Free Sailing!

Anyone interested in free sailing Footys - no radio. As Ian Dunmore rightly points out in the Mid day Break Club thread, a free sailing boat can be much lighter, faster and better mannered than an R/C one.

A design for an ultra-simple (for me) free sailing boat will be available shortly.

The idea is interesting… especially in my case should there be very young participants… but I never read or even seen anything of the sort… I am a bit in the dark!!


If the boat is designed to be well balanced (i.e. directionally stable when heeled) you can push (say) push it off from one side of the pond. Somebody on the other side kicks it round onto the other tack and so you go up the pond.

Before radio a lot of model yachting was done that way. It is essential to learn how to trim the sails properly but this should be a learnable skill even for quite young kids. Roger Stollery is the expert his Bug design is intended to be free sailable. I am not sureof the status of Ian Dumnore’s designs, but he has more free sailing Footys than he has RC ones.

I’m drawing one just for fun!

I already have one. It’s my sub-footy Razor. I printed the plans on letter paper instead of legal and ended up with a 10.75" hull. It’s red and named the Mary B. My daughter sails it in pools and it’s faster than any of my footys.:smiley:

Interesting. Off to the drawing board!

If I remember rightly Bob-About was offered as a free sailor too with a lesser ballast weight. Kittiwake will hold a tack hands off with the usual gust luff… so presumably she would free sail too.

Come to think of it… if I cut a KWake without the cockpit, thin ply deck, slot for the fin, quick coat of acrylic for colour and away I go…

I can vouch for free sailors being fun for kids… I was one of them on The Mere in Scarborough.


That’s going the right way!

Una rig? Enumerable 1930s possibilities for simple linking of sheet and helm. Box rule is a slight problem with tiller if u want max draft - but u probablly don’t.


would probably end up loosing the FS footy!!! :slight_smile:

Anything is superable.! What kind of water do you sail on?

Here are some photo`s of a footy vane system I built a while ago.

Using small plastic gear cogs from inside a servo.

Don’t forget running under spinnaker :slight_smile: Although I would opt for a sliding rig in that case.



Hi Ian,
Could you post more details on the vane system?
Is it mounted on the stern? or could it be used on a through hull rudder?

Check out the “splinter” plans at the yahoo site,shows the vane design quite clearly.

I must admit to a strong bias, even a mild obsession with small free sailing boats, even so I still feel that this is the best way to get new sailors into the class.
I base this, on sailing with the Southwold Regattas who still race in the Victorian style - Braine gear and all the rest being regarded as a passing fad. This family regatta has hordes of children running round the pond (it’s great exercise ) cheering on their boats on. They get involved and excited by the racing in a way that I have not seen in any radio event.
I feel the rest of this belongs in the ‘Future or Growing’ thread’ so I’ll just point out that the soon to be, new chairman of the MYA started with a free sailing Footy.

I hope I’m including a legible thumbnail of my free sailor. This is a box section hull in 2mm liteply. I now realise a solid balsa hull would have little weight penalty over the more complex hollow hull, so I will redesign it for simple carving.

This design follows the style of the Southwold boats, being a pure free sailor, without a rudder. You steer by adjusting the sail balance, a good boat can sail all over a pond like this. You sacrifice some efficiency in return for simplicity, but any loss of speed is not noticeable, if you start with a fast boat and learn how to sail her well.
The only problem is sailing dead down wind, the cheep alternative to steering gear is two elastic guys which hold the booms out, forward of amidships to make a self steering dihedral.

Free sailing does need a pond with good access all around.
Sailing on open water with a chase boat used to be popular, see the Balimane Bugs ( It is fun, but more trouble and expense than r/c.

Many parks used to have shallow paddling pools, for exhibitions, temporary ponds are often made with a pond liner over a ring of straw bales, there are above ground ‘garden’ swimming / paddling pools. If you start a building in schools program, maybe in the long term you can build a pond, but otherwise (in the real world) your only choice is radio.

Nice one Ian,I really like your design.
My Bobabout r/c design had its roots in a thinner lighter freesailing version.They are a lot more fun to sail than many people might think.

Is it mounted on the stern? or could it be used on a through hull rudder?
Gerald, there is no reason it could not be used on any type of rudder.

The basic principal is simply when the wind swings left the rudder swings right.
So your challenge is to mount the doings, so that happens.
My setup uses the tiny plastic cogs from inside a servo to reverse the travel and allow the change of angle to be set as required.
My photo`s may not be very clear but if you look closely you may see that the whole arrangment is attached to a ply transom, which I later removed from the footy to which it was attached.
I will post another photo which may show the set up better.

The transom is shown on the right. The vane can be lifted up and reoriented. The hinge is made from a model aircraft elevator plastic hinge.
The rudder also has a balanced arm lever fitted on top, for later conversion to r/c. YUCK… it all looks a bit agricultural up this close.

You are definitely capturing my imagination Ian, big nostalgia angle too for me because my favourite toy as a 7/8 year old was my free sailing yacht, a ‘Bowman’ for anyone who knows of them.

Solid balsa certainly would work, how about solid foam? If you have looked at you will see what I am up to. A solid hull core can be cut from EPS foam as are my radio yachts or from much denser extruded foam. The extruded would need little in the way of finishing for a free sailer.

What are your thoughts on the old pond yacht style keel/fin as compared to the more contemporary deep fin and bulb?

In general would RC Footy style hulls work as free sailers or is a narrower beam and different bouyancy distribution required? Thinking of the ‘Star’ free sailers I remember the bouyancy being somewhat forward.

Keen to cut some samples.


For a fixed LOA class like the Footy, nothing, but nothing, beats the “Lassel System” of sliding rig as described in his inimitable style at:

Basically, what this involves is maintaing a fixed vane angle on the beat (usually 30 deg or a little less) and adjusting for varying wind conditions by moving the rig. As an example, at our latest meet the wind tailed off significantly during the afternoon. My 36r beat six out of seven fixed-rig free sail boats on the beat. By the end of the day my rig was set over an inch aft of where it had been set at the start, and I was making the length of the pond in the same number of tacks. The fixed rig boats were sailing lower and lower as the wind died.

On the run, the rig goes all the way aft to minimize diving. Trust me, it works like a charm – there was a reason Gus Lassel was known to his contemporaries as “The Wizard of Wilmington” (California).

Also, if I were to do a free-sail Footy I’d do one of Gus’s “finless fin keel” designs as shown in the picture at the bottom of:

Which gets the rig’s sliding range as far aft as possible.



Free sailors beware I discovered today that there is a separate version of the Footy rule for free sailing. It is not very different - but moveable rudders are not allowed.

The official version will be on the Footy website as soon as Charles gets round to it (generally pretty quick).

We normally sail our models in open sea water. This is the venue I usually use to try out my new models… It is many times sheltered from constant wind but at least I can recover the boat somehow if need be. This is the planned venue to be used as it is very close to the school.