Radio sailing history

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As extracted from the programme for the International Radio Controlled Model Yacht Championship, 1975 (World RC champs 1975):

A short history of R/C model yachting - from an article by NORMAN HATFIELD

As long ago as 1953 a report appeared in the February issue of the M.Y.A. News (No.36) under the heading 'Remote Control' and I quote the following extract: "Since out last issue was published we have learnt that two boats under R/C have successfully sailed a race at Poole round marks without coming to shore (vide "The Model Maker"). This may be a landmark in British model yachting. The equipment used costs some 25 and controls only two, or possibly three boats at a time, the suggestion being that clubs should buy communal sets, the receivers being transferred from each pair of boats to the next pair to race.

Well, things have progressed much further, since then, although it is still not practicable to sail more than six boats together.

It was not long afterwards that various people started to put pressure on the M.Y.A. to adopt a new class or classes for R/C together with a set of racing rules. During 1955 there was quite a lot of correspondence in the M.Y.A. News about this subject, sparked off by a long letter from one of the pioneers of R/C Lt. Col. C. E. Bowden. The late H. B. Tucker a well-known designer editor of the pre-war Marine Models and a prolific writer on model yachting matters took up the subject and followed progress with keen interest until his death in 1961. Some enthusiastic members of the I.R.C.M.S. added their strength to the small group of pioneers at Poole and regular racing was organised at Poole, Gosport and at the Rick Pond, Hampton Court, for 'A' Class boats fitted with a radio.

Mr. G. Carrington-Wood, was invited to attend M.Y.A. Council Meetings and eventually in 1957 he and his colleagues produced a set of racing rules based on the R.Y.A. Racing Rules currently in force. These were 'rubber stamped' by the M.Y.A. and the cost of printing was shared between the two organisations. These rules were in the main the same as those used today except that they have been amended twice to keep them in line with the R.Y.A. Rules. Mr. Charles Brazier Vice-Commodore of the Gosport M.Y.C. produced a most useful appendix to the rules which explained them in simple terms for the benfit of newcomers to the sport.

At the 1961 A.G.M. the agenda contained proposals for the adoption of three R/C classes, 'R', 'S' and 5.5 metre. These proposals were however withdrawn by the proposers the Midland District Committee as they had not had sufficient time to develop their ideas. So the arguments and counter-arguments about a new class or classes continued for another two years. Meanwhile the 'Q' class was given permanent life and then in February 1 964 the Poole M. Y. C. proposed a new class which they called the 'R' class. The rule was simple and contained the following restrictions.

L.W.L. Max. 50 in Min 46 in.
L.O.A. Max 65 in Min 1.1 x L.W.L.
L.W.L. Beam Max 12 in Min 10.5 in.
Disp. Max 30 lb. Min 22 lb.
Draught Max 12 in.
Actual Sail Area 50,000 / L.W.L.

The rule was adopted at the 1964 A.G.M. but only four boats were registered in 1965, all from Poole M.Y.C. and none have been built since. Why this class failed is a mystery. The measurements were reasonable though the boat was too long to fit into the boot of most cars and the rule allowed a fair scope for designers. I think the reason it failed was that it was introduced too early in spite of the pressure to adopt it. The truth was that the number of people actively engaged in R/C model yachting throughout the country was very small indeed. Perhaps it would have stood a better chance of survival if it had been introduced in 1972 or 1973 although it is doubtful if the 'R' class could ever have competed for popularity with the 'M' and 10 Rater Classes.

From 1965 to 1971 there were no material developments but during this six year period there was a gradual improvement in radio gear. This was the dawn of miniaturisation resulting in reduction of weight. Control was more positive and reliable and the standard of rigging and sailing greatly improved. Reliable equipment began to appear on the market at reasonable cost although sail winches could not be obtained commercially.

January 1972 marks the time from which it can really be said that R/C started to get on the move. At the International Boat Show at Earls Court R/C model yachts were featured by Flotilla Models Ltd., a new and small company in the Midlands. They advertised to the effect that they were introducing the new sport of racing radio controlled model yachts in Britain, which was a pretty bold claim to start with. At the Earls Court Pool with the aid of a wind machine they demonstrated three models imported from Germany and built by the firm of Klug. They were a 36 in 'K' class Bora an 'M' class Ghibli and a 64 in. ketch, Monsoon. Prices ranged from 55 for the 36 in. kit to 248 for the ketch, with the 'M' class Ghilbi at 130 all less radio. They employed MacGregor 2-Channel R/C sets which with transmitter receiver, batteries, charger, rudder servo and crystals, retailed for 52. A Klug proportional sail winch was an extra 39 or 29 for progressive action. So if you fancied the 'M' the total bill for a completed yacht was 221 which was far more than most people were prepared to pay. In fact sales hardly materialised and with the steep rise in German prices and the revaluation of the Deutshmark against Sterling by over 20% the company was forced to cease trading. However the sport gained valuable free publicity from this venture.

As a direct result of all this publicity the Sports Council showed interest in our activities for the first time and extended an invitation to the M.Y.A. to participate in the London Dinghy Exhibition at Crystal Palace the following March. Their idea was to carry out the same exercise by staging demonstrations on the swimming pool but their plans were somewhat frustrated because the fan that Flotilla Models had used was not available so a static display was arranged instead. This was a very fine effort indeed and was well supported by local clubs. The amount of interest displayed by the general public was very encouraging. Many of them of course were knowledgeable dinky sailors and yachtsmen and the M.Y.A. members who manned the stand throughout the weekend were kept busy answering intelligent questions.

It was also during 1972 that we first heard of a proposed visit to this country by a party of American and Canadian model yachtsmen in 1974. The Metro Marine Modellers of Toronto had generously offered to the I.M.Y.R.U. a new cup known as the 'Canada Cup' for R/C competition in the 10 Rater Class.

The organisation of the proposed visit to England was to be undertaken jointly by the A.M.Y.A. and the Canadian M.Y.A. It was not however until mid-1973 that any firm proposals were received by the M. Y. A. After lengthy correspondence with the Chairman of the joint American and Canadian Regatta Committee Mr. Dennis A. Eason it was agreed that the visit should be postponed until August 1975 when the venue will be Gosport.

In the meantime at the 1972 A.G.M. of the M.Y.A. a motion by the Poole M.Y.C. that all officially recognised M.Y.A. classes be adopted as R/C classes was passed. It was agreed that the same rating rules would apply as for the free sailing classes and that yachts would carry the same class marks except that they would be prefixed by the letter 'R'. This new ruling implied that the 'Q' class would become the 'RA' class it no longer uses its modified formula but instead boats have to conform to the full 'A' class formula.

So we had the long desired break through at last and with the M.Y.A. in full control of all free sailing and R/C classes.


2023 Lester Gilbert