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Getting Started - Which Boat Should I Get First?


This must be one of the hardest questions a newcomer to radio yachting needs to get answered, given the multitude of reasons one wants to participate in this sport in the first place. I use the word sport, because inevitably some form of competition will occur. Two boats on the water means there will, at some point, be a race!

To assist in the selection of your first boat, I believe the main decision to make before you consider acquiring a boat is to make the choice between the hard competitive sailing of the internationally recognised classes compared to sailing your boat in a more social atmosphere.

Both directions have their pro's and con's but one will surely provide the new sailor with immense satisfaction. If in doubt, I suggest the second option as entry to this sport will be less expensive than the first option, while still providing the opportunity to move to the classes where State and/or National Championships are held. There is actually one boat that I believe has the potential to meet both criteria, but more of that later.

Below, I have listed in a simple table the qualities that I personally have experienced to be the main differences between the two choices that I have mentioned above. This table is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. It is simply meant to be, as stated earlier, a simple and brief guide to what I have personally experienced and I stress that this is general. I have personally experienced in the International and State competition classes, member's who have been the best ambassador's that is possible for this sport. That is the danger of generalisations.

Main Options

Basic Pro's

Basic Con's

 International and State Classes Competition
bulletHighly challenging sailing under International Rules satisfying the most competitive sailor
 
bulletAll boats within one class operate under the same rules
 
bulletMost radio yacht sailing clubs are based around one or more of these competitive classes
bulletTop boats can be very expensive (read can be up to around AUD$9,000 fully rigged)
 
bulletMost clubs not receptive to different classes sailing together so members must wait their turn if sailing on the same days
 
bulletFull and comprehensive knowledge of sailing rules is absolutely mandatory as boat damage caused by lack of rules knowledge does not make for a welcome member sometimes making it hard for someone new to yachting to be competitive
Multi-Class Competition
bulletComparatively wide range of boats available plus many plans available to build your own, whatever it is
 
bulletEntry level boats can be cheap, depending on whether you make your own or buy a kit, but entry possible from around $200-$300
 
bulletSail what you want irrespective of size or cost
 
bulletFriendly competition typically based on handicap and more tolerance to lack of rules knowledge. Generally use two rules, 1. Avoid collisions  2. Most penalties use a simple 360 degree turn. This means that every time there is a race, everyone is able to participate
 
bulletMost members will go to great lengths to welcome and assist new members
bulletNot as many clubs around that don't care what you sail, as long as you sail something and join in the fun
 
bulletYour boat, depending on what it is, will probably not be suitable for State, National, or International competition
 
bulletNot really suited to the competitor who has aspirations to State, National, or International titles.

Okay, so the table above shows a brief summary of the types of competition sailing available. Once the decision has been made on the type of competition that appeals to you, the next decision is then, which boat will be the best one to fire up your interest in this fantastic sport.

I do not wish to sway opinions one way or another as to which way one should go, so I will just state my version of events.

When I first discovered I had developed an interest in sailing radio yachts one Sunday I visited Albert Park, a lake in the heart of the City of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The folks sailing were members of the Albert Park Model Yacht Club. I sat in the car watching them for a while and then I got out of it and walked up to the sailor's themselves, to look at the boats on the ground and to watch the boats out on the water.

Yachts are so graceful. And they only use natural resources. They do not pollute the environment on an ongoing basis.

But as I stood there watching these beautiful craft, a man named Lincoln McDowall came up to me, introduced himself, and thrust his radio transmitter into my hand. He asked me what experience I'd had with radio control. I mentioned that some twenty or so years ago, I had flown radio control aeroplanes, and he said "Well you won't have any problem with this. This stick is the rudder, and this stick lets the sails in and out," and he walked away.

No panic, no worries, no nothing. The panic, the worries, had now become mine, as I had a free hand with sailing Lincoln's IOM. And he seemed not to be in the least concerned. He did not yell at me when I made his boat submarine, (it was quite a windy day), or when I flapped the sails, or when I did another million things wrong. I knew I had stuffed up, but Lincoln appeared not to care.

And as a result of that experience, not long after, I took up radio yacht sailing. Oh and it certainly provided me with many challenges.

But I decided despite the fact that Lincoln's help had now gotten me hooked on yachts, I realised I did not like the looks of the IOM boats. Sure they were fast, spectacularly fast in fact, but while they were OK, they were not what I really wanted to sail.

I wanted my boats to look more like real boats. or like scale boats. Hence the development, ultimately, of my passion for the 12-metres as I personally believe they are the most graceful modern era boats ever built. The model of my Victor Model Products, Australia II sits, fully rigged, in my lounge-room. That boat is a work of art. To me is is an example of the best that man can do in form to create a practical and fully functional work of art.

But perhaps the EC12 is an even more beautiful boat, but it is much harder to sail.

All of that is about me, but I mention that because trying various other boats allowed me to finally settle on the boat of my passion. The boat that always excites me as soon as I see it move away from the bank. And then to see it power along driven by only the wind is absolutely the best example of poetry in motion I have ever come across in my life

But the Australia II, or the EC12 may not be the boat you are interested in.

You may be more interest in the modern America's Cup boats with their long keels, or you might prefer a Lugger, or a Ketch, or a Schooner, or a Barque, or a Brigantine, or a Cutter, or an American Pilot Cutter which is what the original America was. As long as it has a sail and it is the style of boat you like, then personally, that is all that matters to me.

And if you get hooked on this sport simply because you may have read something here or simply because you made you own decision, to sail the boat you can relate to, then I am absolutely rapt.

Oh, before I leave this page I mentioned earlier 'There is actually one boat that I believe has the potential to meet both criteria, but more of that later.'

Well, that boat used to be the Graupner Micro Magic which even though it is a small boat, has a huge International following and is one of the boats that can be recommended to the newbie with potential aspirations to seriously compete.

But now there is a new kid on the block that I recommend even more than the Micro Magic. And that is the DragonForce 65 which is very cheap to purchase, well made and can be used for competition sailing in two different competition classes, for a club boat, and a boat to sail just because it looks good and sails well.  And the great thing with this boat is that if you sail in the 'DragonForce 65 Class' you are restricted to using equipment that is identical to the original fittings, including the brand. If sailed in the RG65 Class, there is more freedom to modify your boat.

On the ‘Boats & Gear’ and ‘Links’ pages, readers will find a summary of equipment suppliers and boats provided by them in kit form that are suitable to newbies into the sport and one boat in particular that serves the dual purpose of being suited to the ultra competitive sailor as well - the Micro Magic. And now, as stated above, also the DragonForce 65.

If you are still reading this and still interested in pursuing this hobby/sport then you might be interested in seeing some of the boats that will allow you to get into this sport at the cheapest possible cost. Click on the ‘Boats’ link on the menu at the top of this screen to see what's available. Information correct as at 26 July 2009, but many if not all are still available from various suppliers in January 2016.

Happy Sailing, and Welcome to the sport!


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