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Tips for Building a Better Yacht

by John Forester

The Victoria is basically a fairly well-designed small R/C model racing yacht, usable on small ponds only 1 foot deep (nominal draft, 9"), but its details of controls, rigging, and sails leave much to be desired. These modifications make it a much better yacht. 

Materials Used

Many of the small fittings are made from music wire. Most of them use 0.030" wire. Cleats are made from 0.045" wire and from shim brass, about 0.030". Three fittings are made from stainless steel bicycle spoke material, approximately 0.060" dia.: one broken spoke would supply enough material. Several parts are made from the surplus runner material that joins the small molded parts when they are made.

Rigging Line

Use 30-lb test braided Dacron fishing line; it's easy to handle and plenty strong.

Cockpit Cover

It is permitted to cover the cockpit to reduce the amount of water that splashes in and has to drain out through the cockpit scuppers. You don't need to have the dummy wheels in place. A piece of clear plastic sheet (document cover stock, for instance) cut to size and taped down all round its edges does fine.

Power Switch

You need to have a simple system for turning the radio equipment power on and off when the hatch is taped shut. There are two ways to do this.

Switch Type 1:

The first is if you do not cover the cockpit. (I presume that you will tape the hatch edges to keep water out in rough weather. Then the only openings are the two for the main sheet control line and the one for the rudder push rod.) When building the radio board, place the power switch directly in front of the two holes through which the main sheet control line runs, but below, at the level of the board surface, and with the motion of the switch lever in the fore-and-aft direction. Make a small music wire loop, not more than 3/16" in diameter, with a short stem, and glue this into a hole drilled into the switch lever, with its loop in the fore-and-aft direction. This must be below the swing of the sheet control servo arm. Then make a switch tool from a length of music wire with a short right-angle bend at the end and the long arm long enough to reach from the switch loop to the center of the cockpit, and mount this in a wooden handle. Mark the handle with a line that will be up when the short arm is horizontal. This tool can then be inserted through one of the openings for the main sheet control line and used to turn the switch on and off. When you fit the hatch cover, cut a hole over the switch and glue in a transparent window so you can see what you are doing.

Switch Type 2:

This works easily even if both the hatch and the cockpit are taped closed. This external switch is water-proof and reliable. You need a servo or power extension cord to fit your radio system, and a Dean's 2-pin connector (buy 2 connectors; you will want to keep a spare). You need to realize that the switch supplied with a radio set is not an on-off switch, but a selector switch that switches the battery between the radio receiver and the charging connector. With this setup, you move the original switch only for setting up for charging the battery, and use the Dean's connector for on and off. Insert the power extension cord between the battery connector and the connector for the switch. Decide where in the deck you want to put the new switch, someplace convenient and that can be reached by the new power cord. Cut one line of the new power cord at the switch location, and solder the terminals of the pin part of the Dean's connector to the two ends. Cut a hole in the deck for the Dean's connector and insert it from the inside so that the pins stick up through the deck. Epoxy it in place. Then take the socket part of the Dean's connector and solder its two output terminals together with a bit of wire, and cut off the excess. Seal the terminal end of this connector with epoxy. Do the same with the spare socket, and keep it safe in your tool box in case you drop the one in use. Set the selector switch to the radio position before sealing the hatch and cockpit, but leave the socket off until you need to turn the radio on. You will also need the socket on when you charge the battery.

Transom Scuppers

The transom, as original, does not have proper scuppers to drain out any water that gets into the cockpit. Before you install the transom, file a groove in its bottom at each side so that there will be an opening for the water to drain through.

Main Sheet Control Line

The original design for the sheet control system has several problems. The jib sheet is permanently attached to the main sheet, complicating the adjustments. Also, the range of motion of the main control line is only just long enough, and can be increased. The fairlead in the transom through which the main control line runs has too much friction. With the low-powered sheet winch that you use, it is very important to reduce friction.

Modifying Fairleads

You could cut and file the openings of the fairlead into bell-shaped curves to reduce friction, but I did something else. Where the fairlead is installed into the transom, I cut a V-shaped notch. I bent a piece of stainless bicycle spoke (about 1.5 mm dia.) into a V and glued this, with the opening facing aft, over the notch cut in the transom, leaving a hole sufficient to take the control line. Then the line runs over the smooth stainless with little friction. Also, this allows the main control line a bit more motion, because the opening can be a little further aft than the original fairlead. Also, the way that the main control line runs through the hole in the end of the winch arm causes too much friction. Form a ring, about 3/16" dia., out of the same stainless bicycle spoke wire and fit that through the hole in the winch arm, so that the main control line will run through it instead of through the hole in the winch arm.

Separating the Jib and Main Sheets from the Main Control Line

Make the main control line part of the hull equipment and the two sheets part of the rigging that is removed with the masts and sails. This separates the adjustments and makes rigging easier. Form a small ring, about 1/8" dia., from music wire, and attach this to the end of the main control line. Adjust the main control line so that the movement of the winch arm lets the ring move freely all the way aft to the fairlead. Form two small toggles from music wire by bending it into a very small loop with two tails facing in opposite directions and longer than the diameter of the ring on the main control line, the whole small enough to fit sideways through the ring in the main control line and then, when pulled, to lock in place because the two tails are wider than the ring. This enables you to hitch the sheets to the main control ring when rigging the boat without destroying the initial adjustment. This will require you to install a different fairlead on the foredeck for the jib sheet. I made mine out of an arch of bicycle spoke wire mounted in a scrap of the injection molding sprues that join the molded pieces, the whole glued to the deck. The arch has to be large enough for the toggle on the jib sheet to pass through it. Don't install this until you are adjusting the rig.

Cleats

The cleats supplied are the wrong shape for convenient and secure hitching. Cut cleats out of shim brass with mounting holes to match the original ones and install them in place of the originals.

Rigging Modifications

The "topmast" crosstrees are useless, just for looks. Remove them, but save the crosstree socket because it serves as the attachment point for the jibstay. One shroud per side is enough. Remove the lower crosstrees completely. Cut off the arms of the upper crosstree but keep its socket. Run one shroud per side down to any of the chainplates. A stainless wire (86lb fishing leader, 0.020") soldered into a model aircraft adjustable clevis works well. Because the clevis won't attach to the original chainplate, make a loop out of stainless bicycle spoke to connect the chainplate with the clevis. Cleats are not necessary on the masthead crane. Just drill a few more holes and clove hitch the main and jib halyards through them.

Boom Fittings

The springs supplied for the ends of the boom and jib club are useless, always slipping. Form single rings of music wire with a bulged-out loop for the attachment of the tacks and clews and epoxy these in place. Be sure to use emery cloth or sandpaper to remove the oxide coating from the aluminum boom material before gluing; otherwise the epoxy will not stick well. Using the same gluing technique, install cleats made from music wire for the jib tack and clew and the main clew.

Rigging Hooks or "Rigging Screws"

I don't know what else to call the snap fittings, like safety pins, that serve to connect the stays to the hull. Those supplied are too large and ugly. I make mine from music wire. Form a loop about 1/16" dia. and give its tails a half twist. Bend the short tail out at a right angle, and then form a hook in its end, about a 1/4" away. Form the long tail into the loop part of the fitting that returns to latch into the hook in the other tail. Cut the tails to proper length.

Mast Rings

Don't use the supplied wire rings to attach the mainsail to the mast. Just use rigging line.

Sheet Adjustment

To adjust the sheets to exact length, you need bowsies on both boom and jib club. Epoxy a music-wire ring with bulged-out loop at the underside of the outer end of the boom, and just aft of the attachment for the jib club pivot. Rig the sheets through the (initially adjustable) boom and jib club attachment fittings, through the bowsies, to the end fittings, and back to the bowsies. Then adjust the position of the sheet attachment fittings on the boom and club, and the positions of the bowsies, so that the boom and club move to equal angles. When you are satisfied with the position of the boom and club attachment points (after some trial sailing), epoxy them so they won't move inadvertently.

Sails

Well, the boat needs better-cut sails, but that is another chapter.

John Forester
408-734-9426
726 Madrone Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086-3041
Email:forester@johnforester.com

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