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My personal opinions on what's cluttering up my shelves.  My recommendations are at the end, now updated.  Reorganised under the major headings of "History", "Design", "Build", "Tune", "Race", and so on.

For worldwide sales of Larry's "Sailmaking" booklet (Sail making with blocks) contact SAILSetc.

(Last updated August 2012)


Anderson, John D. jr. A History of Aerodynamics.
1997 0-521-66955-3 Paperback, 18cm x 25cm, 478pp

A comprehensive account, of greatest interest for the detail it gives to the early pioneers, Lilienthal in particular.  I never knew that Lilienthal had a hill purpose-built for his experiments, and that he launched down it over 2,000 times in a variety of gliders.  I never knew that he constructed and used a whirling arm device to test lift and drag in aerofoil shapes and wings, and plotted the results in the modern way as drag polars.  The book in fact introduces the theory of aerodynamics very nicely, using the history of the field to structure the material.  So it has all the relevant equations, coupled with their practical application through the years.  Most satisfying, and an excellent way to study your way into the subject.  Intermediate treatment.

Bowden, CE. Model Yacht Construction & Sailing.
Paperback, 12cm x 18cm, 137pp

Reprint of a 1954 classic. Quaint, and mainly interesting as a snapshot of the state of knowledge, or relative lack of it, in 1954. We read, for example, that CLR moves forward with speed because of the "increased density of the water piled up (p61)" at the bows! (One has to wonder, however, what the folks in, say, 2046 will make of our own state of understanding. Presumably they'll be laughing as hard as we are now...)

Hobbs, Robert J. 1001 International 'A' Class Yachts.
2006 1 873148 24 0 Plastic comb binding, 30cm x 21cm, 144pp

Robert has given us some invaluable and unique history.  His book interleaves a variety of oral histories and reflections with a list of the first 1001 'A' class registrations.  There are some 26 articles, their content ranging widely from recollections of owners and sailors, through portraits of the leading 'A' class clubs in the UK, to background and lightly technical essays on various topics such as early 'A' class mouldings, current measurement, and example certificates since 1932.  While many of the articles are Robert's, others are by well-known personalities such as Russell Potts, Joyce Roberts, and Roger Stollery, giving a mix of original text and reproduced material originally published elsewhere in places such as Model Boats.  The registrations list notes all known changes of ownership and boat name, starting from number 1 in 1924 ('Dauntless', owned by S Preston of the MYSA club, designed and built by WJ Daniels, unknown measurer) to number 1001 in 1976 ('Digitalis', D Lippett, Bourneville, CAE Dicks, D Lippett, unknown).  This is the period of the free-sailing 'A', and is the period on which the book focuses.  Colour photographs are reproduced on the front and back covers, while within the body of the book images are grey-scale.

While the content of the book is in many ways priceless, the self-published presentation is disappointing.  The rendering of the registrations list seems to use a 'substitute font' from the printer which is probably not the originally composed font on Robert's computer screen, resulting in unpleasant readability (other lists are fine).  Every essay page has numerous errors of punctuation, spelling, grammar, and expression.  And while old photos and documents are notoriously difficult to reproduce, there are unnecessary and avoidable defects of resolution, pixelation, and noise. 

I thought there was an error in the lovely colour reproduction of 'pendants' from the 1948 British Empire 'A' Class Championship, imagining they were 'pennants' and not 'pendants'.  But Robert has straightened me out. He writes, "A pennant is a long narrow, relatively small flag, often triangular used for signalling or for identification. But it is also called a pendant, particularly if square like those of the 'A' class."  

An essential purchase, then, for anyone with an interest in the history of the 'A' class, available directly from Robert (roberto.hobbs at

Potts, Russell, & Croxson, Paul. A Bibliography of Model Yachting.
1999 1-873148-10-0 Paperback, 15cm x 21cm, 149pp

A marvellous book.  On the surface, it seems to be a boring list of old books which happen to mention or deal with toy boats.  It is in fact an exceptional scholarly treatise on the development and history of model yachting, dressed up as a review of old books about toy boats.  The writing is significantly enlivened and enriched by what our transatlantic cousins would call some serious "attitude".  For example, this is a quote from their review of a 1944 book by an author called "Creator":

That the author should write under a pseudonym and then take even his pseudonym off the book suggests a deep uncertainty about the value of what he has written.  An entirely justified doubt.

Approximately 160 books and 50-odd periodicals are reviewed that involve model yachts somewhere in their content, along with 40 books on radio control.  Of course, all but a handful of these books and periodicals are completely out of print, yet the apparent pointlessness of reviewing a book you'll almost certainly never read or be able to own becomes an absorbing journey through the sport and an introduction to its major personalities, theories, and methods.  A most civilising book, giving a valuable perspective and a real sense of depth to our sport.

Tobin, J. To Conquer the Air.
2003  0-684-85688-3  Paperback, 17cm x 25cm, 430pp

Sub-titled "The Wright brothers and the great race for flight", James Tobin has written a riveting, fascinating, surprising, and in places disturbing account of the events in the few years before Kitty Hawk 1903 and in the aftermath.  A must-read for those interested in the history of aerodynamics who like their technical content light but appreciative, and who continue to be amazed by the psychology and sociology of the humans (and rascals) who push (or fail to push, as appropriate!) a great discovery forward.  Previously, I had no idea how spectacularly Langley had failed with his "Aerodrome" project, how the Wrights established the rock-solid scientific and engineering data they needed though they never even completed high school, how (almost as a throw-away enterprise) the Wrights designed and built their own power-plants from scratch as well as their gliders and planes, and finally how badly they were treated throughout.

Design & Theory

Claughton, AR, Wellicome, JF, & Shenoi, RA. Sailing Yacht Design: Theory.
1998 0-582-36856-1 Paperback, 15.5cm x 23.5cm, 337pp

Collection of tutorial papers on 15 topics, covering topics in the theory of sailing and yacht design, originating from a workshop recently run by the Wolfson Unit. Some familiarity is assumed with yacht design. The papers are mainly concerned with touching upon relevant points, identifying recent developments, and giving references to the research literature. The material is thus more general than specific, and assumes advanced understanding. The papers are a little uneven in content, since a wide variety of authors have contributed the topics, and each chapter is really no more than a set of course notes that have been typed out more neatly.  A companion volume, "Practice", deals with less-relevant big-boat construction and use.  Curiously, it is in "Practice" that we can read a little snippet that refers to Graham Bantock's experience in the model yacht world.

Fossati, Fabio. Aero-hydrodynamics and the Performance of Sailing Yachts.
2009 978-1-4081-1338-7 Paperback, 19cm x 25cm, 354pp

The most recent book on design so far (2012), and thoroughly modern -- many colourful pictures, many diagrams (on average 3 per page!), and many references to the most recent advances in keels, rigs, sails, hulls, etc.  Attractively presented with high production values, the pages are premium glossy heavy-weight paper.  Combines some quite dense maths with geometric explanations (so you can skip the maths) and as many graphs as you need (so you can also then skip the explanations and make your own mind up), combines old-school traditional content of the basics of aerodynamics of foil sections with the latest displays of computational fluid dynamics.  Worth buying to bring yourself up to date.

Garrett, Ross. The Symmetry of Sailing.
1996 1-57409-000-3 Paperback, 19cm x 24.5cm, 268pp

The material was originally published in 1987, although the paperback is dated 1996. Sub-titled "The Physics of Sailing for Yachtsmen", it is stuffed with equations and graphs. It assumes familiarity and comfort with advanced algebra and trigonometry, but does not involve calculus or matrices. For intermediate to advanced, serious, mathematically- inclined students.  Worth buying.

Gutelle, Pierre. Design of Sailing Yachts (2nd ed)(revised).
1994 0-948646-54-3 Paperback, 19cm x 27cm, 208pp

The first edition was published in 1979, and the second in 1993, both in French. The English translation has now reappeared in print. The text is, in many ways, what Marchaj's Aerohydrodynamics should have been: material properly organised and sequenced, both broader and also more detailed references to the relevant research literature, and more up to date with that literature. If you can get this book, snap it up. The treatment is decidedly technical, but usually comprehensible if your mathematical abilities do not exceed algebra. Like Garrett, for advanced, serious, mathematically- inclined students, but with considerably more detail. The best so far, I think, for our toy boat purposes, but not yet perfect.

Look out, if you buy this re-print from Warsash Publishing, that it is in good shape -- intact, all pages present, nothing missing or damaged...  My copy arrived with page 164 blank!  I'd suggest getting your local bookshop to buy it in rather than shopping on the Internet, it's much easier to deal with problems that way.

Heyes, John. Sails (2nd ed).
1992 0-906754-73-9 Paperback, 18.5cm x 24.5cm, 96pp

Simple introduction to small (but full size) yacht and dinghy sails. Beginners only.

Hoerner, Sighard. Fluid-Dynamic Drag (2nd ed).
1965 Hardback, 22cm x 29cm, approx 400pp

If a scientific paper was published on anything to do with drag before 1960, it is in this extraordinary book. Dense, difficult reading, but the ultimate reference. It is focused on aerodynamics, but some sections have relevance to sails and hydrodynamics. Not only does it assume familiarity and comfort with advanced calculus, it assumes you can figure out what is meant when presented with the very barest bones of findings and interpretations, and you need to have considerable background knowledge and experience to find it useful.

Hoerner, Sighard, and Borst, Henry. Fluid-Dynamic Lift (2nd ed).
1985 Hardback, 22cm x 29cm, approx 400pp

This is the later companion to FDD, and shares the strengths and weaknesses noted above.  It is a little more up to date, the most recent papers it reviews dated around 1970, but has the same demands upon the reader.  It has a strong section on hydrofoils, but otherwise has less of relevance to the yacht designer than FDD -- there isn't much to say about the lift of hulls and bulbs, after all, but an awful lot to say about their drag.  I also found it disappointing for reasons that have nothing to do with the book itself, but with the fact that it only deals with lift.  For any practical aerodynamic or hydrodynamic question, you have to deal simultaneously with both lift and drag.  I've found it infuriating to have to continually switch between the books to answer simple questions like, "What are the performance characteristics of the NACA 0009 section?", and to find the answers in quite different parts of each book.  I refer to FDD far more often than FDL.

Killing, Steve, & Hunter, Douglas. Yacht Design Explained.
1998 0-393-04646-X Hardback, 26cm x 21cm, 256pp

Finally, the best introduction to yacht design yet published.  The book is for the curious, interested sailor who wants a thoroughly illustrated introduction, correct but simple, without maths.  All the key points in yacht design are here, right up-to-date with winged keels, bulb shapes, low-drag aerofoil sections,  everything.  The illustrations are absolutely superb, technically accurate, not vague approximate sketches, illustrating the key points with simplicity and colour, at least one and usually two or three per page.  The small "But..." is, this is an introduction.  You won't find any maths (well, hardly any!), but you also won't find any detail.  Nevertheless, worth buying even if you are beyond an introduction to yacht design, because there are outstanding gems, such as the accurate diagrams of heeled waterplanes, stuff not even the most advanced texts show you (though they talk about it...).  Must have.

Larsson, Lars, & Eliasson, Rolf. Principles of Yacht Design.
1994 0-7136-3855-9 Hardback, 20cm x 27cm, 302pp

Packed with diagrams, tables of methods and data, and simple equations. Oriented towards the practical design of a full-size cruising yacht. Excellent intermediate treatment, a standard text.  Worth buying.

After some years of use, I've decided I really haven't said enough to praise Larsson and Eliasson.  While it is in very good company with the books of Marchaj, Garrett, Gutelle, and Killing, I find that it is the first book I pull off my shelves to look up some technical question.  I've also found that it has more relevance to the VPP-dominated world of full-size design than the other books.  It is well organised, the key material is set off nicely and clearly in separate panels, and practical computational detail is usually provided.  A must buy.

Marchaj, CA. Sail Performance.
1996 0-7136-4123-1 Hardback, 20cm x 27cm, 401pp

A lot of wind tunnel and experimental results are reported, accompanied by pictures and graphs on every page. Marchaj marches to the beat of his own drum, however, and some may not agree. For example, he has his own view on what the telltales tell, and thinks that a modest separation bubble on the leeward luff is not necessarily a bad thing (p 234). Not an easy read, the advanced material somewhat scattered, but stimulating and comprehensive.

Marchaj, CA. Aero-Hydrodynamics of Sailing (3rd ed).
2000 0-7136-5073-7 Hardback, 20cm x 27cm, 763pp

The third edition arrived in November 2000, a little after the first date quoted by the publisher of around October 1998. Apparently the entire master copy on its way to the printers got totally lost somewhere! Still the "bible" on the theory of sailing. Expensive, but nothing else (currently in print) will do. As close as you'll get to the technical literature without actually having to attend obscure conferences or scan marine engineering journals. I said that the second edition was advanced and opinionated, tough though not impossible, and not helped by the fact that related material is scattered through the book. And the third edition is more of the same. If anything, Marchaj now very clearly has Opinions if not OPINIONS, and I guess that at around 80 years of age, he reckons he's entitled to them.

The book has expanded sections dealing with multi-hulls and hydrofoils. There is also a little more detail and additional diagrams and photos dealing with both the basic principles and the research findings. While the basics haven't changed much over the last 20 years, and neither has Marchaj's treatment of them, the research has, and it has to be said that his treatment hasn't really caught up with current work. The book still focuses on his research work on Finn sails in the late 1960's and early 1970's, for example, and winged keels remain a curiosity treated in an appendix where the "latest" work is dated 1985.

Selig, MS, Donovan, JF, & Fraser, DB. Airfoils at Low Speeds.
1989 Paperback, 22cm x 28cm, 398pp

Vast quantities of technical data and graphs of wind tunnel results. Not directly relevant, because none of the airfoils tested were sails, but of immense importance because the testing was done at low Reynolds numbers, exactly the sort of numbers we sail with. The only reason to buy the book is to be able to read the five or six pages that talk about flow separation, separation bubbles, separation hysteresis, and trip turbulators. This information is still not fully appreciated in our sport.

Simons, Martin. Model Aircraft Aerodynamics (4th ed).
1999 1-85486-190-5 Paperback, 18.5cm x 23.5cm, 344pp

An excellent introduction to the "practical" theory of aerodynamics for the interested modeller. What a pity that it's aimed at aircraft and not yachts. Martin discusses the basics of aerodynamics from an engineering point of view, with many diagrams and simple, approximate formulas. There is ample discussion of coefficients of lift and drag, angle of attack, vortex drag, laminar flow, boundary layer turbulence and separation, aspect ratio, twist, and so on. The appendices give details of a number of useful aerofoil sections, including those for low drag Young's bodies, ideal for bulbs, and the NACA 4-digit series, ideal for fins and rudders.

Skeene, Norman. Elements of Yacht Design.
2001 (reprint of 1935 edition) 1-57409-134-4 Paperback, 15cm x 23.5cm, 254pp

Yes, the "original" classic book on yacht design, now over 65 years old.  Wait, come back!  It is as useful today as it was in its very first year of publication, 1904.  Sure, some of the ideas are a little quaint, if not actually outdated.  And some of the chapters are not directly relevant, like those on the rating rules and on construction.  But it provides all the practical detail needed to actually design the lines of a yacht.  It includes the practical application of Colin Archer's "Wave form theory" from 1877 for deriving the curve of sectional areas -- worth the price of the paperback all by itself.  We currently don't have a better theory, over one hundred and twenty years later!

Teale, John. How to Design a Boat (2nd ed).
1998 0-7136-4914-3 Paperback, 14cm x 21.5cm, 156pp

Practical, basic, concrete introduction to design of full- size craft (including motor boats). Simple diagrams and tables for all basic calculations, and suggestions for going about drawing a lines plan. Beginner to intermediate level, very good if you're thinking of actually sketching some hull lines for your first boat and don't want to buy Larsson & Eliasson.

Build (full-size & RC)

Bethwaite, Frank. High Performance Sailing.
1996 1-85310-757-3 Paperback, 19.5cm x 26.5cm, 414pp

In four parts. Part 1, almost half the book, deals with wind. A feature of this part of the book is its treatment of the formation and behaviour of wind cells. Bethwaite was a champion glider pilot, and it shows. Good for the bigger boats, but of limited application to our models. Part 2 is a few pages on waves. Parts 3 and 4 are why you should buy the book if you have an interest in the detailed and advanced technicalities of sails, hulls, and sailing fast. They deal with the intensely experimental approach to finding hull and sail shapes that work, culminating in the skiffs which Bethwaite and his sons have so successfully developed.

Détriché, Charles. A Catalog of Lines Plans – Thirty Small Sailing Boats for Great Fun.
2007 Paperback (wire binding), A4, 101pp

Graham Bantock writes: "Charles Détriché has been a prolific and consistent designer of yachts for RC for longer than the IOM class has been around. At an early stage of that class’ history the FeFe2 had established itself as a competitive design and many others have followed tracking the general design trends in the class. For the main part, however, his designs have been of the narrower type. All are designed with simplicity of construction in mind, many being single chine for straightforward construction in thin plywood. More recently Charles has widened his scope to provide equally simple and pleasing designs for the FOOTY, HALF METRE, RG65, J75, PHIGIT, MARBLEHEAD and TEN RATER classes. This catalogue also includes two designs intended to be built as One Designs. Sections are all shown full size, the general layout showing foils, ballast and mast position is given at reduced size and there is some descriptive text where necessary. It is typical of Charles’ generosity to the sport that he allows builders to build the designs in the catalogue free of any further payment or royalty. This will be useful source material for anyone looking for effective and easy to build yachts of any size 300 to 1600 mm as well as for anyone interested in looking at a train of development from a single designer."

Charles' book is available from SAILSetc and is listed on their Web site.  As Graham notes, Charles is a prolific designer of remarkable generosity, and the book makes available 11 IOM designs (six variants of FéFé), six Marbleheads (four variants of Simplet), three RG65s, three Phigits, one each Footy, Half Metre, J75, Estrellita, and Ten Rater, and two One Designs.  Around three A4 pages are devoted to each design, with at least two pages showing (a) side view and comprehensive dimensions, and (b) full-size sections.  It is very important to note, however, that these are all line plans, exactly as the title says, with very little instructions on building and absolutely no details on construction.  Beginners should not start here, but seasoned builders will have no problems!

Harvey, Derek. Sails: The way they work and how to make them.
1997 0-7136-4396-X Paperback, 15.5cm x 23.5cm, 192pp

A history of sails, some aerodynamics, a large section on the various rig configurations possible -- lug, lateen, yawl, etc -- and finally sailmaking. Oriented to full- size sails, the last section is surprisingly sketchy on the specifics of broadseaming panelled sails. The book rather assumes you will take advantage of their offer of a free computer-aided design disk. Beginner to intermediate level.

Jackson, Chris. Radio Controlled Racing Yachts.
1997 1-900371-15-4 Paperback, 19cm x 27cm, 83pp

A modern introduction to R/C sailing for the beginner. Covers choosing a class, building in wood and with GRP, rigging, R/C equipment, and tuning. Profusely illustrated, practical and useful. One might quibble with one or two finer points on tuning or racing, but there is really no other better book for the novice builder-sailor at present.

Jackson, Chris. Radio Controlled Racing Sailboats.
2003 1-900371-71-5 Paperback, 19cm x 27cm, 108pp

Chris has updated and expanded his earlier book.  It continues to provide all the essentials for the beginner -- some history, an overview of the various classes, radio control equipment, tuning, and racing -- while the bulk of the book provides considerable detail on building -- planking, hull moulding, making fins and rudders, bulb casting, sail making, and rigging.  The book remains profusely illustrated, and the major building tasks -- planking a hull, moulding a hull, and making a sail -- are each given extended and detailed photo-essays.  As before, some of the finer points have been glossed over in favour of "the big picture", and one or two of the diagrams have unfortunate errors in labelling.  Nevertheless, as before, there is really no better book for a beginner in general, or for a sailor at any level contemplating building a hull.

Reece, Trevor. Model Radio Control Yachts.
1989 0-85242-972-X Paperback, 19cm x 25cm, 176pp

Covers R/C, choice of yacht class, building materials, construction, rigging and fittings, tuning and adjustments, and racing. Good, though dated, introduction to the hobby. Buy Jackson instead.

Robinson, Larry. Making Model Yacht Sails, Parts 1 & 2.
1997 & 1998 Plastic comb bound paperback, 28cm x 22cm, 43 & 46pp

Part 1 deals with Larry's basic ideas about sails and sailmaking. Although he emphasises these are derived from the EC-12 class, the ideas apply to all classes regardless. Chapter 1 concerns the camber distribution required in a sail, where Larry puts his view that we need more draft at the head, not less. Chapter 2 introduces the simple sail blocks that Larry uses, while Chapter 3 shows how to make the blocks to meet desired specifications. Chapter 4 discusses various sail materials from the point of view of strength, flexibility, and durability. Chapter 5 discusses the topic of where and how to place the broadseams, and in particular Larry's view that the bottom part of the sail probably doesn't need a seam. Chapter 6 discusses cutting the luff and methods of measuring the luff allowances. Part 2 deals with making "string" sails, and is probably most interesting for its appendices offering comments on sail shape. If you are serious about your model yacht racing, even though you may not want to make your own sails, the booklet provides a valuable introduction to relevant sail theory, invaluable advice, and thought-provoking opinions. E-mail Bob Wells at "bob" at "".


Dedekam, Ivar. Sail and Rig Tuning.
1999 1-898660-67-0 Paperback, 16cm x 23cm, 80pp

A profusely and colourfully illustrated Fernhurst book.  Deals with big boats, of course, but a nice introduction to the basics of aerodynamics, how sails work, and how the rig works.  About a third of the book deals with spinnakers, not very relevant, but the other two-thirds are why you'd buy the book if you were seeking mastery of the basics of sail and rig tuning.  Beginner to intermediate level.

Walker, Stuart. A Manual of Sail Trim.
1985 0-393-03296-5 Paperback, 13.5cm x 20.5cm, 251pp

Very detailed, very comprehensive analysis of how to set the rigging, sheeting, and sails for every possible combination of wind and waves. Oriented towards full- size dinghies and yachts, it has the only detailed discussion of mast lateral bend I've seen. If you are serious about every aspect of tuning your boat, you must have it. Advanced level.

Whidden, Tom. The Art and Science of Sails.
1990 0-229-11888-7 Hardback, 18.5cm x 23.5cm, 371pp

Sensible treatment of sails, how they work, and how to trim them. Fascinating account by one of the main players of the transition from art to (computer-assisted) science in sail design and manufacture. Lightly technical, useful diagrams and pictures. Intermediate to advanced level. Get this if you find Walker's "Manual" too dense, Marchaj's "Sail Performance" too technical, or Bethwaite's "High Performance" too idiosyncratic.


Gladstone, Bill. North U Performance Racing Tactics.
1999 0-9675890-0-2 Paperback, 27.5cm x 21.5cm, 200pp

Subtitled "The world's most comprehensive resource on modern sailboat racing tactics", it is a very thorough textbook on tactics under the 1997-2000 rules. Thorough approach, every base covered, profusely illustrated.  As its title suggests, this is a book you study, not read.  It is written somewhat didactically, that is, like a teacher telling you what to do, and then in-between times gets chummy, like a teacher being patronising.  Not to my taste.  Nevertheless, I'd agree with the subtitle:  it is all there.  Get this if you are prepared to study, otherwise get Jobson & Whidden.  Intermediate to expert level.

Houghton, David. Wind Strategy (2nd ed).
1992 0-906754-79-8 Paperback, 18.5cm x 24.5cm, 96pp

Oriented towards the full-size coastal racer, it still has useful material on the development and shifts of lake winds, and on the effects of obstacles. Intermediate level.

Huck, Michael. Around the Buoys.
1994 0-07-030817-9 Paperback, 18.5cm x 23.5cm, 232pp

Subtitled "A manual of sailboat racing tactics and strategies", it is a useful introduction. Unfortunately, it has not been updated to the 1997-2000 rules. It does have a number of good diagrams illustrating the basics. Beginner to intermediate level.

Jobson, Gary, Whidden, Tom, & Loory, Adam. Championship Tactics.
1990 0-7136-3342-5 Hardback, 17cm x 23cm, 355pp

This is subtitled "How anyone can sail faster, smarter, and win races".  Quite a claim.  This is one of the better books on sailing tactics I've found so far.  Not perfect, but very good.  The reason for saying this is that it has taught me stuff and given me ideas that none of the other books on tactics have done.  There are drawbacks, however, and you need to review a copy before purchase.  First, the book is not over-endowed with diagrams.  Much of the advice is given in straight text, and many of the diagrams are, ah, diagrammatic rather than convincingly accurate.  Second, the book deals with the older version of the racing rules, not the latest -- that is, we're still reading about 'mast abeam,' and such like.  Surprisingly, I found this didn't get in the way too much, probably because the authors concentrate more on principles and ideas, rather than on the very specific exploitation of the wording of a particular rule.  Third, the book is focussed on keel boats, and big ones at that.  Nonetheless, the majority of the advice seems to apply to radio sailing pretty directly.  It is a relatively easy read, and the guys clearly know their stuff, calling on war stories from America's Cup campaigns and similar.  Buy this instead of Gladstone if you prefer not to study.  Beginner to intermediate level.

Krause, Soren (Ed). Paul Elvstrom Explains the Racing Rules of Sailing.
1997 0-07-007044-X Paperback, 12cm x 19cm, 208pp

This book on the RRS has a number of unique features. First, you get a set of little plastic coloured hull shapes to lay out any situation (flip 'em over for port or starboard). Second, you get a summary of every ISAF case. Third, you get extensive cross-referencing between the rules themselves, Elvstrom's explanation of the rules, and the ISAF case. Fourth, you get "non-standard" situations shown and explained; for example, this is the only place where I found important "leeward" and "windward" situations that none of the other books illustrated. On the down side, you also get what must be a translation from the Danish (I think!) -- sometimes awkward, sometimes stilted, sometimes difficult to understand. Elvstrom's interpretations fearlessly illuminate many a dark corner with excellent diagrams. Some diagrams, however, have the wrong colours, so care is needed. But the only RRS book to have after you've grasped the basics.

Melges, Buddy, & Mason, Charles. Sailing Smart.
1983 0-8050-0351-7 Paperback, 15cm x 23cm, 192pp

You can guess that Buddy talked, and Charles wrote it down. No matter, it is all good, very practical advice given in what I'm sure must be authentic Buddy-speak. Here is a sample paragraph from his section on knowing the racing rules:

My basic rule now is that I try never to steer myself into a situation that might create a discussion after the race. I have two good reasons for this. The first is that any jam-up can easily affect my race results for the day, no matter who is right, because some other boat might sail around me while I'm getting myself unsnarled. The second reason is that any protest cuts back on my social hour after the race is over.

A sprinkling of diagrams and war-stories make this a good read and re-read. Enjoyable, but for RC sailing of limited value.

Pera, Mary. The Racing Rules for Sailors.
1997 0-7136-4608-X Paperback, 14.5cm x 21cm, 180pp

Each rule is presented in full, and is discussed in turn in detail. Reference is made to relevant cases from USSA, ISAF, and RYA, and diagrams illustrate the interpretations. Somewhat more of an "academic" treatment, discursive and extended rather than tightly focused. The same treatment is given to the definitions. The discussion is "standard" and orthodox, suitable for intermediate sailors. Appendix E is not presented. (Mary passed away in April 2000. She worked on the International Jury for the IOM World Champs in Malta in 1999, and will be missed.)

Perry, Dave. 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes.
1998 1-882-50262-0 Paperback, 15.5cm x 23cm, 160pp

A feature of the book is that permission is granted to reproduce the material for education or entertainment. Each question usually has a diagram, and the answer is printed upside-down to make inadvertent "cheating" more difficult. The questions themselves are mainly slightly modified "standard" situations and cases. No extended discussion or interpretations; focus is on identifying and applying the right rule(s). Beginning to intermediate level.

Perry, Dave. Winning in One-designs.
2000 1-882502-78-7 Paperback, 15cm x 23cm, 256pp

A useful book.  No, better than that -- very useful.  I really would have liked more diagrams and less text, but the points that Dave makes are all excellent.  There are some features of his book which are unique.  He spends some pages explaining, discussing, and emphasising the importance of wind shifts, for example.  Although oriented towards full-size, of course, his comments are equally relevant to RC, and just as welcome.  He also writes in a way that challenges you to think rather more carefully about the consequences of your tactical actions and choices, again, very welcome.  A beginners book that more advanced sailors would find very useful as well.  Definitely recommended.

RYA. The Racing Rules of Sailing.
1997 0-901501-70-0 Spiral-bound paperback, 12.5cm x 17.5cm, 132pp

Just the rules, including Appendix E. An appendix gives various RYA "prescriptions", variations on the rules for British boats, not relevant to R/C. No reason to buy this unless you do just want the rules in a very convenient format.

Twiname, Eric, & Foster, Cathy. Sail, Race, and Win (2nd ed).
1993 0-924486-53-8 Paperback, 14cm x 21.5cm, 197pp

Sensible, straightforward advice on becoming your own coach, developing a winning attitude, getting the most from your practicing, developing physical fitness, improving team work, and so on. Curiously, the parts that might be of most interest to RC sailors -- psychology and mental fitness -- are long on exhortation, but short on specific detail. Of limited interest, then.

Twiname, Eric, & Willis, Bryan. The Rules Book 1997-2000 (6th ed).
1997 0-7136-4565-2 Paperback, 12.5cm x 18.5cm, 204pp

Good diagrams. Discussion and interpretation of the rules is usefully divided according to "Start", "Windward leg", "Mark rounding", "Offwind leg", "Finish". A feature is that each discussion paragraph is marked as either "everyone should know this basic item", or "for top club racing", or "for national & international competition". Orthodox, standard treatment at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Actual rules, including Appendix E, then follow. I'd buy Elvstrom instead, though, if forced to buy just one RRS book.

Walker, Stuart. Positioning: The Logic of Sailboat Racing.
1991 0-393-03339-2 Hardback, 16cm x 24cm, 317pp

Very detailed and very close analysis of where to put yourself on the race course. Many cases studied, many lessons drawn. For example: Tack back when you have gained and cross them when you can. Avoid the laylines as long as possible. When in doubt, don't tack. When in doubt, ease the sheets, don't pull 'em in. Accessible, but dense, at intermediate to advanced level.

Walker, Stuart. The Sailor's Wind.
1998 0-393-04555-2 Hardback, 16.5cm x 24cm, 362pp

Very detailed and very close analysis of wind patterns, considered at over 40 locations. More oriented towards dinghies and full-size yachts on larger courses. For lakes, for example, he suggests that we find which side is advantaged, and avoid the middle, seeking the shift and not the velocity. Dense, at intermediate to advanced level.

Walker, Stuart. The Tactics of Small Boat Racing.
1966 0-393-30601-4 Paperback, 15.5cm x 23.5cm, 333pp

A discursive, extended case-study approach to drawing the necessary lessons from a variety of races. If such an approach works for you, that's good. Although this is undoubtedly how one learns the lessons, I'm not sure it is how one should teach them. Limited interest.

Willis, Bryan. The Rules in Practice 1997-2000.
1997 Paperback

Good beginner's introduction to the RRS, and the one to get if you're just starting out. The book analyses the course in order, from the start to the finish, offering sensible choices and identifying your options for each situation. Once you've digested these basics, however, Willis' advice is curiously inexact since he deals with the orthodox, standard situations. So then get Elvstrom for your advanced RRS manual.

Radio control specific

Bittle, Ivor. The RC Racing Yacht Explained.
1999 0-9534200-1-9 Paperback, 21cm x 29.5cm, 108pp [Order directly from Ivor: e-mail him at, or send him 12 GBP at 3, Spring Vale, Bexleyheath, Kent DA7 6AR, UK, and he'll mail the book anywhere in the world.]

The book has two major sections. The first section outlines all the necessary engineering, diagrams, and elementary mathematics needed to discuss yachts and sailing. The second section covers the model racing yacht itself, with topics such as leeway, how the yacht beats, and flow visualisation over the sails.

You'll buy the book for Ivor's excellent experiments. He rigged up a lovely Hele-Shaw flow visualiser and shows lots of excellent, clear pictures of two-dimensional flow around jib and main, and through the slot. He replaced the rig of his boat with a small electric fan and shows a number of graphs relating power of the fan to speed (and, thus, drag) of the hull on the water. He took the rig, covered it in tell-tales, stood it in a field, and shows thought-provoking photos of the resulting tell-tale patterns. All absolutely marvellous stuff. My complaints below are, by comparison, minor.

You'll wince at far too many irritating spelling, grammatical, mechanical, and editorial errors. You'll groan, however, at some more substantial errors. The one that bothers me the most is in the text accompanying Figure 8-3. The actual course of the yacht -- including leeway -- is mistaken for the axis of the yacht and hence gives us an incorrect value for the angle of attack made by the sail to the apparent wind.

But most of all you'll wish for more (as in, "Please Sir, that was very good; may I have more?") and ask Ivor to begin immediately on the second edition. You'll want him to tell you, for example, what happens when the electric fan drives an artificially heeled hull? And, how does the result depend upon hull shape? Can he measure and record the forces on his rig in the middle of the field? If he can, what happens to the force or lift generated by the rig as more or less twist is applied? Can he put fin and rudder foil profiles into his Hele-Shaw flow visualiser? Do the resulting flows support his arguments about fin and rudder interactions?

You'll wish that, even though the book is aimed at novices, he gave you information about other books and articles that he found useful. Ivor has written a determinedly "one-man-band" book, and rightly bemoans the lack of freely available information. It is clear, though, that some of his ideas are developments of those of others, and it would be useful to have these acknowledged. You'll wish that he gives a more extended discussion, with as much evidence as he can muster, on a number of issues on which he simply makes flat statements. For example, that a heeled narrow-beam hull always has a force on the fin tending to overturn the yacht (p101) while a wide-beam skiff-type hull probably produces a righting moment at the fin when it goes bows-down when heeled.

Robinson, Larry, & Wells, Bob. Optimising the EC-12.
1997 Plastic comb bound paperback, 28cm x 22cm, 240pp

You must have this book, regardless of the class you sail. Oriented towards the EC-12, it has valuable information and ideas for all R/C racing classes on fittings, preparation, and tuning. In just 5 pages in chapter 3, for example, we read that pond scum on the hull could measurably increase drag; wax is not recommended because of beading on the waterline; careful fairing of the rudder and the hull could gain a boat length on a 200ft run; and in light wind there may be less drag if the boat is trimmed bow down. E-mail Bob Wells at "bob" at ""... now!

Weall, Nick. Sailing to Win!
1991 1-85486-077-1 Paperback, 19cm x 24.5cm, 144pp

Subtitled "A complete introduction to model yacht racing", the book is just concerned with racing: tuning the yacht, sailing the course, and employing the right tactics and strategy. Unfortunately, it has not been updated to the 1997-2000 rules, and much of its very considerable value is rendered inaccessible. A must-have when Nick updates it.


Driscoll, John. Improve your Sailing IQ.
2003 0-7153-1549-0 Paperback, 19cm x 24cm, 128pp

A very nicely presented colourful quiz book, with the answers explained.  Very much oriented towards the cruiser/racer of full-size, and dealing with things like mooring in a marina.  I bought the book because the small section on racing made me realise I couldn't answer all the questions!  But it is a small section, and makes the book as a whole of only limited value to RC sailors.


Tuning Dedekam, Ivar. Sail and Rig Tuning.
Theory Garrett, Ross. The Symmetry of Sailing.
Tactics Gladstone, Bill. North U Performance Racing Tactics.
Design (introduction) Killing, Steve, & Hunter, Douglas. Yacht Design Explained.
Design (intermediate, research) Fossati, Fabio. Aero-hydrodynamics and the Performance of Sailing Yachts.
Design (intermediate, practical application) Larsson, Lars, & Eliasson, Rolf. Principles of Yacht Design.
R/C building Jackson, Chris. Radio Controlled Racing Yachts.
RRS Krause, Soren (Ed). Paul Elvstrom Explains the Racing Rules of Sailing.
History Potts, Russell, & Croxson, Paul. A Bibliography of Model Yachting.
R/C tuning Robinson, Larry, & Wells, Bob. Optimising the EC-12.


©2022 Lester Gilbert