspoon of a fuel scoop was making her rather warm; but after months sitting on the big bridge of a conda, the courier felt both snug and yet glorious to sit in - that canopy is magical and every jump was a treat!
It's a weird thing to say but it felt really nice being by myself, pottering along the route to Colonia. Wasn't long before I was drifting into Jameson and setting down at day's end, not terrible timing for a racey little courier! I had a pretty quiet evening, catching up with a few friends then settling down for the night. Early start the next morning!
I must admit, waking up the next day freaked me out a bit - opening my eyes and not seeing the rather industrial bulkheads of a conda above my bunk was a little surprising and took me a while to realise the smooth, swish white curves above me were my courier!
Right plan for today - scoot over to the Core and go take a peek at the new station setting up out there! Up to the cockpit, spool up, so long Jacques always a pleasure, and off!
I really wonder if I'm getting allergic to people sometimes - I feel SO at peace out here by myself
Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and it's always wonderful meeting new people; but drifting quietly along by myself, pirouetting around the stars, dancing down the witchspace conduits, all the while the distant lights of hundreds of billions of stars twinkling below - it never ceases to be both breathtaking and calming all at once.
And then you run face first into this.
That big old galactic plughole, Sadge A* will never, ever not
give me the willies. I know it's immaterial that I'm in a courier or a conda - the thing is just beyond gargantuan in mass; but somehow, in that dinky little courier, I just felt SO exposed and didn't stick around for very long at all!
A little snooping around and not long after, I was dropping out of supercruise a few systems over and slipping into a quiet berth at Explorer's Anchorage, the new station out at the Core.
This thing is cool!
Although I'm kind of in two minds - on the one hand, it is just awesome
that we have a new launching point for explorers to poke around the galactic bar, a little interstellar saloon for weary travellers to hitch their ships up to and get a warm meal and a bunk for the night.
On the other hand - and yes, here she goes again! - I miss the old days of the galaxy being a scary, intimidating, lonely place filled with swathes of uncharted 'here be dragons'
. Still - anything that gets more people out seeing the bright lights and wonders of our galaxy can only be a good thing I guess!
Another quiet night, with a little wandering around the station to explore although it's still very much in its infancy, and next morning woosh - back to the bubble. A fairly refreshing little scuttle around the Colonia/Sadge triangle and was very surprised to make it in three days without really going for it, in my dinky little racing courier! I drew into Jameson feeling bizarrely refreshed.
I wish to god I hadn't. I wished I'd creaked in feeling stiff and exhausted and never wanting to go near a ship again! But space madness is an insidious little beastie and the little bugger had found a nice quiet corner of my jump-addled brains to hide in and strike.
"Hey Clara - you remember your Viper challenge? You remember saying 'I bet it can be done pretty fast in a purpose built ship'..."
Yes, I am a certified weak-willed idiot, I'm well aware.
I clanged my little courier back down on the deck at Jameson; and all the way from jumping out of the courier down at the docks, then heading up to our usual hangout fleapit bar in Jameson, I was deep in thought. I wondered how fast we could do a circumnav? I've done a fair few before now but after that Viper thing, it's been sitting there nagging at me...
Surprise surprise, I found everyone lounging in the bar, plopped down, took a breath and:
"Sooo...how's everyone feeling?"
Instant chorus of "That depends""Why""Uh oh"
"I want to try a speed circumnav of the galaxy..."
Slightly louder replies of "You're an idiot""I mean at least it won't take that long""I guess""You're still an idiot"
"...in under 48 hours."
At which point Hal got up, slapped me round the back of the head, Flynn facepalmed and everyone else just looked at me with a kind of "yep - she's finally lost it" expression.
"No seriously, look, hear me out..."
I'll draw a curtain over the next few hours of scribbling on napkins, big wavey hand gestures, arguing and far too much liquid sustenance for planning a complex little trip like this! Needless to say I met a little
resistance but bless those guys, after getting it out of their system, they were in.
So. Here's the tricky bit. "Define Circumnav."
Having done quite a few, it varies. Some call it the cardinal points run; some call it furthest NSEW from the core. Some will say a nice easy run along the outer arms, some will say it has to be the literal outermost stars within max jump range. The bottom line is - there is no one definition - there are numerous types
of circumnav and everyone has their own interpretation. And most all are right - I'd say simply put, a circumnavigation of the galaxy basically runs around the outer edges of the Milky Way.
But I know me. I know at some point in the future, I'll get itchy feet and want to do it again, most likely in some really stupid ship. So I needed to establish a route that is feasible for lets say, 40-50ly ships; has enough checkpoints that delineate a route around the periphery of the galaxy WITHOUT being just a hideous mess; and satifies most peoples' general definition of a "circumnav".
So after much headscratching - I came up with a plan.
Basically, I took the Core as the centre of a clockface. I drew 12 lines, radiating out from the core at 30' intervals, to represent the points on a clockface - I felt 12 points was a nice number. Not only would it reflect the target of 2 days we were shooting for (nice and divisible, and also reflecting the "time" based nature of the challenge), but also gave enough checkpoints to round out the route without it being a messy finicky endless list of checkpoints.
I then picked 12 systems lying on those radiant lines that were sat as far out on the rim as possible while still being in a stellar density of the order of 40-50ly, to allow for a race that all ships would be capable of. And ended up - with this.
Thanks to EDSM for the map
Righty. Here's where it gets a bit tricky. All of the above is fine - Beagle Point wasn't exactly on the 12 o'clock line but near as dammit and frankly felt like it had to be there! The only thing that was nagging me was this - I could immediately
hear the picky nasal types saying "But that misses out the very tip of Tenebris". Thing is - I liked the Clockface setup. It removed personal preference from the equation and was just a "blorp - do this Clara" kinda thing. It made the race route simple yet detailed enough to provide a good lap around the rim of the galaxy. And as already said, the definition of "circumnav" is nebulous at best and highly subjective. Still - I cannot stand people getting all pompous and sniffy about what, at heart, is just a bit of a giggle.
SO - armed with a chart, I went off and surveyed a whole bunch of pilots I know, from squadrons and factions between the Bubble and Colonia, from explorers to miners, traders to combat, even some slightly shady acquaintances
General consensus - stop being dumb and insecure, that's clearly a circumnav.
People will always gripe so I better get used to it! But after hearing the consensus opinion, I felt honour was satisfied so - great! We have a route! But some basic back-of-a-napkin maths was showing that just winging the route would NEVER be enough to get us around the galaxy in 48 hours. We were going to have to map a route.
Which meant going out there.
"So guys... we're going to need to do a test lap first to map, then the actual run..."
Honestly, how I've not been thrown out of an airlock already I've no idea.
ANYWAY - down to the docks, where the Clair de Lune
was just back from her maintenance. Which had cost an absolute fortune but after the insane amount of distance we'd put under her bows, was worth every penny. She was pristine and wonderful and GOD I love that ship!
Fit and ready to go.
Only she wasn't. This wasn't going to be a exploration cruise - it was a race, pure and simple. So we spent the rest of the day putting her on a crash diet - hauling out everything, no SRVs or SLFs, no shield, minimal distributor, the most ludicrously tiny sub-light thrusters we could get away with and still scrape out of dock, mix-and-matched fuel tank combos etc. After a lot of sweat and tears, the Clair
had been turned into a sleek, streamlined beast
that would probably blow away in a stiff breeze, she was so light!
Okily dokes - let's get mapping!
We upped skids and slipped out of Jameson, pointed the bows over towards the southern rim for the 6 o'clock checkpoint and set off. And good grief she has long legs now!
Seeing 82/83 light year jumps pop up in the navcomp was a little bit of an eye opener - even casually cruising we hit the rim very quickly. And so began the painfully tedious process of poring over unicart charts and mapping out routes, a few jumps at a time, heading clockwise up the western side of the galaxy, shaving off a light year here, sneaking down a chain of neutrons there...
I know I've said this before - but anyone who has travelled out on the rim will tell you this; you simply cannot compare Core travel to Rim travel. It is a whole different kettle of very sparse fish! You're not tripping over neutrons left and right, you don't have the stellar density to travel in plumb-perfect straight lines - at its best it's a lot slower, at its worst it's like trying to follow the path laid out by a cross-eyed drunkard on a pogo stick. And for us to make this trip in under 48 hours, we were going to have to shave every single light year off that we could. The route map grew and grew and by the time we'd worked our way around to the north of the galaxy, our routing list was up to a couple of hundred hops!
The crew was looking pretty exhausted after a few days of mapping so, for a bit of deep space vacation - we nipped up to Ishum's Reach. That "furthest from Sol" little system is always a fun ticklist item but for the first time ever, we made the jumps without having to fire up the synthesis to boost the fsd - the ridiculously huge
jump ranges of our now sleek conda just strode over the interstellar gaps and plopped us way out in the darkness.
This view of the galaxy will never, ever get old for me.
Just too pretty.
ONWARDS! And we started the homeward leg, coming down the eastern side. And as we neared the dreaded Tenebris leg, everyone started getting nervous. The numbers on the jumps so far were looking good, it was actually looking like we would be able to do this! But Tenebris is an omnious beastie. The star density is so very low out there and as we were already worried about keeping the route as legitimate as possible, we simply had
to hug the outer edge to the next checkpoint as much as humanly possible.
Which utterly tanked
our efficiency. With every passing minute, the crew grew more gloomy as our lightyears-per-jump stat just plummetted. The route got ever more pinbally, crazily weaving back and forth, forced to make jumps as much as 20, even 30 light years below our max - it was a pretty grim stretch. And when we finally reached the 4 o'clock checkpoint and looked at the overall race stats, we were just teetering on the edge of what was theoretically just
possible with perfectly executed jumps.
A good night's sleep, but everyone was still more than a little down after that horrible leg. It hadn't killed off any chance of doing this, but it wasn't good! Fortunately a few jumps in that morning and we literally bumped into a fun little proto-lagrange cloud - literally! We dropped out of witchspace and BOOM, right there a few light seconds in front of us. Was a fun little pick-me-up and though this was a route-finding expedition, it was impossible for us to ignore.
So much fun stuff out there.
Another day of mapping done, dinner over and everyone to bed. And yet I can't sleep; that Tenebris leg is sitting in my head like a boulder. The worst thing is, it is just barely
still doable in 48 hours, if my maths isnt off - but will require flawless jumping for a horrible amount of time. My rough guesstimate is we will need to cover of the order of at least
150,000 rim-travel light years each day - meaning even with our pre-researched route, we'll have to sustain near-as-dammit perfect jumps. That's easy for an hour or two - for ten, it's gruelling. But on the first day alone, I think we're looking at 22 consecutive hours of flawless jumps! Then a quick catnap followed by more!
I really need to stop thinking about this or I'll never sleep. We're aiming to finish the mapping over the next couple of days and return to the bubble to rest and repair, before heading out to the 6 o'clock checkpoint we've decided to use as our start gate. We'll lay up there for a few days, performing last minute checks, and head off on around the 26th.
Ok I need to stop logging about this, I'm freaking my dumb self out now!
I'd best head to my bunk and at least pretend to get some sleep - we still have the last two legs to map before we swing around and head for the bubble and some pre-launch rest.
A very nervous Clara, signing off.
TL:DR OUT OF CHARACTER EXPLANATION OF THE CHALLENGE:
Pretty simply - to do a lap of the galaxy in a 48 hour time period. The checkpoints have been selected via a number of criteria; the simple fact of the matter is, defining a "circumnav race" is nebulous at best. Everyone and their monkey will have a different idea of what it entails. It's why, to the best of my knowledge, no official race is on the books. I know many have raced it in one form or another - I did a 6day lap in my Viper, I'm so sorry I can't remember your name but a guy did the DECE route in over seven, but that was over 400k with various additional checkpoints. The idea has been tossed around more than once of the forums by long distance legends such as Alot and Alitnil - suffice to say, it's a vague one.
THAT being said - I feel this route is fun, viable for a wide range of craft, not too technical yet as challenging as you want it to be while STILL fitting the broad definition of "circumnav". I would like to thank everyone who took part in the silly little survey I did for their input as to the validity or lack of, of the route as a circumnav - I can't name you all by name here as I really did spam out the survey to so many of you, but I am deeply grateful for your input, so thank you once again! Bottom line - this is just a fun race for myself. It's not for "comparing" or any dumb stuff like that, I just like challenging myself. I think anyone who is crazy enough to go out and put a ring around our galaxy deserves a huge round of applause, whether it takes a week or a year, in a conda or a sidey - you're all legends! :D
Lastly - if anyone wants to give this a go, by all means I'm happy to pop the checkpoints up. HOWEVER - and I know that most ppl playing Elite are generally adults and fairly sensible; this is hardly an ironman marathon but it DOES require you to sit in front of a computer for two days and do a frankly ridiculous amount of jumping - I honestly expect to be jumping for 44 hours, split in two and allowing four hours for sleep and stuff. If you DO do this race, please think about it and make sure you do it "safely" - I know that sounds daft but you all know what I mean! It's supposed to be a bit of fun and endangering your health is no fun for anyone!
Take care all!