An Introduction to Radio Controlled Yacht Racing

Are you up to a real challenge?

 

Racing high performance radio controlled yachts is an exciting, challenging and very satisfying pastime. Getting involved is easy if you follow a couple of simple guidelines, like joining a local club and seeking advice from a competent member.

 


Who Looks After the Sport?

The sport is administered in the UK by the Model Yachting Association (MYA), the division member for the UK of the International Sailing Federation, Radio Sailing Division. Search the WWW for the model yachting association in your country - most countries have one, although its name may be different to that of the UK's national body.


The Rules

Racing follows the same rules (The Racing Rules for Sailing 2001-2004) as those used in full sized yacht racing - with a few minor changes to account for the fact that helmsmen are not in the yachts but on the shore.


The Course

Most races follow the standard 'Olympic' course (see diagram) using three buoys set out in a triangular arrangement as shown. The second illustration (diagram) shows how an arrangement of eight buoys allows a course to be set for any wind direction. This layout was used in the 1968 Acapulco Olympics.


The purpose of the 'Olympic' layout is to ensure skippers' skills are tested on all points (directions to the wind) of sailing.


















The Beat to Windward

After the start skippers are faced with a 'beat' against the wind which will involve tacking the yacht a number of times before reaching the windward buoy. The course therefore actually sailed to the windward buoy takes the form of a zig zag and not a straight line as shown (see third diagram). The beat is a very tactical part of the course - many places can be won or lost on the beat.


The Broad Reach

After rounding the windward buoy the yachts sail a 'broad reach' which is the fastest direction, relative to the wind, a yacht can sail.


The Gybe

At the wing buoy the yacht has to 'gybe', which in full sized yachting is the one of the most dangerous manoeuvres a yacht can make. The manoeuvre requires great skill to effect safely and efficiently. A gybe causes the main sail to 'flip' violently from one side of the yacht to the other.


The Second Reach and Beat

The gybe is followed by another broad reach down to the leeward buoy where the yacht begins another beat up to the windward buoy.


The Run and Final Beat to the Finish

After rounding the windward buoy a second time the yacht now sails dead downwind on a 'run' to the leeward buoy before beginning their final beat to the finish line.


How to Win Races

To win races a number of quite different 'qualities' are required:-

  1. An awareness of wind direction.
  2. Good sail trim and an understanding of how sails work (read a good book on the subject)
  3. A sound knowledge of the racing rules (buy a good book or CD ROM of the rules)
  4. An understanding of race tactics (there are some good full-size yacht racing videos available)
  5. Optimum rig/sail trim for all 'legs' of the course
  6. A good start - i.e. on time and in a good position when the start horn sounds
  7. Lots and lots of practice
  8. Some luck