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Fast electric boat racing has been around for a number of years now, but it only really started to gain popularity over the last ten years as cell, motor and electronic speed controllers have evolved. The result of this is that there are several classes with differing regulations to which one can enter with associated variations in cost, and complexity. It was therefore decided a couple of years ago that a new class of racing be introduced. The objective of this new class was to establish a one make club level fun racing boat. It would ensure that all boats complied to a standard specification to provide a close level of racing, and promote inter-club racing. This format would be popular at club level and would encourage newcomers to the sport (both young and old).
Model Slipway became the one make manufacturer with their Club 500 model, which at approximately £38.00 is cheap in this day and age, and is ordered direct from the manufacturer. It was determined from analysis of several clubs proposed regulations to adopt the Southend Model Power Boat Club's ( Website: http://www.smpbc.co.uk) regulations for the class - regulations at SMPB. Details of the regulations can be found at the website. There is also a link from the Model Boats magazine's website (http://www.modelboats.co.uk/), to Model Slipway's own website.
The class requires that none of the parts supplied in the kit be substituted for ones of superior performance i.e. hotter motors, or different propellors.
So what do you get for your money? Well the kit comes with a two piece styrene hull moulding (available in several colours), several styrene mouldings to make up the cabin, battery tray, motor mount, rudder support, and boat stand. In my instance a white hull was supplied with yellow deck and cabin mouldings. Other items supplied with the kit include a fan cooled '550' type motor, M5 propshaft and coupling, propellor, rudder/tiller arm assembly, decals, brass wire, aerial tube, and instructions. These items come kitted in a plastic bag.
What other items are required to complete the kit? A two channel radio control system with one or two servos (depending on the method of motor control one wants to employ), a 7.2 Volt nicad (NiCd) or nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery pack comprising of sub C size cells, and charger to suit. Also, if you intend to race the boat a piece of 'hook' side Velcro strip 20mm x 70mm, for attachment to the cabin roof to enable race number fixing.
This is fairly straightforward, as the instructions supplied are very good, and provide some good assembly drawings to aid the builder. Therefore, I will concentrate upon any areas that may cause a problem, and any personal preferences. One point to remember when building the model is that the sytrene sheet has a clear plastic film protecting the glossy surface of the material and this needs to be removed prior to gluing parts together.
First cut out the parts as described in the instructions, and drill holes in the hull and deck mouldings as required, but I would recommend drilling a drain hole as shown in the instructions, as this could also be a route for water to enter the hull. More on this later. One departure from the instructions I made was in cutting out the surplus material from the deck moulding. Instead of cutting out the inner shaded piece of waste to the inner side of the moulding, cut approximately 10mm from the inner sides, on the flat of the waste, and retain the cut out part. The purpose of this is to impart additional strength in the deck moulding, but more importantly, to improve the water tightness of the hull. Next, turn the deck moulding over, and with either some waste material (not the part you have just removed), glue some scrap plasticard to the moulding so that there is a lip. The aim is that the rectangular waste that was cut out, now forms a lid that rests on the lip glued on the deck moulding. The lid is taped down to the deck moulding prior to racing after connecting everything up, using pvc insulation tape, or waterproof tape such as Sellotape Diamond Tape (the latter is ideal). This is important, as if you roll the boat, you should not ship water into the hull, which could cause the boat to sink.
Another departure from the instructions is the method of bonding these two mouldings together. The instructions call for epoxy, but this is very inflexible when cured, and a hard contact with another boat when racing will open up the joint and let water in. I should know, as this happened to me during my third race, as it has to many others during racing. Following this incident I was advised to use Bostik's 'Nail & Seal'. It is a white mastic compound with fast grab and cure time. Be sure to apply plenty to the deck moulding, and use elastic bands or masking tape to hold the mouldings together until cured. Be sure to wipe off any excess before it skins over to ensure a nice clean waterproof seal.
When fitting the motor place some model aircraft wing seating tape to the motor mount to help hold and prevent the motor from turning. If you are mechanical engineering minded you may want to add an oiling tube to the propshaft assembly before fitting it to the boat to enable lubrication in situ.
With regard to fitting the battery tray, you are not allowed to cut this down i.e. lower the height of the battery pack, but you can fit strips of Velcro to the tray and the underside of the tray to adjust boat trim. It is also advisable to fit Velcro strips to the inside of the tray and battery pack to ensure the pack does not move.
Assembly of the cabin and aerofoil can be configued in more than one way. The decision is down to the builder.
Radio installation is fairly straightforward. In my case I opted to use a Hitec S100 Servo for the rudder, and a Kontronics Easy 3000 Electronic Speed Controller for the motor, with my Futaba Attack 27 MHz transmitter and receiver. Owing to this set up no separate receiver power supply is required. The receiver was placed inside a rubber balloon, as was the speed controller, to help keep them dry. These were attached to the radio tray using Velcro, while the servo was secured using servo tape.
I decided that it would be nice to be able to connect/disconnect the power once the boat has been taped up. This has the advantage of reducing the panic of having to wait to get the frequency peg (if you're in a club), and taping the boat up, after connecting up the pack and switching on the radio. To get round this, I fitted an arming link comprising a 4mm gold plated plug and socket inserted in the positive supply from the battery to the speed controller. The socket was bonded to the deck, with a flying lead in my instance with the plug fitted also protruding from the deck. You can make a link using two plugs and sockets, thereby bonding both sockets to the deck.
Another recommendation is that, if using a buggy pack with a Tamiya type connector fitted, I would recommend that this is discarded and replaced either with 4mm gold plated plugs and sockets, or with Powerpole connectors. Either of these have greater current handling capabilities and lower connection resistance (which equals less supply volts drop, therefore slightly faster speed/duration). Also, do use good quality silicone insulated wire for wiring from the battery pack to your means of speed control and motor.
Finally, I applied some trim and the Velcro for my racing number, and after two evening's construction work I was ready to race.
The first opportunity to try the model out was at my club (Southend Model Power Boat Club) Fast Electric Open Meeting. It is fitting in many ways that my club seems to be the leading the way in promoting this class of racing, and that this was where my boat would have it's maiden voyage (in competition). Also, with such prominent involvement there are some very experienced Club 500 racers from which there is some good advice about getting the most out of your model.
On the water the boat is not really fast in comparison to say Formula 2, or Formula 3 fast electrics. You soon realise that you have to plan the optimum course that you want to take and try to stick with that route when racing. Basically, the reduced speed and close level of competition gives the inexperienced a chance to plan and learn their race tactics, from their successes and failures. On calm water the boat planes, and tracks nicely. When turning you do not want too much rudder movement as the boat rolls as you turn. If you are going flat out and your turn is too sharp the boat will capsize. The boat is less stable when going through choppy water i.e. another boats wake, but this again teaches the novice or relatively inexperienced more about their race craft, and that a boat handles differently under different sailing conditions.
Incidentally, I mentioned earlier not too drill out the drain hole. If you do get water inside the hull I use a 100ml syringe and piece of tube to suck up the water. The decision of this and the watertight lid was proven in my first race when I was capsized. No water entered the hull!
It was also noticed that some people have fitted polystryene foam inside the superstructure to provide a means of self-righting if capsized.
Duration of a race under the current regulations is 4 minutes plus the time taken to complete the lap at the end of that time. This is plenty adequate time and means that you do not need to use very high capacity cells. In fact I am using Sanyo nicads rated at 1800mAh which easily gives 6 minutes running time. I so enjoyed the racing and the boat performed so well (as did the driver) that I finished the meeting 3rd.
So did I like the kit, and is it value for money? To me, it is an emphatic yes to both. The kit is reasonably priced, and the cost of the additional items is very reasonable. In terms of enjoyment, I have found this model to provide some hours of fun. The racing is close which I like, and you don't have to re-mortgage your house to buy success. The time from kit to water is very short in my mind, though inexperienced modellers would undoubtedly take longer.
I see this class of racing becoming really popular over the next few years. It will entice new blood into the hobby (sport) of all ages. As people become experienced they will be encouraged to try other classes of racing and have acquired some good race skills that will stand them in good stead for those other classes of racing.
It is noticeable that a number of club members at my club, are now seen with one of these models along with their other interests in boat modelling of a Sunday and this class is being actively promoted. I for one, shall enjoy racing this boat over the coming seasons.
Finally, I understand that following a recent revision of the rules for 2001, there are also details of some construction modifications given. This is included in all current kits.