History of Radio Controlled Sailing??

Does anybody know any good resources to look at to find out when radio controlled sailing first started. Or how it first started along with who first started it? (Looking for info for the wiki)

I believe that the German toy Company BING, brought out one in 1908 but discontinued it by 1913. So the story goes.

Information from Wikipedia.org about BING

Bing was a German toy company founded in 1863 in Nuremberg, Germany by two brothers, Ignaz and Adolf Bing, originally producing metal kitchen utensils. They began toy production in 1880 and by the early 20th century, Bing was the largest toy company in the world, and Bing’s factory in Nuremberg was the largest toy factory in the world. Although Bing produced numerous toys, it is best remembered today for toy trains.

Bing’s first trains hit the market in the 1880s. When M?rklin formalized several standards for track gauges in 1891, Bing adopted them, and added O gauge by 1895. Additionally, Bing introduced a still-smaller gauge that was 1/8 inch narrower, which it called OO. However, Bing’s OO gauge was much larger than modern OO gauge.

The “Nuremberg Style” of manufacturing toys on steel sheets with lithographed designs that were stamped out of the metal, formed, and assembled using tabs and slots, was perfected by Bing. This manufacturing method remained in widespread use well into the 1950s, long after Bing had disappeared.

Bing produced numerous items for export which were then sold either under its own name or for other companies. Bing produced trains styled for the British market for Bassett-Lowke and A. W. Gamage, and it produced trains for the North American market, which it exported and marketed on its own. Early in the 20th century, Bing jockeyed for market share with the Ives Manufacturing Company, who did not surpass Bing in sales for good until 1910. Throughout their histories, the two companies would frequently copy one another’s designs. In some instances, the two companies even used the same catalog number on their competing products. Due to cheap German labor and low shipping and duty costs, Bing was often able to undercut the prices of its U.S. competitors. By 1914, Bing had 5,000 employees. By comparison, M?rklin employed 600.

World War I forced Bing out of the export market at its peak. In 1916, Ives and the A. C. Gilbert Company formed the Toy Manufacturers Association and lobbied to protect the growing U.S. toy manufacturing industry, which had grown in the absence of foreign competition. As a result, tariffs on German toys rose from 35 percent to 70 percent. Additionally, German wages rose after the war, as did shipping costs and inflation. This created an unfavorable climate for German exports. Additionally, Lionel Corporation’s advertising that criticized the manufacturing methods of its competitors’ trains, targeted mainly at Ives, also hurt Bing’s image because Bing’s methods were so similar. Bing struggled to sell through its old inventory and misjudged demand. When the market evaporated for its 1 gauge trains, it re-gauged some models to O gauge, where they looked oversized, and other models to Lionel’s Standard gauge, where they looked undersized. Yet by 1921, Bing had re-established itself in the U.S. market, largely through sales through catalog retailer Sears, Roebuck & Co. However, by 1925, Lionel was also selling through Sears, and Bing quickly found itself squeezed out of the market. Bing attempted to compensate by increasing its presence in Canada, where it competed with mixed success with American Flyer.

By 1927, Bing was in serious financial trouble and the company’s president, Stephan Bing, and his son, left the company. Initially going to work with another Nuremberg-based toy firm, the Bings, who were Jewish, soon fled to England because of the rise of Adolf Hitler.

By 1932, Bing was in liquidation, and it went out of business for good in 1933. Much of its tooling was acquired by Bub, a rival toy company.

Stephan Bing helped to start the British company Trix. Other Bing executives started the similarly-named company Trix Express.

Bing items can be identified and dated by its trademark. Items bearing the letters “GBN” (for “Gebruder Bing Nuremberg”) in a diamond date before 1923, while items bearing a sideways “B” next to a “W” (for “Bing Works”) date from 1924 to 1932.

There was probably rudder-only control by radio as soon as simple spark transmitters were available. Sheets would still be set by hand on shore and not adjustable once underway.

The earliest “true” r/c boat we know about in the US (there were parallel developments in the UK and probably many other places) dates from 1934:


This used a clever sequence controller to run a sail winch. The fellow that did it turned up at the celebration of Marblehead MYC’s 100th, otherwise we would have never heard about it.

We ran an article in the USVMYG newsletter by Francis Reynolds, the first US radio national champion which described the 1950’s technology: single channel rudder control, with the sail servo controlled by a vane to provide fully automatic sheeting depending on the angle of the apparent wind. Owing to loopholes in class rules, this technique is still legal in many classes. Reynolds maintained that it trims sheets much more effectively than you can “by hand.”

Also, Santa Barbara sail #2 is here in Albuquerque, and still has its early receiver and servos. These were military surplus items taken out of radio controlled target drones. This technology was used well into the early 1970’s.

Email me (boebert [at] swcp.com) if you would like a pdf of the reynolds article.

In addition, much information on the “drone era” radio technology can be had from Rod Carr.


Earl Boebert
Historian, U.S. Vintage Model Yacht Group


I have Santa Barbara #438 with the Vortex “drone” servo. I’m in the process of refurbishing #438 but haven’t decided whether to abandon the “drone” servo or keep it.

I’ll send Rod an email.

A fuller history of the boating side of BING can be had in Don F Kihlstrom book “Sunday Sailors” ISBN 1-56311-467-4. It was printed 1998 and is maybe out of print now but is one of the best books on early Model Yachts I’ve ever seen. Try THEMODELYACHT.com


Lets not dwell on who did it first but who did it better?