Hi all,

I am converting a 1:96 scale plastic USS Constitution for square-rigged RC sailing. I have never sailed an RC sailing ship before, but I have operated small sailboats, and have extensive experience building RC combat warships (yes, the fighting kind). I've been researching RC and free-sailing square-riggers for years, and have finally begun construction of my own. This project is intended as a low-budget learning experience before I scratch-build a much larger sailing vessel and fully outfit it for RC warship combat.

A few features of this build:

Standoff scale: as a learning project, my goal is not museum-piece quality, but functionality. This ship will look good when standing 10 feet away, not when examined with a magnifying glass.
rotating carbon fiber masts: since the original plastic masts were far too flimsy, I am replacing them with carbon fiber tube. To keep topweight down on this small model, I will rotate the entire masts, rather than having each spar move separately.
four-channel operation. One channel for rudder, one channel for the foremast, one channel for main and mizzen, and one reserved for port and starboard guns. Working guns will not be installed in this model, as it is too small, but I will plan my control scheme as though I have them.
foam-filled hull: since this is just a learning project and not a full combat ship, it does not need to be penetrable or sinkable. Once it is complete, I will fill the lower hull with foam to make sure it never sinks.
extended keel and oversize rudder: I have read that RC square-riggers don't work well if you stay perfectly scale, so I will be trying out a number of different combinations of keels and rudders to find out what works best.
4lb10oz displacement to scale waterline. About half of this will be lead on the bottom of the extended keel, for stability. Currently weight is about 1lb for hull, masts, and 3 standard-sized servos. I still need to add yards, sails, rigging, receiver, and battery.


At this point in time, the masts are almost done, and I am about to start on the yards. since I am a newcomer to RC sail, however, I do have a number of questions.

1) What material should I use for sails? I was thinking the material used to make kites would work well, but I have no idea where to get it. I was also considering cutting up some old (but still nice) white bedsheets, if I cannot find anything else.

2) How do I attach the sails to the yards? Keep in mind that I would like the option of removing sails on particularly windy days. Somehow, I don't think superglue is a good idea...

3) How important is it to control the fore-and-aft sails? I was planning to set these on shore rather than RC them, to avoid control overload in the middle of combat. If necessary, I can run all the square sails from one servo and the fore-and-aft from the other.

4) how strong of servos will I need to control the sails? I have seen photos of larger square-riggers using micro servos to control the sails, so I am hoping my cheapie HS-311 standard servos will work once I waterproof them.