Starting out

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A number of skippers ask for advice on where to start in R/C sailing.

From the AMYA:

Your first question will likely center around your first boat. Either you have it, or you are considering getting one. Try to take a step back from that position, and consider where you are going to sail it. Most people find that sailing with others offers much more enjoyment than sailing alone. Instead of running out and getting a boat based on looks or price, contact the local [...] club and see what they are sailing. This small effort will do two things: it will put you in touch with people who can answer some of your questions, and it will expose you to what is going on in your local area. The popularity of yacht classes is a highly local phenomenon, with clubs nearby each other often sailing entirely different boats. Most clubs have a preferred class. Yacht racing is highly dependent on the laws of physics, and different types of boats are not close enough in performance to make it much fun on the water.

This is excellent advice.  For me, the next question is, "Do you want to race?"  If not, buy anything, it's always fun to mess about. Other people will have advice for general sailing that I'm not competent to give.  But if you do want to race, what are your ambitions? Do you want to just enjoy club races and try to improve your skills and your boat as you go? Bill Mullica says,

If you want to race you need competition. Find out what types of R/C boats are being raced in your area and get one. It is likely that you can find a pre-owned boat for sale at a reasonable price to get started.

That's excellent advice. But try and start with something that that can be improved. Some boats are slow because they've not been finished properly, especially if a sub-standard fin, bulb, or rudder is involved -- relatively easy to fix. Some 'cos they're porky and overweight, twisted out of shape, or incorrectly assembled, especially the fin and mast box -- relatively difficult to fix. Some 'cos the basic design is inadequate (but see below) -- impossible to fix.

On the other hand, if you do want to race, do you want to seriously test yourself in competitive racing? If so, my feeling is that you have to bite the bullet and invest in a proven, competitive design. You'll just get frustrated otherwise. Competitive designs are to be found at the front of the fleet in any National or International championship. In the UK, the competitive IOM designs are (in approximate order of beam, as of this date): Gadget, Stealth, Italiko, Cockatoo, Isis, Ericca, Image, Ikon, and TS2. In the IOM class, any recent (up to 5 years old) well-built boat should be pretty competitive regardless, and could always be improved with attention to detail. The only issue worth mentioning is that, in very general terms, the beamier hulls do better in stronger winds, and the narrower hulls do better in lighter winds. After that, it is down to personal preferences and the size of your bank balance. (If other classes interest you, such as 36R, Marblehead, 10R, 6M, or A, then again other people at your local pond will have advice that I'm not competent to give. In the UK, the costs of acquiring, equipping, and running a mid-range competitive boat in the classes can be very roughly ranked as follows, from least to most expensive: 36R, IOM, 6M, 10R, A, Marblehead.)

There are a couple of things I'd like to mention here.  First, in some parts of the world, somewhat unscrupulous skippers take pirate moulds from a boat, and then sell hulls made in these pirate moulds.  The practice is called "splashing".  Apart from being immoral, the resulting boat is almost always less than satisfactory.  Second, some skippers take the lines of a boat and produce a "clone", usually claiming to have "modified" these lines.  Again, such clones are almost always less than satisfactory.  Avoid both kinds of boat.  Rather spend your money on a known second-hand boat.

The SAILSetc Web site has a useful FAQs page.


2022 Lester Gilbert