WEST VALLEY R/C MODELERS
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SOME "BIG PICTURE" SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE JUST ENTERING THE HOBBY
With regard to "Scale models:" Basically none. The sky's the limit. But one matter you might consider: the choice of radio's particularly if you are also interested in sailing. You might consider buying a radio with at least 4 channels, 6 would be better and more than that if you can afford it, tho they tend to get rather expensive. But you will probably find, fairly quickly that you will want as many "controls" as you can get, far beyond simply controlling the rudder and motor.
DUMAS, MIDWEST AND BILLING BOATS grade their kits as to difficulty. Consider starting with nothing more than an advanced beginner or "intermediate" level of difficulty. A kit with a lot of above deck "detail" can take a very long time to complete. While MIDWEST'S Boothbay Lobster boat at 30" , may not interest you specifically, a kit like it is great place to start. Enough detail, without being swamped with work, yet you end up with a really nice looking boat. And big enough, that it makes construction easier.
With regard to "Racing sail boats:" On the other hand, believe it or not, more and more of the best skippers in the valley tend to go with the cheapest $60 two channel radio without recharable batteries. They simply buy a big box of regular batteries and throw them away afterwards. The idea is that once you have had a few batteries problems, if one doesn't mind the somewhat higher continuing expense, its comforting to know that you always have fresh batteries. Todays radio's even the $60 ones, are extremely reliable. And two channels is all you need, indeed many class rules provide that you can not use more than two channels.
On the other hand, a $60 radio usually does not come with rechargable nicads. You can get nicads, but it takes 8 in the transmitter and 4 in the receiver. At $1.20 from Tower or $2.50 locally, you now have an investment close to $100. Usually 4 channel radio's (which will cost about $110-$130) come with nicads and a charger; and it is a one time expense. At least for a couple of years. Perhaps it is a good idea to replace Nicads every two years or so, whether they appear to need it or not, just so you don't have a problem.
Secondly, while there are many "kit" sailboats, there are four main ones, you will find in the local hobby shops: Victorias, Fairwinds, Northwinds and Seawinds. Victoria's are a small 24" boat, sailed mainly on the east side of the valley. Northwinds are 36" and have the advantage of being about $130 and have the long keel; but most significantly gives up many square inches of sail area to the seawind. The Fairwind is the same length, but somewhat broader, with a much shorter keel and therefore simply will not move as well, particularly in very light winds, which is often the case in Arizona. Yet its cost in comparable with the Seawind. The Seawind is 1 meter long, with the long keel
and the largest of the sail areas. It is a very good boat, with enough capability to challange you for years to come. It's cost is in the $300+ range without a radio.
All three are good looking boats and require about the same work to put together. Most of which has been done for you. Perhaps the best thing to do, is find the people you are going to sail with and get a boat similar to what they have. You may want to be very careful before you get a Fairwind, it does have its limitations, in Arizona light winds, which rather quickly will become quite frustrating.
Just to complete the sailing picture, the other common boats, particularly on the east side of Phoenix is the AMYA 36/600 high tech class and the half again bigger Marblehead class at 54 inches. Several of the best skippers in the country sail there, including the 2003 National Champion. However, these boats are generally custom made, carbon fiber and rather expensive; other than, as I said, some use the cheapest of radios! But they move in zephers of wind, you can hardly feel. For the ultimate in sail racing, in the valley, this is it, if one has developed the skill and knowledge to take advantage of it.