Model Yachting

RC Laser "Popeye"

August 22, 2014


OK... Popeye is not a build. It is a production one design radio controlled class racer. I have no interest in racing, but in spite of my passion for free sailing pond yacht designs I do want to learn to understand and use radio control. There are simply too many nice open water places to sail where free sailing, developed for smaller enclosed ponds, simply isn't practical. Each time I begin building a wooden pond sailer design I tell myself that I'll put RC in it, but, alas, once I have the build underway, I simply can't bring myself to do it. Finally, I decided to just buy an RC boat, ready to sail, and see what it's like and how I react to it.

Once that decision was made, I researched RC class designs and found the Laser. It has to be the simplest approach to this there is... though large. It's 41", essentially a 1/4" scale model of the real Laser. There is no standing rigging. The mast has the gooseneck permanently mounted. You insert the mast into the luff of the sail, insert the boom into the molded gooseneck, attach the outhaul at the end of the boom, clip the mainsheet onto the boom, insert the mast into the socket in the deck and that's done. The keel and rudder both insert into snap fittings on the hull and you're ready to sail. The boat comes with a decent quality transmitter and servos installed. Plus, it all fits into a neat carry case, stand and transmitter included. That turned out to be larger and heavier than I gave it credit for based on the advertising pictures, but still, it is a tremendous convenience in being able to simply put the case in the car and go to the water.

There is, deliberately, very little you can do to the Laser. You cannot change or modify any parts. There are, however, several different sails for it. called the A, B, C, and D rigs. Starting with the A rig, each sail is smaller than the next. The A rig requires a taller mast, but the same boom as the others and sails the boat at hull speed in up to 9 mph winds, the B rig uses a shorter mast which also takes the C and D sails, and is good up to 18 mph. Obviously, the C and D rigs are for more extreme weather conditions. They use the B mast but take shorter booms. I can see that you might need to sail in winds over 18 mph if you were a racer and those were the conditions. However, since I am not a racer, I really cannot see where I would want to sail a model boat in winds over 18 mph.

I got Popeye used with an A rig as the former owner lived in a light wind area. I have ordered a B sail and mast for it, so I should be good for any sailing I'm inclined to do. All original paperwork was included. I have to say that the instruction manual gave the clearest, simplest explanation of the rules of sailboat racing that I have encountered in some 40 years of sailing. Following the instructions to set up the boat I had it assembled, photographed and was "dry sailing" it within an hour. That hour included unpacking (with time for oohing and ahing), reading the instructions, assembly (with more time for oohing and aahing), and resetting the alignment of the rudder with the controls. That last was the biggest amount of time. I wasn't quite happy with the rudder, which didn't want to trim to center with the transmitter. I suspect the servo arm or rudder attaching piece got jarred in packing shipping, but it turned out to be quite fixable, just took time to figure out how the pieces worked together, disconnecting the rudder servo arm (one screw), repositioning it and then reattaching it.

Learning the controls was really easy. I had been rather leary of them, having been warned repeatedly that they could be confusing because right and left reverse on the transmitter when the boat turns back toward you. This I could not understand. In the event, for me at least, it turned out to not be true. If you've sailed on many boats for years and lived on one for ten, boats no longer relate to right and left, just port and starboard. I can see where if you are standing on shore and relating to the boat as not being under you, you might have a problem, but if your natural inclination is to be "on the boat, at the helm", port will always be port and starboard will always be starboard. Once I realized this, I called my wife out (the boat was set up on its stand in the driveway) and let her take a crack at it and her reaction was exactly the same... If you are controlling a boat, right and left are port and starboard and they cannot change. Of course, I have yet to prove this to myself on the water. 8^)

Here are the pix of Popeye:



Closed case


Everything you need to take to the water can be fitted into special pockets in the case, including the stand. The sail is some special material with plastic layers on the outside. It will not get wet or add weight to the boat. However, nor can it be folded or rolled up. If you look very closely, you can see one corner of the sail peeking out from under the folded up stand at the left. The sail, flat, slips into a large pocket that goes under the boat and its attachments and up into the part of the case that is standing up. Thus, when the case is closed, the sail is gently folded once, but is not creased or wrinkled.



Folding stand


Rudder and keel. You can see the snap in arrangement at the top of the rudder and also the spars sticking out of their dedicated pocket.


This is the snap in end of the keel. It comes up through the boat and then has a turning lock on the top.


Here's the rudder snapped in. I don't know why the color value here changed from the boat's bright red.



Here's the boat rigged on the stand.



This is a shot of the deck with the hatch open. Cute development on the hatch. It's a pliable plastic snap on cover, and arrived with a split in it. I figured no big, I'd tape it over and order a replacement. However, during the day someone bought me a nice asiago bagel that I decided to have for dinner. I stopped at the grocery to get some cream cheese for it and immediately said to myself, "Hey, that cheese tub cover looks about right for the boat!" Sure enough, when I got home and tried it, it fit! So, at least until or unless I get an "official" replacement, I'll be sailing a boat with a hatch cover that indicates that it is carrying a cargo of "Challenge Cream Cheese Spread"!







Dick Wightman


August 29, 2014

It has not been a week of inactivity. My personal schedule got pretty much shot full of holes with normal life plus a sudden need to get a new car after our van was tragically murdered. Ah, well... However, somehow, I managed to get a few lessons learned regarding the new RC boat.

First, as I think I mentioned above, the boat was sold as having an A rig, so I ordered a B rig for it. The B rig came and ended up being identical to the existing rig. So it got mailed back and now an A rig is coming. Meantime, I managed to get the boat to the pond. This outing provided several lessons. First, the Laser is one heck of a boat! When I got to the pond, I had to laugh out loud. There was no wind, not the tiniest ripple on the water. I decided I could use the opportunity anyway, just to practice rigging the boat and getting it into the water. Much to my surprise, it sailed. It sailed quite nicely, if gently, in wind I couldn't detect.



So, I learned I have a nice boat. That was the good news. The bad news was that there was something wrong with the transmitter. My power range was only about 50'. It appears the antenna had been broken and cobbled back together. I also learned that it's a pretty big boat at 41". The total package, in its case, is a lot to handle, at least for this old man. I bungeed the case to a folding airline luggage carrier, which helped a whole lot. However, particularly when considering the size of my primary sailing pond, 100', it's a darn big boat.

I happened to have, at home, a brand new DX5 transmitter and receiver. With some advice and guidance from a helpful person at the RC Sailing outlet I was able to set this up and bind it to the servos in the Laser. This is a much more powerful, later model transmitter. Once I had it set up and speaking politely to the servos, I set it up at the end of my driveway and walked two blocks away with a pair of binoculars and the transmitter. I could just see the boat, but no detail. However, with the binoculars, I could see that I was actually controlling the rudder with the new transmtter.

On a return trip to the pond, there was a fair light breeze, and I enjoyed a good hour and a half of sailing all points of sail, even following the ducks in the pond. (They're better upwind than the Laser is...)

Final verdict, the Laser is a really fine radio conrolled sailboat, as long as your transmitter is working. Only drawback is size/weight of total package. I will have my eyes open for something similar in a 24" to 30" size. Come to think of it, my current build project is a 24" catboat on which, with only modest modification, I can make the keel and mast removable. The rudder would take some additional thought. Both I and my wife do industrial sewing, so perhaps if I solve the rudder problem I can make a handy case for this rig. ( See "Building Catnip" )

Dick Wightman


Sept. 3, 2014

I received the A sail for the Laser. It really is a good bit larger than the B. So much so tha it will not fit into the carrying case like the B does. That seems to me to kind of defeat the careful planning that went into making this boat so convenient, but no one asked me. Since it is made in such a way that it cannot be folded, I got a mailing tube and carefully rolled it so that it will fit into that, which in turn does fit into the case. Here's a pic of the two sails:



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