Radio or remote control, more commonly referred to as RC has done much to mobilize scale modeling, but nowhere has more realistic movement been kept near secret than in RC sailboating. Here, for a fraction of the investment you'd make in a life-sized sloop, you can deck out a scale model which will do everything (including sinking) that the actual sail-powered vessel will do.
If you want to build your own there is a wide array of sailboats in all sizes and shapes. At the simple end of the spectrum you will find both scale and non-scale models.
Non-scale boats are designed and built solely for high-speed racing. For the most part, these are extremely light with slim, eggshell hulls sporting deep-fin keels and tall, carbon-fiber masts. They quickly accelerate in the slightest breeze and are ultra-responsive to rudder and sail-trim commands. But in a stiff breeze, or while running downwind, they can be a real handful. If you want the fastest boats, these are for you.
If you're more turned on by scale modeling, there are again many choices, ranging from semi-scale, easily assembled kits to completely scratch-built brigantines, schooners, barks, yawls, ketches and the like. Many of these boats are works of art with teak- or mahogany-planked decks, gleaming brass fittings and varnished bright work. Do their builders/owners care that these boats are slower and maybe not as responsive as their racing cousins? No.
The larger classes have continued to grow in popularity. Like giant-scale RC airplanes, larger RC sailboats tend to sail much like their full-size counterparts; they're smooth and easy to handle. You can hear and almost feel a big sailboat as it makes its way across the pond. These boats are as easy to manage as their smaller sisters, and they turn as readily when maneuvering in close quarters. The big boats are truly majestic in the water, and they can be sailed in much rougher water than smaller boats can handle.
It is a scratch built vessel 2-1/2 feet long with a beam of 6 inches. Its scale is at 1 /16th with some parts built by eye and out of scale but no one will notice!
The sails servo has a long shaft... look for it seen on the deck. It pulls 2 lines that run to the main mast cross tree. a number of rigged lines are also attached to the same area so that all the sails will turn at the same time.
On eBay at any one time you'll likely find 50 to 75 radio controlled sailboats ranging from a $500 weighing in at about 8 pounds. This is a 41-inch stem to stern Laser capable of some 20 knots down to a 1:25 scale trans Atlantic racer kit which requires assembly. Last time I looked, it was selling for $10 and that included the radio control gear.
From any number of outlets, you can find an array of ready-to-sail boats complete with radios and sails. Some of these are expensive; high-tech, super-fast lightweights can go for thousands of dollars. On the other hand, you can find boats for a few hundred bucks.
When I checked eBay they had a listing for a 37-inch (bow to stern) radio controlled model of the USS Constitution featuring 20 polyester sails and a 4-channel transmitter to control rotation of three masts and rudder turns.
Other than buying a turn-key boat with its radio already installed, kits are the quickest way to get a new boat into the water. Kits are available from many manufacturers, including Kyosho, Victor* and George Ribeiro Products*. Many cottage-industry companies produce fast racing hulls and components. Most kits include molded-plastic or carbon-fiber hulls that are reinforced with fiberglass as well as decks and partially built keel fins and spars. These kits can be assembled in a few weekends. When finished, they are very fast and very responsive to rudder input. Some new builders feel they have to reinforce the interior structure of their kit beyond the kit designer's specifications. Please don't; all you'll do is add unnecessary weight. Keep your boat on a strict diet of lightweight components.
Consider this: regardless of what you buy, your new boat will never crash and burn. Old sailboats never die, they just slow down and sail on. Skippers are still sailing boats they built 10 years ago. Upgraded with state-of-the-art sails and faster sail winches, these boats are still threats at regattas.
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