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New to the radio sailing game or looking to buy a second hand boat


This article was prompted by a gentleman down under who had been the victim of buying a second hand boat.  The crafty seller cherry picked the boats hardware, sails, and one mast. So although a boat might have legitimate claims to past glory’s, it was not possible to reclaim past glory with the boat as presented for sale. It is a case of buyer beware, meaning take time to inspect a boat before buying one.  To compound matters, it takes experience to know what you are looking for 


In my opinion, there are 3 ways to enter the model yachting game.


  1. Build your own boat and learn how they work from the inside out.  Hull building, fitting the fin and rudder and fitting out to setting up the rig and electronics

  2. Buy a second hand boat

  3. Buy a brand new boat from a reputable supplier


Of course, as a start, you need to find a local club and see what classes they sail.  If they sail one of the two Dragon Force classes life is easy as you can buy a boat in a box.  At the most you will spend 600 or 900 to get the boat, electrics and all the rigs.  Everything is top quality, all the boats are identical .


Build a boat

When I entered the game in 2020 as a COVID project, I committed to build a boat as I wanted to understand everything that makes the boats tick.   Bear in mind I had not built a model before let alone one using Epoxy and glass but I persevered and made 2 nice Alternative design IOM’s. So if you feel confident to embark on a build project, that would be my recommendation, to make a beautiful wooden boat or a glass one.  


When I sought information on IOMs and boat building there were many sites across the internet but nothing to really guide my project.  I was lucky to chose a proven design (with detailed specifications) and with the information available on the web and help from the designer , I was able to produce two competitive boats.  One major benefit of the supplied design sheets was that I had dimensions, and rake measurements for all the rigs, the exact location for the fin bulb and rake of the mast.  All critical for a balanced boat.  It gave me the complete picture so when I put the boat on the water it sailed perfectly without any need for modification.  


I had to learn about electronics the hard way, study the manual, program an RMG winch and learn about end points, mixing and exponential settings.  Bit of a nightmare when you first try to set up a transmitter but once you have achieved initial setup life gets easier.  When you build a boat, do not expect it to be perfect but do enjoy the satisfaction of putting a boat on the water that you have built yourself.  With the right design and some help from your local club members, you will have a competitive boat.


Buy a second-hand boat

Now you may elect to buy second hand.  This is not as easy as it sounds as there are many pitfalls.  When you buy a car life is simple.  You know exactly what you are going to get, how fast the car is, its fuel consumption and you hope it is mechanically sound.  With a boat, life is not that simple.  You will see advice saying, buy a second-hand boat and pimp it up, but when you are new to the game, you have virtually zero knowledge so you could be buying a piece of junk or a thoroughbred racing machine and as for pimping up where do you start.  Don’t be deceived into thinking, “I am a great dinghy/yacht sailor, so I know how to set all this up”.  For example


Do you know what the top designs are?

Do you know which winches are the best and how are they set up?

Who are the better sail makers?

What type of Aluminium do you need for a mast?

What are the rig dimensions needed?

What cord do you need for the boat?

Do you have fin and bulb that give optimum performance?

Do you know how to set up a transmitter and receiver.


There is a lot to learn and initially it is not easy to know whether you are looking at a good or a bad sailing package.  It takes time to gain the experience know a good buy and then to tweak it to make it fast and you will not know what you have until you race against other boats or things just do not work.  I have seen expert sailors who come into the sport and are initially mystified by what they find.


So how do you get round this problem.  Talk to the members of your new chosen club to understand which are the best designs and designs that will give you a competitive club boat.  If you see a boat you like on a web site, arrange a visit asap before anyone gets interested in buying your prospective steed.  Ideally take someone who is familiar with the boat so they can give an expert opinion.


Buy a new boat

Now for the third option, buying a new boat.  I have heard of yacht sailors come into the sport and say £5k is nothing for a new boat compared to the budget of a yacht.  On the face of it that makes complete sense but here is the challenge.  If you want one of the established best designs you may have to often wait over 18 months to get your boat.  If you take the world of International one meters, you will have to wait well over 18 months to get a new Britpop, Venti, Sedici, V11/12, or you can get a Kantun within six months or have a 3D printed Alioth in a couple of weeks if you have a friend with the right printer and expertise.

Of course you will be back to building the rigs yourself but there are a lot of people who can help.


So the trick if you are new to the game is to talk to members at your local club, do your research, visit a championship ranking or open event, talk to the best skippers and buddy up with someone who can advise you when you select your chosen steed.


Once you have your boat the journey is just beginning, the next challenge will be learning to sail fast.  The simplest of things can cause headaches.  When the boat is sailing away from you life is easy.  Move joystick left and the boat turns left.  Move it right and boat goes to the right.  But when the boat is coming towards your life gets more complicated as you move the joystick in the opposite direction you want to travel.  The brain struggles with that one but after a while that comes naturally.


So when you see that grey haired man with the age spotted hands, wind blown hair, and a twinkle in his eye smoky blue eyes that just won the last race, remember he did so because he didn’t give up. In fact like a magpie he collected information and applied whenever he repaired, or raced his boat! Feel free to admire his achievement, but become like the magpie inquisitive, intuitive, so that one day the old salt will clap you on the shoulder saying “Well sailed”

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