Recognized RC Development Classes

I’m wondering what people think: is the new technology in full size sailing especially in regard to movable ballast,spinnakers and squaretop rigs moving so quickly that most(but not all) recognized RC classes can’t keep up or is it getting so technical that most people interested in these classes don’t care?
What is causing the decline in many of the formerly top rc development classes? Money? Technical difficulty? Lack of relevence to the real world of sailing? Or?
Your opinions will be valuable in giving some of us that are interested in designing and building an idea what you think…

Doug Lord
High Technology Sailing/Racing

Point 1. Money. I think the costs of our boats are already rediculous. I doubt that making it more expensive is really a benefit. When I look through comercial boat builder sites and see $1000+ to get a competive US1m going or $1500+ for a Marblehead I think it’s insane. Coming from the RC plane world and knowing what I could buy for that much money, what we spend here is obnoxious. We are obsessed with making everything out of Carbon now. It was probably a nice speed advantage at first. Now that everyone is using it and the advantage is gone it’s just making it more costly. If I have to buy a computer radio for a boat just to operate everything I’m not going to do it.

Point 2. These things just aren’t that exciting to sail around by yourself. The only thing that really makes them fun is racing with other people. If there isn’t a local fleet of boats to sail with then there is no point. Unless a bunch of other guys agree to buy something to start a fleet I’m also not buying it. If point 1 is violated regardless of how cool the boat might be point 2 is probably not going to happen either.


well getting a nice hi tech boat…can be really nice…for example…what s the point of buying a Ferrarri…you cant drive it at full speed on the road…see my point…
just having it because you want it
i do not race and i sail alone, but i still want a new one, better faster aso…
just my point


if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

$1000+ is a lot of money to spend on a toy. If you are going to race competitively, you may be able to justify that kind of cost, but not many will spend that kind of money for something if it is just to play with by themselves.

So the sale/constuction of boats is being driven by competition. Many people see the best competition being in classes where the rules are locked down pretty tight making for a nice level playing field for all. One design classes are flourishing. My own class - the Fairwind - is well over 100 boats after only 2 years as an AMYA class. The EC12, Soling 1M, and Victorias are the largest AMYA classes and are all fairly tight one design classes. BTW, all of these are significantly less than $1000 to get into and campaign at even the highest level. I have 2 boats now and to date have spent less than $1000 for all my equipment.

The IOM, while not a strict one design, is fairly tightly controlled. The rigs are very tightly controlled and the class rules regarding the hull have attempted to emphasize lower cost construction. This class has grown very large worldwide despite its cost becasue it offers very competitive racing at many levels (from local fleets to world championships).

My personal take on this is that people just don’t have as much time any more. They want to get the most out of their boat building and boat racing time. They don’t want to have to build/buy a new boat every year or two to stay ahead of the development curve. They want to get out on the water and sail.

If we are talking about spending $1000 every two years or so to remain competitive in an RC class, you could spend a lot less than that and campaign a full sized Laser class boat. In fact there are a lot of full sized dinghies that you could own and sail for less than what it would take to maintain the fastests boat in some of these development fleets. Given the choice between standing on shore and watching my boat cruise across the water, or being on it, I will take the later. So as long as the cost of a development class program is so high, I think most people will not find that a justifiable cost.

The only people who will remain are mostly the folks who are building their own boats. And the people with the aptitude and inclination to spend that much time building a boat are going to be few and far between…

  • Will

Will Gorgen


I would argue that the number of people out there with the time and aptitude to home build a boat is probably less than 20% of the AMYA membership rolls. 10 years ago it was a higher percentage, but the AMYA was a lot smaller then. Cheap, ready to race boats like the Victoria, Seawind, etc. which require about 20 hours to assemble have driven a lot of the growth in the AMYA.

I admire those of you that have the knowledge and skill to build a hull from lines. I cannot do it, nor do I have the time to try. I am not over 50 (I am 34) and I do not have a lot of free time (I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old that see to that).

I got into RC sailing because I no longer had the time to devote to the grand prix program I was involved in during my bachelorhood. I wanted to race. I found a way to get a lot of racing in with the 4 hours every other weekend that I can pry myself away from my family.

The Fairwind is by no means a “hot” design. It is an ABS plastic shell that comes from Japan. The boat is heavy, low draft, and low performance (compared to an IOM, M, US1M, etc.). The owners in this class take pride not so much in their boat, as their ability to sail it well. They work hard to tune their sails and rig. The racing is competitive and close.

I think a lot of people get into RC sailing to race. If the racing is good, then the classes will attract the good sailors. If the boats are cheap, and there are fleets around, then you can own several boats and campaign them all. One of the top skippers in the Fairwind Class, Tony Johnson, also owns a CR914, an RC Laser and a US1M and campaigns them all. That would be difficult to do if he had home built all those boats… (By the way, he also builds and sells RC iceboats for anyone who wants to spend their winters sailing instead of building…)

My point is that those sailors who want to compete and want to spend more time on the water than in their workshop are going to be attracted to the classes with the best competitive sailing. This is fundamentally different from the most technologically advanced boats (getting back to Doug’s original question). A lot of guys like to race one design and want to know that they won the race because they were the better sailor and not because they had the better boat.

But even among the development classes, guys want to know that the boat they build this year will be competitive for years to come. As such, most development classes put limits on what technology can and cannot be incorporated. The US1M development class does not allow canting keels. The IOM development class is even more strict about new technology.

Let’s look at what the full sized boats are doing. Let’s look at one recent race - the 2003 TransPac. Let’s look at Division 2. There were 10 boats in div 2. Only the two TP52s were built to the same rating. The remainder of the boats in that class ranged in size from another 52 footer up to 3 70 footers (18 feet longer than the TP52s). How were they able to sail together? Handicapping. Rather than trying to design a bunch of boats of even speed in an open development environment, the full sized sailing world has allowed boats of varying degrees of technology and size to sail against each other. This allows designers to incorporate new technologies into their boats and continue to push the envelope.

So perhaps what we need is a rating system for RC boats. The open class has existed for many years, but it is not really a class so much as a home for misfit toys. I have never heard an open class championship regatta. Why? The boats are different speeds and there is currently no method for handicapping them.

I don’t know if it would work, or not, but if you used a handicapping system that used displacement, sail area and waterline length, you would encouracge one-off boats that did not need to conform to the rules of one of the current AMYA classes. You could have two or 3 divisions - spinnaker class, under 40" JAM (jib and main) and over 40" JAM. As long as the rating rule was well understood and relatively stable, I could see a lot of boat builders getting into this class and bringing new technologies with them.

But if you are restricted to the current classes with their current rules, you are not going to see a lot of the cutting edge technologies working their way into RC boats…

  • Will

Will Gorgen

I think these original development classes served two purposes, to see who could build the fastest boat and to see who was a good sailor. I think the recent developments in technology have hurt most of these classes considerably due to making it virtually impossible for a home builder to casually design and build a competitive design. In order to build a good fast boat it necessitates skills and abilities that havent been kept up in younger generations by their families (dads) and are best left now to professional builders. Given that, almost every boat out there in these development classes is kind of the same (Carbon/kevlar hull, lowest weight possible, carbon mast mylar sails, carbon fin) it really has put most boats on an equal footing cost wise and material wise so why does it make sense to continue in that vain? I would recommend to most development classes that they shelve the fancy materials, bump up to a class wide minimum weight and draft and get more people into the sport at a lower cost. The IOM tried to do that but it left open a wide variety of loopholes which get closed gradually but the cost of the boats is still a little stiff for a lot of people. Classes where I see future success are more or less one design.
I think what would surely be a most attractive class would be an offshoot of a Marblehead. Get rid of the swing rigs, bump up the weight, raise the minimum draft and maybe even add a little sail area. One design hull with Two one design rigs, fiberglass hull wood, aluminum, fiberglass appendages and you have a hell of a fun boat to sail minus the technology race. The more sail area you have the more of a premium is placed on tuning and handling and skill in determining when is it time to rig down. The life span of a boat is indefinite and you don’t leave out the busy guy with a family and 4 kids to support because he invested in the hull once and will not have to worry about much else than battery maintenance and basic building skills if he shelves the boat for a half a season. I think the development classes leave out a lot of casual sailors, those with skills in sailing but not necessarily much time to keep up with new boats/technology. The lower cost classes leave out the guys who have a love for finely crafted well thought out racing designs and look at the two scale steering wheels on a 914 and immediately think “toy”. The very best of model sailing is with a big number of participants sailing with good technology and not so much wallet technology. I think it is yet to come.

I kind of left out my thoughts about all this new technology. While I certainly think it is interesting, you probably wont find a newbie looking into it too much. The more complicated it is the more there is to go wrong the more difficulty it is to assemble and the more expensive it might be. If we are all sailing the same thing it just doesnt matter that much. I think we are looking for a good solid reasonable technology that will let us enjoy a screaching run or reach yet not cost us more than a thousand bucks all in. The technology race drives up the cost, it leaves people discouraged and behind the curve and even if it isnt expensive and we all keep up we all eventually get to the same development point where we are back on a levle playing field and the development is pretty much done so why dont we start with something pretty good if not very good but basic to begin with, take out the bells and wistles that drive the cost up and leave it be.

For the record I’m one of the well under 50’s somethings (27). I have the patience to build a boat. I built a carbon AC last winter/spring/summer/still working the bugs out. I used to fly planes and built about 20 total by the time I stopped about 2 years ago. Some of us have the patients to build. It’s very difficult to find any information regarding how to scratch build a boat or work with composites. It’s very difficult to find sources for the parts as well. Diagrams regarding boat and hardware setup are nearly impossible to find. A problem here is also that most of the beginner boats such as Victoria’s have a really lousy sail control setup if built per the kit and this is beginners learn.

When I look at a boat I also still equate size to value. I can see paying $1500 for an 80" AC. I can’t see paying $1500 for a Marblehead and definetely not a One Meter.

At our club we sail Marbleheads with a One Design rig similar to a B-Rig (non-swing rig) which makes the boat dramatically cheaper. The fleet size is fairly large because of this. For us having a decent fleet size and a lot of people to sail with is much more important then keeping the boats high tech.

I currently own 3 different model types–Seawind (strict one design), Victor Cup Class (no class association or rules yet developed), and F-48 (developmental class). I think each type of boat (one design, developmental) serve a different purpose for me. I am interested in the F-48 because I like multihulls AND I am interested in the building side of things, though I am new to it. The one design idea for me is also agreeable because it doesn’t take months to build the boat and I can be on the water racing in a short period of time. While they may not be nearly as sophisticated, to me that isn’t the point. I think that like many clubs in the country, it’s important to have an entry level class–one that is cost effective and can attract people that may not even be sailors at first. People just getting into the sport may be intimidated by the amount of building that a developmental class boat takes (not to mention the $$$)–I’m STILL intimidated by the prospect of building my F-48, and I would have NEVER picked that boat to be my first RC boat. However, it is because I had the Seawind first that I was conifdent enough not only in my building skills, but that model yachting is for me to move on to the F-48. What’s the saying–you have to crawl before you can walk? (or at least most of us have to)

I have been gathering information from several different sources on how to form a model yacht club, in the hopes that I can get one started in my town. EVERY ONE of the people that I have talked to have emphasized the need for an entry level class in any new club for the reasons that I have stated above. It is my goal that when a local club is formed here, we will have BOTH an entry level class AND the F-48 class as well.


As a former USOM class secretary and a charter member of the homemade USOM boat of the month club in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I saw the importance of keeping costs under control and making the latest designs available to keep people interested in the class. Hulls, keels, and rudders can be made light and strong in just about any of the popular mediums, CF, wood, or fiberglass if the builder uses the best techniques. A lot of these techniques are presented in construction guides, but a lot of the newer techniques are not common knowledge and these need to be shared to aid new builder/sailors that wish to join development classes with a reasonable expense. I was always worried that the cost of boats would be driven up by exotic materials, but I have seen classes with less exotic material costing just as much or more than ones with carbon everything. When you compare the cost of kits and the completed boats from those kits, most manufacturers do not charge a lot, especially when you consider how much time it takes to assemble some kits. Some manufacturers must make less than $5/hr.
I have seen hulls of the same design made with different materials (CF, fiberglass, or wood) that are just grams apart. Rudders and keels can be made strong in many different ways. I have seen aluminum tube cores with plywood skins that are just as stiff and light as CF fins. Even homemade winches can be light and strong. The trade-off for spending money is spending time. Time to learn techniques and time to build. But, more importantly, time to teach. Sharing the wealth of knowledge about materials and techniques of building will be the basis of developing the next class of builders that will help keep costs down and sailors interested in development classes. So let’s hear it for the Jensen’s, DeBow’s, Johnson’s, Blackwell’s, and more that have taught us to build light and strong, and sail fast. And, let’s hear it for the next group (not necessarily, generation) that will keep these classes strong and growing.

Dick, I have always had a belief in claiming races ever since slot cars in the mid 60’s. Perhaps this is a way to get non-builders to buy into a class, get excited about improving and become builders. Clyde

Hey Dick,

Developing a handicapping system is not going to be an easy task. Terry Mackey has been working on a handicapping system for the EMYC. It is very tricky to implement and gets updated after every race day. It is a performance based handicap system where your finish positions in races determines your rating (something similar to a golf handicap). While this is a great leveler for new guys, it means that any given type of boat is not going to have the same rating for all people (in other words, there are 10 or 12 Fairwinds in the handicap system and each one has a different rating depending on how the skipper has performed in previous races).

Big boat handicap systems (like PHRF or IMS) take the theoretical speed of the boat into account. They use VPP predictions to setup a rating for the boat type. Then they adjust locally to account for speed enhancements / detriments. For example, it has been a running joke in PHRF that if you leave your outboard motor attached to your transom instead of shipping it and stowing it in the bilge, you can earn another 5 seconds a mile from the handicapping committee.

I think the simplest system would be to take something like what the 10 raters use. I believe the 10 rater rule takes sail area and waterline length into account. If you use that rating formula and come up with a rating number for each boat, that would get you pretty far. You may want to figure in a few more variables like displacement, draft and beam. but that could get pretty complicated.

The next question is how to score the boats. Do you stagger the starts based on the ratings of the boats, or do you start together and owe time at the finish? If you stagger the start, you would need to enhance the starting tape to give the guy starting with 30 seconds to go a countdown, etc. If you correct the time at the finish, then you would need to keep track of elapsed times with a stopwatch. Either way, you will have a lot of work on your hands for the local fleets, but it would allow a lot more guys and a lot more types of boats to race. And I think the rating should be in seconds per mile, so you would need to measure the length of the course somehow (GPS might be accurate enough).

Either way, this would give a great opening for a lot of boats out there that are trying to get a foothold. Local fleets would not be so dependent on growing their established fleets to some critical size. You could always race a one design race as a subset of a handicapped race. So lets say you had 6 fairwinds, 2 seawinds, 3 soling one meters, an ODOM and a Victoria. After you figured out how to rate them all, you could run one race (13 boats on the starting line would be quite fun). The overall race winner would be based on the handicap correction, but the winner among the fairwinds would be based on which fairwind finished first. The Solings may also consider 3 boats enough to keep track of the soling winner.

You may want to award bonus points to each boats rating for limiting their “go fast” expenditures. For example if someone home builds a boat out of some “heavy” construction technique, they get bonus points to help their rating. If a Fairwind uses the stock kit sails instead of custom panneled sails, they could get bonus points. If a boat has only one rig instead of A, B and c rigs, they could get bonus points for that too. That would encourage less expensive boats. Of course is someone goes all out and has tons of high tech stuff on their, they would only do that if they felt that they could “beat” their rating. So you would not want the bonus points to overly dumb down the competition.

I’m not sure who the open class secretary is these days, but I think a handicap system like this applied fairly and uniformly across the AMYA would really be neat. I think it would give new life to some clubs out there that have dwindled in interest because new guys cannot join in the fun unless they have the right kind of boat.

  • Will

Will Gorgen

…back to the orignal question…

I don?t know what your asking here Doug. Are you suggesting that existing classes re-write their class rules to accept these ?new technologies?? I don?t see this as very feasible . Firstly, we have no idea whether or not any of the above ?new technologies? would benefit us competitively, so why would we run out and adopt them? To this day I have not seen any of the above prove to be able to give me any advantage out on the racecourse, so why would I vote to change class rules to accept them?

Maybe there is a decline in developmental classes because most of us just like to race rather then worry about trying to keep up with technological advances, if there actually are some out there that are worth investing in, to stay competitive.

Doug, you keep putting the cart before the horse here. Show us what we are missing, then ask why it?s not being adopted. Maybe if you did, you would not have to ask this question over and over again.

I think the full on developement classes that Doug is after suit one kind of person, and the one design and restricted development classes suit another. I like a number of other people on this forum like messing around with ideas and a box rule is great for that. If you just enjoy racing then a one design or if you have enough cash a restricted development class is gonna suit you. Not everybody has the access/building skills/time or money to race competively in a ever changing development class, the racing after all is more likely to be close in a one design class- and maby the majority wants that. Development classes have to exist however or the sport will stagnate, look at how the Int 14 and Moth developments are filtered into mainstrem dinghy sailing, new one desing classes appear and the old die out, keeping the whole sport up to date.

If its not blowing it sucks!

Categorizing “hardware” within the class is difficult and led to the Traditional 36 and the 36/600, when the debate centered on the use of swing rigs. On the local level, some Marbleheads have been divided into Skalpel and non-Skalpel fleets.
Most divisions within the local, regional, and national scenes relat to the skill (or winningness) of the skipper. Skippers who won in the B fleet would move into the A fleet, sometimes at the middle or the end of the season. Novice sailors in the B fleet would have an A fleet skipper as a coach. Regardless of the boat that they sailed, it was the skipper that advanced not the hull design. There were skippers who could make their well-tuned “off-brand” boat go regardless of the design, they could beat good and bad skippers with supposedly better boats. A boat may be fast on paper, or in another skipper’s hands, but if the skipper can’t tune it or sail it optimally, it won’t go fast.
Trading boats is a great experiment and demonstration for both novice and expert sailors. Novices sailing winning boats will learn where they need work; the experts want to see their boats do good so they will give the novices tips. Winners have a lot of pride and they will tune up the novices’ boats to make them go better. In the end, the novice gets back a better tuned boat and has a great time sailing a top boat. One stipulation is that the expert shows the novice what was done to make the novice’s boat faster.


A time-on-time system is just fine with me (I am quite familiar with Portsmouth rating). The problem is that you cannot develop that system based on one design regattas. For example, if you have a victoria regatta where the course is 200 yards long and the lead boats finish in 5 minutes, all you know is that it took 5 minutes to complete the course (and maybey you record the wind strength). Now you have a fairwind regatta where the course is 300 yards long and the leaders finish in 6 minutes. All you know is that it took 6 minutes to finish the course. Does that mean that the Vics owe the Fairwinds 20 seconds per minute? No. In order to build the database, the Vics and the Fairwinds need to race the same course at the same time, or you need to know the length of the course and the wind strength so that you can correct the time back to some standard course.

The Portsmouth database relies on multiple types of boats participating in the races together. When an unrated boat wants to apply for a portsmouth rating, it is prefered that the boat participate in a race with at least two other “yardstick” boats. Barring that, I believe there is a time trail provision over a fixed length course that can be used.

So really what you need are the results from club races where multiple fleets sail at the same time. In our club, for example, the US1Ms usually start at the one minute point on the starting tape and the Fairwinds at the “mark”. So if you record the finish times of the first US1M and the first Fairwind and subtract one minute from the delta, you would have the basis for populting the database. We also have seawinds in our club, so you could enter them into the database. Another local club, DMYC races Vics, ACs and US1Ms so now you can compare Vics with Fairwinds. You get the picture, I think. You need to get the buy-in from the local clubs or have open class regattas with a lot of boats participating to populate the database if you are going to use the portsmouth type system.

That is why I suggested the 10 rater rating system. All you need for that is some measurements of the sail area and waterline length.

There are some regional events being held by clubs around the country that could be considered OPEN class events. There is a group in Chicago that holds an “over 50 inch” regatta. Maybe Stan willbe able to latch onto that base and build from there…

  • Will

Will Gorgen


OK, lets all get back on topic. With regards to the benefits of the foils: Yuo have sailed the F3. I assume you have a F48 that you could put in the water (or are you still building?). That sounds like a fair race to me. I’m not sure what the sail area is of the F3, But it is refable, right, so you could set up the sail areas the same and have a spin around the pond. If you felt really ambitious, you could fabricate some non-foiled appendages for the F3 and see if the race turns out any differently.

To Doug’s credit, he built the F3 before a real multihull class existed over here. Now he is building new boats that fits the rules of the MultiOne and F48 class. When he is done, he will have done his part to put the technology on the water. Someone from the class should step up to the plate with some competition and have some races. Sure the boat builder should put in some effort to promote and sell his boats, but the class should also be willing to put an effort into promoting the builders in that class. If the class wants to promote technology, then they should be willing to help the builders develop and prove out that technology.

  • Will

Will Gorgen

i alos would like to get back to the orginal topic. if you want to go out and buy a $2000 ts2 IOm class boat go ahead. but the idea that this boat will finish in the top 10 is not correct. the sailor makes the difference. if cost is a matter baybe one should look at the us one meter. Iknow 3 people who built them out of balsa and fibreglass and they are as fast as Any other one meter. their boats only cost them abot $500 and that is inclueding the radio.will it keep up with an IOM , again it all depend on the skipper. we can keep the cost down, if we look at the class.