If you have ever seen super high-speed racing boats zooming across the surface of a lake and thought to yourself ‘I want to do that,” RC, or radio controlled boats may be a great hobby for you to pick up. It is far safer than manned high speed boat racing, and offers a far wider variety of customization and engineering options for far less monetary outlay than the million dollar corporate sponsored racing boats of legend. The sport of RC boat racing is not difficult to get started in, and at the lower levels of competition, it is not all that expensive either. It can be a lot of fun, and well worth the amount of time and money you invest. RC boating is a great way to challenge both yourself and others.
You challenge others by pitting your boat against theirs, and you challenge yourself by trying to create the very best boat you can, working against the elements, waves and current, comparing different fuels and many other factors, trying to create the very best boat that you can build. On the other hand, it only has to be as complicated as you want to make it, and it is easy to simply buy a ready made boat, put it in the water and go. There are many radio controlled boat associations all across the country which offer all sorts of competitions and races for many different engine types and boat classifications and it is easy to find one of these clubs near you and get involved.
When many people first get into the radio controlled boats world they start off with electric powered boats as they tend to be the least expensive option. Whenever you get into a new hobby, it is always a good idea to start out small to see if it is something you want to continue on in a more dedicated fashion. Electric powered RC boats run from $30 or less for the very entry level boats to around $200 for higher end models, and they do not require you to buy and fill them with extra fuel. There is a wide range of manufacturers for electric powered radio controlled boats for any experience level and price range, and if you do a little research and ask around, you can easily find the right boat for you.
Once you get a little farther into the world of RC boat racing, you will find a wide range of options for fuels and boat designs. Beyond electric, there are also gasoline powered and nitro powered boats. All three of these options have their own set of pros and cons, and each is suited for a different type of racer or hobbyist. For the weekend hobbyist, the best option is probably a gas powered boat. Gas, or a gasoline and oil mixture is a cheaper fuel than nitro, and easy to obtain. Gas boats are also some of the most commonly used RC boats, meaning they are easy to find, modify, and add new components to. Gas boats will also give you the longest run times. Nitro methane, also known as nitro, is a higher cost, higher end RC boat fuel, though it does offer significantly better speed and performance than that of electric boats. Many competitors willing to drop some fairly serious money on their hobby and into the straight run competitions prefer this fuel for the high speeds that are achievable. Electric boats may be slower, but they are still the best for the occasional hobbyist or for someone who just wants to have fun with a radio controlled boat from time to time. Speed-wise, electric boats typically run between five and thirty miles an hour, while gas boats run upwards of 65 plus miles per hour and nitro can reach speeds above 100 miles per hour.
When it comes to hull designs, there are quite a lot to choose from. A good starting point for most beginning radio controlled boaters would be the V hull (also known as a mono hull), which as the name might suggest has a hull in the shape of a V for greater slicing through the water, or catamaran, which has two large sponsons that run along the length of the boat and provide floatation and stability. Other types include hydros, aka tunnel hulls, which use specifically placed full length sponsons to create a cushion or tunnel of air that helps increase the speed of the boat and outriggers, which come in 3 point, 4 point and multi point suspension varieties and all have partial boat length sponsons held out to the side of the craft.
When people are just starting out, they may be looking for recommendations on the right model to choose. The primarily gas powered Expresscraft brand comes very highly recommended, although they are not the cheapest. If you are unsure as to how involved you want to get in the world of radio controlled boat racing, a good idea would be to start out with a lower cost electric model easily found at any hobby shop and try it out. If you decide you like it, you might look into the Expresscraft brand, venom group boats and the Arrow Shark boats. Bear in mind that the last two are manufactured overseas and may be more difficult to get your hands on, but they are available on the internet and if you can find them they can make for excellent boats perfect for everyone ranging from people just starting out all the way up to those with years of professional experienced. Your best bet is to look for a gas powered V hull or catamaran with a good reputation. Of course, it never hurts to ask questions, and if you are shopping for your boat in person at a hobby store or other physical establishment, see if you can find someone on the staff who has experience with RC boats and can give you some first hand reviews and recommendations.
Once you get farther into the world of RC boat racing, you can begin to customize many different parts of the craft beyond just their physical form and fuel systems. The key to any successful radio controlled boat is its electronic signal transmission system. The more powerful the signal, the greater the range of your boat. You can modify a boat’s transmitters and receivers, as well as its receiver crystals. You can also customize all the different parts of your boat including its motion servos, propellers, and any other physical design component for greater speed, agility, range and stability. The possibilities are nearly endless, limited only by your budget and your creativity.
Radio controlled boats can be a fun way to spend a summer afternoon or an all consuming passion, but however far you choose to go, there is plenty of information out there and other interested people eager to share it with you. If you are thinking of getting involved in RC boating, you should check around to see if there is a club or association near you.
-By: Robert A Phillips
By: Robert Phillips