I just got back from Holidays and saw the pre-version had been released so I decided to take the plunge.
It looks very promising: the overall look and feel is good, the boat behaviour seems quite realistic (at the default settings anyways...) and the sea looks quite good. The rendering is also very smooth (constant 60fps at 2560x1600 resolution and 8x multisampling on my less than cutting edge hardware), so that should leave a lot of room for rendering detailed scenery. The boats are also nicely modeled and textured although the level of detail could be higher, all the important features seem to be well represented.
However it quickly becomes obvious that a number of things aren't quite finished yet, I'll try to break down my feedback in different areas:
The scroll wheel menu operation did throw me off at first but I think it will be useful for advanced users as it can potentially be faster than clicking on the buttons.
The layout and operation of the buttons is really nice but, there really needs to be a way to tell where the seetting is at: it's mostly ok for the sheets but for controls with more subtle effect (such as outhall, downhall, etc...) it's really hard to tell where the setting is at an I found myself draging the mouse around trying to see what it did. Having a small bar on the button itself showing the current setting would be a great start and maybe having it expand during drag to allow precise setting would be great.
Also found a minor glitch with the vector window: the second mode (wind direction up as opposed to bow up) shows the boat pointing the wrong way.
The game setup menus are also nice and clean, the only issues I have seen so far are that the Units option is currently mis-spelled: it says "Unis"; and I also found that when setting custom waves it was impossible to type a decimal.
Waves look really good however the wind is totally invisible: being able to see windshifts and gusts by looking at the sea surface is a really important part of sailing and I wish it was represented.
The spray is the best I have seen in any game by quite a bit: it also gets blown/deflected in a convincing way.
No transparent water? It would be nice to see the parts of the boat that are underwater from above the surface and respectively; also being able to see the bottom in shallow areas woudl be nice; I am assuming this hasn't been implemented yet...
Also there is currently no 3D wake, again I am assuming this is coming as it was implemented in SS4...
The sails look great and the shape is really dynamic and moves with waves etc and the luffing also looks quite convincing.
The only strange thing I have seen with the shape is that the curvature of the jib seems to change depending on the apparent wind angle which doesn't look quite right: when bearing off with the jib sheeted in tight, the foot of the sail curves in an unatural way and the sheet isn't tangent to the sail at the clew anymore.
It is really hard to trim the sails properly without teltales so these would really add a lot to the game.
A couple other minor issues (these are only becoming obvious because everything else looks so good but): the headsail doesn't interact with the rest of the rigging (spreader bars, mast, shrouds etc...) also slack sheets hangs down through the deck and don't interact with water.
Also, adjusting the backstay doesn't seem to cause the headsail luff to curve.
Boat handling/performance realism:
The feel is really good with winds up to about 10kt, however things get increasingly strange with increasing wind strength.
I cranked up the wind to 70kt and was able to sail the YD-40 upwind with full main and jib, heeled over at about 70 degrees while achieving 12kt of boat speed and still being able to control the heading... I could also sustain boat speeds in excess of 40kt going downwind and could control the boat with minimal input.
I also shattered the world sailing speed record with the VOR: exceeding 61kt of boatspeed (although I did broach shortly after).
It seems that the performance of the boats increases mostly linearly as the wind speed increases and the effects of hull speed don't seem to be taken into account which yields strange results even with moderate wind speeds (the YD can easily sustain speeds of over 15kt in only 25kt of wind).
Anyways, that's a lot of words and I realize that it probably sounds quite negative but its just that it's easier to point out what needs improvement than what is just right.
Looking at this as a work in progress, it definitely has huge potential and is very close to being the best out there already so I will definitely be lookign forward to updates.
This is lookign set to be a worthy successor ot SS4.
Keep up the good work Stentec!