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With their increasing popularity, a wider range of RC sailboats has become available, from ready-to-sail (RTS) or ready-to-race (RTR) boats to varying complexity RC sailing boat kits.
However, my experience of sailboat kits is not a good one – it’s all very confusing! There is a wide variety of RC sailboat kits for beginners as well as for more advanced hobbyists sold by a lot of shops both on and offline.
So I tried to work out what I wanted by asking a few questions, which I’ve set out below – I hope it helps you too!
By the way, any paid (affiliate) links to online shops are specified (we earn a small commission on sales to support the site, but we only suggest competitively priced shops.)
I’ve written about the things you should look for in general when buying RC boat kits in the article RC Model Boat Kits For Beginners – 6 Things You Must Consider.
First, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1. How much assembly do you want to do?
RC sailboat kits are available in many forms, from a set of plans plus hull and many component parts that need to be glued/painted/varnished to almost ready to sail (ARTS), the latter requiring very little assembly, and knowledge, to complete.
The answer to this question may depend on how confident you are working with materials such as wood and veneers, and varnishes. As a beginner, you may want to stick to a simple GRP or ABS plastic hull that is pre-painted, with very little assembly required.
A good example of an RC sailboat for beginners that doesn’t require much assembly is the Compass RC Yacht (USA) (UK) (affiliate link). This also has the advantage of being in a common racing class (RG65).
2. What type of finish do you want on your RC sailboat?
This will depend partly on the answer to the question above; if you have the confidence and skills required, you may want to start a boat from scratch, perhaps buying a plan (or even getting a free plan online) and the individual components from a hobby store.
Doing this will give you a wide choice of finishes and color schemes to suit your taste. It will, however, get you into advanced model building which may not be a great idea for a beginner!
3. What do you want to use the RC sailboat for?
You may want to simply free sail your boat in your local pond and take pleasure in watching its graceful lines or build a boat that conforms in detail to a full sized version, including a miniature crew, or alternatively, competitively race your RC sailboat against others in a sailboat class.
Your choice of kit will depend on the use you have in mind. Personally, I’ve always been attracted to RC sailboat racing, as this not only enhances my pleasure in seeing the boat sail but also tests my skills against others.
4. Do you need to buy a complete RC kit?
RC sailboat kits are available complete with RC transmitter and receivers, or just the sailboat itself. The choice depends on what equipment you already have.
As a beginner, you’re likely to need the complete kit, and you won’t need to worry about ensuring the compatibility of the equipment. Moreover, you won’t have the challenge of having to source bits of equipment from various suppliers.
However, if you already have a transmitter, you could think about buying a sailboat kit that requires you to acquire and fit servos and receiver.
Which beginner RC sailboat kits are best for racing?
If you’re interested in model sailboat racing, you’ll want to buy a kit that conforms to one of the many classes of RC sailboat racing. The best place to start is to check out which classes are raced at your local RC sailing club, and go for a kit in that class. You’ll find out more by consulting the American Model Yachting Association here or the Model Yachting Association in the UK, here.
Popular classes for newcomers are the DF 65 or 95 classes, DF standing for DragonForce. These are beautiful boats available in kit form for around $300 (£275). You can find out more at these dealers: USA, UK (affiliate link).
A more ambitious challenge is the ETNZ (Emirates Team of New Zealand) 1M America’s Cup Remote Control Racing Yacht Sailboat Kit by Thunder Tiger. With fibreglass hull and aluminium mast and accessories, this is a handsome kit that can be raced in the 1m class.
Which beginner RC sailboat kits are best for casual sailing?
There’s a wide range of kits available if you simply want to build your own radio control model to sail on your own. An extensive range of wooden model ship kits can be found at Tippecanoe Boats (non-affiliate), an online dealer that is highly rated in the RC sailing forums.
One example is their T27 Racing Sloop, one of their beautiful model yachts, which is simple to build, and comes complete with everything you’ll need.
The T27 Racing Sailing Boat Kit includes everything you will ever want to get started building your own racing sloop. It even includes the marine epoxy and the RC equipment needed to sail the boat. All you really require is some paint or varnish, and AA batteries.
So, as a beginner, building your own RC sailboat from a kit is achievable, whether you fancy minimal assembly or a more complex build.
However, if you’re not so confident that your skills are sufficient at this stage to attempt to build an RC sailboat from a kit, you can always start with a ready to sail (RTS) RC boat, and plan on tackling a kit when you have more experience.
Featured Image credit: Jim Crocker, Flickr