Radio Controlled Sailing

Way back in 2008 a group of PCSC members had begun talking around the idea of radio controlled (r/c) sailing in Port Cygnet with the idea of creating a fleet of affordable, one-design, models for club racing.

“Doog” Campbell and Ian Weist were working on an established ‘A’ Class design, ‘Glide’, and in July of that year Doog gave his prototype ‘Splinter’, a plank-on- frame build, it’s first outing.

He was joined on the waterside by Frank Clark who had already built a fiberglass r/c boat based on the local ‘Doven’ design. Interest was piqued and the Glide was adopted as the chosen design for the proposed fleet. 

Ian Weist and Harry Guilfoyle volunteered to make the molds, one for the glass-fiber hull and one for the lead keel-bulb. When the molds were finished the parts were to be available at cost for all that wanted them. The designer was approached and he approved limited, non-commercial production for the club, so Ian Weist started the manufacture of the first batch of hull and keel-bulbs.

At that time the average commercial competitive A Class boat could cost over $3,000 to buy. It was hoped, and later realized, that a slightly modified design could be built by the average handy-sailor for around $300. The cost was kept down by specifying a simple aluminum tube for a mast, a basic sail winch, and one-design sails made by a members cooperative.

Just as an aside, the original ‘Splinter’ is on display in the club rooms. It has recently had some cosmetic touches added by John Keep but that is the boat that started it all.

The first batch was taken up by a mixed group of PCSC members including Colin Glanville, Ted “Spash” Cooper, Sean O’Neal, Frank Clark, Ian Weist, Stan Kay and myself. We're sure there were others but this was fourteen years ago and memories are not what they were.

The would-be owners retired to their sheds and garages and soon the first group of sailors were launching their shiny new projects. They didn’t stay shiny for too long.

The lack of r/c racing experience soon showed and boats that were supposed to be turning to port inexplicably turned to starboard and vice versa. “Oops, sorry!”

The first launch site was from the picnic area by the public launching ramp, but within the year we had moved to the PCSC clubhouse with the barbecue facilities for post-race snags and burgers.

The first flotilla was soon joined by boats built by Steven “Tank” Walter, Len Brown, Paul MacMichael and one or two others.

 By this time it was not unusual to have over a dozen boats on the water on Thursday mornings.

Sailors being sailors it wasn’t long before course buoys were laid out and racing organized. Because none of us were really proficient r/c boat helmsmen the approach to the racing rules of sailing could be best described as “casual”.

This relaxed attitude to the RRS was only exacerbated by a lack of any definitive knowledge of them. So the basic rules adopted were; stay behind the line ‘till the start signal, follow the course set, don’t hit the buoys, don’t hit your competitor’s boat and if you do say sorry.

Fortunately, one of us, Tank, was an experienced and knowledgeable racer both with r/c and his “big boat” Snafu and he slowly taught us some of the intricacies of the game. Disputes and discussions still arise.

As time went by the group evolved. A yearly championship was organized; some of the founder members retired, some unfortunately died and are sadly missed.

The ritual after-race snags or burgers developed into a full sit-down lunch. New members joined, either building their own new boats or buying the boats of lost members.

There was a brief attempt to introduce a different, lighter, design, the DF95 - a commercial off-the shelf model. The Glides weigh-in at around 18kg and take some effort to lift in and out of the water so a lighter boat looked like a good idea. Although there are three or four of the DF95 sailing with us the Glides are still the mainstay of the fleet.

Over the last year or so the number of boats on the water has decreased slightly but the number of members turning up for lunch has increased to the extent that it now seems like a dining occasion rather than a sailing event. The spring and summer weather should bring numbers back up.

The group meets on Thursday mornings around 9:30 – 10:00 so if you wish to try r/c sailing or just interested – join us or email

A copy of this story is available HERE

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