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Ten Rules of RC Laser Racing for Beginners

By A. Beginner.


Rule 1.  As in dinghy sailing - the boat must be ‘bullet proof’.


Most importantly this means waterproof, and that is obviously difficult to achieve. Even the experienced sailors seem to suffer occasionally. The most vulnerable points seem to be the two servo spindles. Take all the advice you can get from the web and the experienced sailors and stock up with Vaseline.


A second weakness is the mainsheet system. It has to be kept tight along the deck otherwise it can come off the drive wheel. Check it after every race meeting.


Rule 2. Avoid Trouble.


Rule infringements are much commoner in RC racing than in dinghy racing. As a dinghy sailor I doubt whether I was involved in an infringement once a season and only one full-on protest meeting in forty years, and that was against the Race Officer! In RC Lasers I am at fault several times every Sunday!


There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, everything seems to happen at about four times normal speed in RC boats. Secondly, the action can be 50 yards away and the viewers have different perspectives. Thirdly, control of the boat can be a real problem for beginners, especially under pressure.


Everyone is amazingly well behaved and understanding about this. ‘Turns’ are done in good humour and seldom is there any real dispute. This is very fortunate, because otherwise RC sailing would become one long protest meeting.


As a beginner, doing a turn often ends up with the boat in irons, which is definitely best avoided! I find that it pays not to be too aggressive about the rules and try to avoid trouble. This does not mean deliberately tagging along behind the fleet – get involved, but remember that the experienced sailors can out manoeuvre you in a close contact situation, e.g. rounding the leeward mark!


A plea to the course setters – remember that beginners might be a leg or two behind the experienced. If a course involves a mark being left to port on one leg and starboard on another then this will create problems. The RYA strongly advise against this practice.


Rule 3.  Flatten the Sail


Flatten the sail more than dinghy sailing intuition suggests. This eases tacking. Experienced sailors please say if you disagree.


Rule 4.  Do not over-sheet to windward and don’t pinch.


The end of the boom should be approximately over the stern quarter on the beat. It is very slow and virtually impossible to tack in any wind with the boom over-sheeted.


Rule 5.  Do not allow the sail forward of the mast downwind.


It may pay to sail ‘by the lee’ when you are experienced enough (I haven’t reached that stage!), but it definitely makes the boat nose dive in gusts if the boom is forward of the mast. When the boat nose dives there can be an inch of water across the deck – which is not good for the electrics. See also Rule 9.


Rule 6.  Know sail position from position of transmitter control.


When the boat is a long way away it is difficult to know where the sail is set by the looking at the boat. Arrange the sheeting so that you know where the boom is when the transmitter control is ‘full in’ and ‘full out’.


Rule 7.  Get favourable angle of view of distant marks.


I find it particularly difficult to judge when the boat has gone past a distant mark and often find myself going the wrong side. Try to get a ‘sideways’ view of the approach to the mark and avoid being plumb behind the boat if possible.


Rule 8.  Despite Rule 2, get involved at the start.


 Always try to be on starboard when it matters!


Rule 9.  Get multiple Rigs


Using a ‘B’ rig on a ‘C’ rig day is not good sailing. Loss of control may become quite frequent. Loss of electrics is likely. RC Lasers appear to be very easily over powered and this is as bad for boat speed as is being under powered.


Rule 10.  Learn to sail slowly without getting into irons.


This is especially useful at the start. The RC Laser accelerates very rapidly when you sheet in. Also learn how to get out of irons!



So; if these rules are so important, why don’t I get better results? Well of course there is another factor – ability to control the boat! I guess this gets better with practice and there is no alternative to time on the water.


Additionally it is quite difficult to apply the rules, even if you believe in them! For example, I still haven’t achieved fully waterproofed servos on my boat and it has cost me lots of DNSs and DNFs. Rule 2 is a recent discovery for me!


Please let me know via the web site if you disagree with any of my rules and observations or can offer some other advice to beginners.


Another Beginner,  18/03/08