I spent part of my youth near the Gulf Coast of Texas. While living there, I became fascinated by the sailboats that I saw offshore and in the local marinas. However, never having had the time or money to go sailing, it was a fascination that I put on the back burner, until I heard about RC sailing.
While there are some obvious differences between full-size and RC sailboats, there are many more similarities. The basic principles and skills for sailing are applicable to both small RC boats and full-sized sailboats. As it was once explained to me, sailing well is a mix of art and science. On the one hand, sailing well requires the eye of an artist to see the subtle changes in the wind and water. On the other hand, sailing also requires understanding the physics of how a boat if affected by the wind and water and by the fine adjustments made to the boat’s rigging.
I had been eyeing sailboats for several years when I finally bought my first RC sailboat. Like other new RC sailors that I have talked to, I had no idea what I was doing, so I researched the sailing on the Internet. While searching for more information about sailing, I found out that there was an RC sailing club not too far from my home. I took my new sailboat out to the club, and I met a really nice group of guys. They offered tons of tips and made me feel very welcome, so in short order I joined the club. However, there was one minor problem. My boat was not one of the three types they were sailing. This wasn’t a huge issue, unless I wanted to compete in one of the frequent club regattas. I enjoy sailing alone or non-competitively, but as I quick learned, racing sailboats brings a completely new dimension to RC sailing.
While I was considering which boat to get, I was giving a chance to review the Victoria, which luckily for me, was one of the three types of boats being sailed at the club. Furthermore, the club was also hosting the 2003 Victoria Nationals Regatta. This gave me chance to see some top quality sailboat and their captains in action.
Length: 30.7″ (779mm)
Mast height: 42.8″ (1086mm)
Sail area: 433 sq.in. (28.6dm.sq.)
Beam: 7.7″ (197mm)
Weight: 4.6lbs (2.1Kg) / (no less than 4.5lbs for competition) (as tested: 4.57lbs)
Recommended Radio: 2-channel ground radio
Radio used: Hitec Laser 6 (75Mhz)
Rudder servo: Hitec HS-300
Sail-arm servo: Hitec HS-945MG
Receiver battery: 600mAh 4.8v AA NiCd / 600mAh 6v AA NiCd
The Victoria comes as a kit, with everything needed to get the boat ready to sail, except for the radio gear, receiver battery, and a few tools. The folks at Thunder Tiger even include a generous supply of epoxy and ABS glue. Upon opening the kit, I found the boat and parts very well packed, with all of the small parts securely bagged. Also included in the kit was a very complete manual that had a detailed list of the required tools and parts, a comprehensive parts list with pictures, and thorough instructions for every step in the building process, as well as a basic tutorial on sailing.
Since the manual covers the building process so well, I will cover the major steps in building the boat, steps where I deviated from the building process, and things I learned along the way. The first thing I should mention is that I built the boat 99% stock, but most competitive sailors make modifications, such as replacing the stock rigging, sails, and gear setup, to both make the boat lighter (no less than 4.5lbs / 2,041.5g) and to make it handle various wind conditions better. I think that the Victoria sails nicely stock, but when setup with the modifications for racing, it becomes a noticeably faster boat. For more information about the Victoria, visit the AMYA (American Model Yacht Association), which governs the Victoria class, among other classes of RC sailboats, in the USA.
The first, easiest, and one of the most important steps in building the Victoria actually isn’t part of the boat; it is the included boat stand. The boat stand is an invaluable asset while building the Victoria, while preparing it for sailing or after returning from sailing, and for storage.
The next step in building the boat is building the radio box. I have heard there are lighter ways to install the radio gear, so I did a little research. The battery box weighs approximately 33.1 grams (1.168 ounces), and one of the lightest alternatives I read about weighed 27.9 grams (0.9841 ounces). I know that every ounce counts, but since the difference was a fraction of an ounce, I decided to avoid the hassle of trying to re-engineer something that was already very light and worked. To see if I could make it lighter, I tried making some lightening holes in the box. However, the weight loss was so minimal that it didn’t register on my digital scale, so I wouldn’t recommend lightening the box. I would however recommend building the box on a flat surface covered with wax paper. I would also recommend using rubber bands or clamps to hold the box together while drying, and a book placed on top of the box to keep the boxes’ bottom flat to the work surface. My Victoria’s radio box warped while drying on the bench, so I had to carefully pry it apart and re-glue it before it would sit flat in the bottom of my boat.
Before I proceeded to the next step of putting the radio box and radio gear into the boat, I made one small non-stock addition to the boat. I added a small ply plate to the bottom of the boat, cut to fit snuggly around the molded indention for the keel. I read that the bottom part of the hull of some ABS boats would flex if the boats healed over in heavier winds, due to the weight of the bulb on the bottom of the keel. I personally do not have any evidence that the flexing is present or not in the Victoria, but this seemed to be a common addition to many Victoria sailboats, so I decided to add it to my boat too.
The radio gear went into the radio box without any problems, although I didn’t mount the receiver in the location indicated in the instructions. Since the receiver I used wasn’t waterproof, I mounted it to the right hand side of the boat under the deck. If water were to splash or leak in (as often happens with boats), it would be less likely to get into the receiver.
One thing that I had a hard time nailing down was which radio and servos I should put in my Victoria. I bought a Hitec Laser 6 radio setup (75mhz version) and a standard Hitec HS-425BB servo. I used a Hitec HS-300 servo included with the radio for the rudder and the HS-425BB for the sail-arm. The HS-425BB has 46 ounces of torque on a 4.8v receiver battery, but as I quickly found, that is far too little for the sail-arm. Next, I tried the Hitec HS-645MG for the sail-arm. It is nearly the same size and weight as the HS-425BB, but it produces 107 ounces of torque on 4.8v. However, it also did not provide enough torque at 4.8v, so I recently changed to a 6v receiver pack, which increases the HS-645MG’s torque to 133 ounces. This is better, but according to several Victoria owners that I have talked with and some of my own experiences, the Victoria needs something stronger, especially when sailing in higher wind conditions. Therefore, I may replace the HS-645MG with a Hitec HS-945MG or similar servo very soon, which produces 153 ounces of torque at 6v. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have used the Hitec HS-945MG from the start.
Keel and Rudder
Next, I installed the keel and rudder tubes. It is before this step that most racing modifications are made, because after this step, the front and rear (stern and aft) sections of the boat will not be accessible. Once the keel and rudder tubes were in place, I attached the keel, keel bulb, and rudder. I was also supposed to attach the plastic, decorative steering wheels and their mount, but I had read that other sailors had problems with the sail control lines getting tangled around them, so I chose to leave the steering wheels off my boat.
Next, the deck gear, such as the cleats, eyelets, and mast mount were attached. Again, while I used the stock components, competitive sailors often upgrade these components with parts that are more robust and/or lighter. One part in particular is often modified or left off the boat completely by some builders is the cockpit cover (part #27), because even the holes for water drainage are too small and it adds weight. I enlarged the holes in the cockpit cover for my boat, but later I had to enlarge them more because water was still not draining fast enough.
Later, I also modified the “cockpit rope bushing” in the cockpit cover. A sail-line is supposed to pass though this hole, but I found that it has too much friction for smooth operation, so I bought a piece of wire from the local hobby shop, and then fashioned an eyelet that fit in the bushing. The large diameter wire provided much smoother operation for the lines, which greatly affected how well the boat sailed.
The only other notes that I have about the deck components is to make sure to use enough ABS glue to hold the parts in place, yet not so much that the glue drips and runs on the boat. I also caution to avoid touching or handling the ABS parts while the glue is drying, which can take a day or so to fully cure. On several parts, I didn’t use enough glue and/or handled the parts too soon, so I had to re-glue them several times before they held securely.
Assembling and Rigging the mast and sails
The next step in the assembly of the Victoria is assembling and rigging the mast and sails. This process was not difficult, but it was time consuming. It also required some precise measurements and careful attention to the instructions. There are a fair number of little parts that have to be glued in place. As with the deck parts, the mast rigging should be given sufficient time to dry before handling. For folks interested, these are the most commonly replaced parts with competitive sailors. There is really nothing wrong with the included mast and sail, but lighter, stronger, and more adjustable masts, booms, and standing rigging can make for a noticeably faster boat. The mantra that I have heard repeatedly from sailors far more experienced than I am is that the rigging weight of competitive boats should be kept to a minimum. Boats with lighter weight rigging don’t heel over as far when the wind is abeam (coming towards the side of the boat).
Rigging the Deck
The rigging of the deck, which means preparing the sail lines, came before the assembly of the mast and sails in the manual, but based on personal experience, I chose to rig the sail control lines after the mast was in place. In this step, it is critical that the lines are properly measured, twice, before any cuts are made. The provided line is long enough to rig the boat as indication in the instructions, but not enough for mistakes, hence the reason that my boat has blue standing rigging and white sail control lines. Spectra line (sold as fishing line under various names including Izorline, Power Pro, and Spyderwire) is a perfect choice for replacement line since it is strong and has low-stretch properties. The only complaint that I have about the running rigging is that exit holes for the sail control line introduce a lot of friction on the line, which reduces the performance of the sail-arm servo. Therefore, I inserted and glued some tiny brass eyelets in the entrance and exit holes for the line, which noticeably reduced the friction on the line.
Making it pretty
The final step in assembly the boat is the application of the decals. I put the decals on the boat for looks, but I have heard from several experienced Victoria sailors that the decals on the side can introduce drag when the boat heels over. However, the main reason that I will probably remove mine in the near future is so that I can give my boat a custom paint job. The boat looks nice stock, but at my club and at the Victoria National Regatta in 2003, I saw some very nicely painted boats that gave each more personality that I would have expected from such a popular and widely sailed kit boat.
Building the boat was fun, but the real fun was sailing the Victoria. Unlike a one-meter boat I own, the Victoria fit quite nicely in my family vehicle, and I didn’t have to disassemble it, as I have to do with my larger boat. At the lake, set up was also a breeze, and within minutes, the Victoria was in the water. Before writing the following section, I took my boat to the lake at least a half dozen times to get it tuned and sailing well and to compare it to modified, race-ready Victoria sailboats. During the first few trips, when I used the HS-425BB servo for the sail-arm, the boat didn’t sail quite so well because the servo wasn’t strong enough to pull in the sails with the wind abeam (towards the side of the boat) or when running (wind coming towards the rear of the boat). When I finally got the Hitec HS-645MG servo installed, the boat sailed a good deal better. Even in moderate wind, I could sail it around the marks. It tracked very true and looked very true to scale on the water. Even my oldest son who is twelve and generally prefers things that go fast (such as speed boats) took turns sailing and enjoyed it. Unlike my other RC hobby, RC planes, I can hand over the Victoria transmitter to my son and just about anyone who wants to try without worry, because unlike my planes, I know that at the end of the day I will still come home with a completely intact boat.
While the Victoria sailed well, when I tried racing my stock Victoria against other club members’ modified Victoria sailboats, my Victoria was clearly outclassed. The sails and rigging on the stock Victoria are nice and work well, but they are definitely not race quality. Therefore, before the next racing season, I plan to change the sail-arm servo for something a bit stronger and the sails and rigging for an aftermarket setup, which should improve my boat’s performance considerably.
My experience with the Victoria leaves little doubt in my mind why it has become one of the most popular classes of RC boats. In fact, often when people ask about getting into RC sailing at the club, the Victoria is the first boat that is recommended. Overall, the Victoria is a great little boat and a fantastic value. It is fairly easy to build and set up, especially with the superb instructions and very complete kit. It is easy to modify for racing, especially with ample information and aftermarket parts online. It sails very well in a wide range of conditions, whether sailing for recreation or competitively. Even experienced sailors at my club who own much larger and/or more expensive boats regularly still enjoy racing and sailing their Victoria sailboats. Finally, it is easily transportable in a family car or van and easily storable at home. In conclusion, I have been and continue to be very happy with my Victoria, and the experiences I have had sailing it with my club-members and family.
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Manufacturer: Thunder Tiger
2055 Main Street
Irvine, CA 92614
Distributor: Ace Hobby
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Radio gear: Hitec RCD
Radio gear purchased from: Tower Hobbies