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Ovington 2021 - ILCA 2 - LEADERBOARD

Radio Sailing at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show and how to enter the sport

by Nigel Barrow 1 Mar 09:03 GMT 24-25 February 2024
Radio Sailing at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show © Nigel Barrow

I am always amazed at how a piece of water approx. 40ft by 40ft with four road bollards as marks with six DF65 craft sailing round in circles can provide so much entertainment to so many, both young and old.

The dinghy exhibition is alive and kicking at Farnborough. The last time I went to one it was at Pickets Lock. Thankfully I cannot remember the time or date but the 1970's come to mind so for me it was a trip down memory lane. My days of dinghy sailing are long gone but it was wonderful to look at the craft that now frequent our waters and to see the experts presenting their skills on weather, body conditioning and outstanding efforts of exploration.

The majority of the stands were static displays of craft but a few stood out. The International Cadet stand had a boat on a rotating platform in which crews could display their talents in hoisting, gybing and dropping spinnakers against the clock with a bank of wind fans making for authentic conditions. There was trapeze stand, an optimist full of plastic balls which you had to guess the number, apart from when kids got in and through the balls everywhere much to the annoyance of the organisers who had to return them and then there was the pond with the DF65's.

The DF65's at the dinghy exhibition are normally organised by Mike Weston of RC Yachts (www.radiosailing.co.uk). Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the event but luckily the Datchet Radio Sailing team led by the recently retired Model Yachting Association Chairman) overheard this conversation and pitched in to help and organise the sailing over the two days.

Hats off to the Datchet crew of Phil Holiday, Hugh McAdoo, Les Thorn, Graham Hetem, Richard Jones, Geoffrey Bremmer and Nigel Barrow ably supported by Jude Rey of the RYA for taking on the task of organising the sailing for the weekend.

Believe me it was hard work. From 10 am to 6pm on the first day we had a constant queue of people sailing in groups of 6 with changeovers every 5 minutes. The team were kept hard at work separating collided boats, boats that were stuck on the bank or on the bollard bases. At the end of the first day at 5.55pm we rewarded ourselves with an organisers race which we had to abandon as another group of 6 youngsters stood behind us watching enviously. What could we do but let them have one final go. We finally stopped after 6pm when the show was officially closed. Phil and Hugh recharged the batteries overnight and we were ready for another full day on Sunday. Again, the team were kept busy from 10 until 5pm. In the whole weekend we only had one minor equipment failure.

In a way we were lucky as the fish and chip shop dispensed from a London bus and other food and coffee stands were right behind us, so we probably had the best footfall of the exhibition.

Overall, we counted over 700 young and not so young, had sailed for 5 minutes or more over the weekend. It was satisfying to know that in a sailing exhibition, we were the one stand where you could demonstrate your sailing skills in an interactive manner. Virtual reality and simulators, who needs them.

Watching the sailors was fascinating. Whether they were expert or beginner, the concentration in sailing the boat was the same and all claimed the 5 minutes time had been cut short but that what happens when you become immersed in something. Over the weekend we discovered two new clubs were forming, several committed to buying boats, people wanting to join clubs and a lot of interest was generated in the sport of radio sailing.

Whilst talking to people at the dinghy exhibition waiting to take their turn for a stint sailing on the pool, many asked how you get into this brilliant sport.

There is a lot of information from disparate websites and those websites of our National Associations.

A google search on "model yachts clubs near me" will identify local places you can sail. There are over a hundred clubs across the UK so there should be one nearby. The other source is the UK Model Yachting Association web site. You can look up where club's that already have radio sailing sections are based in the "Clubs" section of the website (www.mya-uk.org.uk/mya-clubs) find one near to you and then through their website or other online presence, see when and what time they sail. Then pop down for a visit and chat to those sailing. Find out what boats they sail and I am sure someone will give you a test sail or join in a race, especially if you reach out to a club contact before attending.

The Model Yachting Association (MYA) is the representative body for Radio and Free sailing in the UK and has been delegated responsibility for the administration of Radio & Free Sailing within the UK. We are affiliated to, and recognised by, the?Royal Yachting Association?and the?International Radio Sailing Association (IRSA)?providing direct links to?World Sailing?and enabling us to have influence on the rules governing our sport.

When you have found your club and discovered what boats they sail, the next step is to choose a boat. There is no point buying a boat immediately before visiting a club as you may not have one of the classes they sail. If you have the skills, try building one yourself. It is rewarding seeing your own work when it finally gets on the water. You can even 3D print one now if you are interested in that form of technology.

Once you have your boat, the next step is to learn the techniques for setting up the rig and this is where your fellow club sailors can help. It does not matter if you are a top international sailor or beginner, you will need help to understand the basics and nuances of the boat you are sailing. There are many you tube videos which will help you.

One thing you will rapidly learn is that if there are two or more boats on the water, it won't take long for them to line up against each other and race. Unlike the full scale version of sailing, the desire to cruise model yachts is rare unless you have created one of the beautiful scaled vintage yachts like a 12 metre but that is another story.

So, how much does it cost? The boats used at the dinghy exhibition, the DF65, is around £250 for the boat, stand and transmitter. Its bigger brother the DF95 starts at under £400. As you scale up, one of the most popular boats is the International One Metre (IOM) which is sailed at most MYA clubs. The cost of these boats is upwards of £500 for a second hand boat. The DF designs are a great way into the sport but very soon you will look on enviously at the established designs such as the International One Meter, the Marblehead, the 10 Rater, A Class or 6 meter.

Like dinghy sailing these days, the upper end cost can be quite high for a new, all singing all dancing boat. £5000 is a top price for a complete racing package but that is at the extremity of the price range once you have learnt your craft and wish to compete on the International stage. However, you can get on the water with a competitive package for less than half of that sum. 3D printing is starting to be employed in the building of boats as printing materials have matured and this is potentially bringing costs down.

You can see details of all the classes and information on radio and free sailing can be found at www.mya-uk.org.uk/classes

More information on radio sailing can be found at www.nigelbarrow.co.uk

There are also Facebook groups for all of the classes including the Dragonforce 65 and Dragonflite 95.

Once you have your boat and found your radio sailing club, the only way to develop your skills is to get on the water and sail. It takes a while to develop thumb control and coordination to steer and set the sails on your craft. Left and right on the right hand stck to steer the craft and up and down on the left hand stick to set the sails. It sounds so easy until you try it. The only way to get better is time sailing your boat on the water.

Whatever you sail, enjoy the time on the water and the camaraderie of your fellow sailors.

If you want to find more information, or perhaps want to set-up a radio sailing section at your sailing club, in the first instance please email .

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