Version for paid-up members of the uk and North American rc laser Organizations

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RC Laser Academy

Hints and Tips

(Version for paid-up members of the UK and North American RC Laser Organizations)



How do I get everything in the carry bag?

How to get the large top A Rig into the carry bag

How long do the batteries last?

Sealing the Radio Gear for Heavy Weather Sailing

Rechargeable Batteries

Sail Shape

Mast bends Downwind

Mark Rounding

Beating and getting out of irons

Sail Numbering

Draining the Hull

Reinstalling the Sheeting System after coming adrift

Sheeting System and Shock Elastic

Help! I have ripped my sail

In irons again and cannot get out?

Stop sail rot!

Lost your fin/keel to Davey Jones' Locker?

And now for something a little advanced

How far do I set the boom to haul in?

Switch won't work?

Leech Telltales (the silver streamers along the sail edge)

How far away can I sail?

Why don't all the boats go at the same speed?

Can we race three boats together without radio interference?

How do we decide when to change rigs?

Stop those boom slider ends hurting your fingers

Rudder 'twitching' and how to stop it

Replacing a rudder servo

Replacing the sail winch servo

Spice up your racing with a Personal Handicapping System

Surviving your first open event

Have trouble controlling your boat downwind?

More about batteries and charging

Pre-season Maintenance

1 Introduction

Our RC Laser mates from the UK have given us, in North America, kind permission to share their RC Laser Academy Hints and Tricks document for our RC Laser NA members only. The Hints and Tricks certainly compliment all the Tips and Tricks currently on this site (also for members only) but has some additional information presented in an easy to follow style. You will note the slightly varied UK spelling for some words and local terms but all are easy to understand and follow.

This document is not to be copied or printed for distribution to anyone.

Newcomers to the world of RC Laser sailing may possibly find the Laser just a little bit different to what they have been used to up to now. In an effort to be of assistance we have gathered together a collection of useful hints and tips which we hope will ensure your Laser sailing experience will be fun and trouble free.

Firstly we would like to congratulate you on your choice of boat. The RC Laser is a great boat to own and sail whether racing or pottering. However whilst it is easy to sail it is not so easy to make it go fast. Expect an apprenticeship to get to the front of the fleet.

Before sailing your Laser for the first time there are few measures that are really worthwhile taking in order to ensure your first and subsequent outings go smoothly.

The following hints and tips have been based on questions asked of the association since its formation in January 2001.

2 How do I get everything in the bag?

Q: Which way round do things go in the bag?

A: See diagram below.

Notes: The diagram shows bow first but we have found that deck down and stern first is the safest for travel. The Stainless Steel boat stand lays across the transmitter pocket - you'll find it fits over rather nicely if you have it the correct way round.

3 Big 'A' sail won't go in the bag!

Q: How do I get the 'top' A sail in the carry bag - it's too long?


I Acquire a piece of foam pipe insulation about 2 inches in diameter and about 12 inches long.

II Place the new A sail in the case with the luff running parallel to the zip and with the sail head protruding at the same end as the radio transmitter.

III With the foam padding laid across the case as shown gently furl the sail over it and carefully close the case.

IV Zip up the case and - Voila! the sail is in the bag.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not leave the sail folded over for storage as this will cause creases to form in the laminated areas of the sail. For long term storage leave the sail head flopped out of the case end - with the zip undone.

5 How long will the batteries last? (See item 38 for more on batteries)

Q: What happens when the batteries run low and how often will I need to change them?

A: The transmitter batteries should last at least a day and probably a lot longer (say 8/16 hours sailing). Your transmitter has two 'battery state' led lights - one red one green. When the green light is lit it is safe to sail. When the red light starts flashing it is time to change the batteries. If you have a spare set close to hand it should be possible to do a 'quick change over' while the boat is still on the water but only if you feel it safe to do so (control will be lost during the changeover).

To make the changeover 'on the water' some skippers put the rudder hard over and then switch the transmitter off. This puts the boat into sailing tight circles so it does not sail away into the distance during the changeover.

The boat battery pack will have a shorter life, depending on the strength of the wind. In strong winds you will need to change the batteries more frequently (servo working harder). As a rough guide you can expect the boat pack to last just a morning (say 4 hours) in strong winds but longer on light winds. Even in light winds do not try to get more than one full day's sailing from them - it's not worth the risk (unless you have a rescue boat to hand). If at any time you sense the response of the winch is slowing down bring the boat ashore and change the batteries.

If you purchase your batteries in bulk from big box stores you will find it much less expensive.

If you want to switch to rechargeable batteries you must follow the recommendations elsewhere in this document (see Item 6 Rechargeable Batteries).

5 Sealing the Radio Gear Compartment for Heavy Weather Sailing

Q: I want to sail in heavy weather. Is the Laser completely watertight?

A: When it leaves the factory the boat is water resistant. However, over time (even in storage) this quality may be lost. If you sail in heavy weather you may find water enters the radio compartment. The most likely points of entry are the holes where the servo and winch penetrate the hull. To improve the water tightness it will be necessary to repack, with Teflon grease, the holes in the deck. Waterproof Teflon grease may be purchased in most cycle shops in small tubes at little cost, or Vaseline works just as well.

You may wish to provide an improved/ longer-lasting seal between the hull and the top surface of the servo and winch. We have used a variety of substances including Blue Tack to form a small thin rubber washer and silicone (bath sealant). You may discover something better. Only undertake this work if you feel competent. It is only necessary to remove the centre screws from the servo and winch to enable them to be removed. Do not remove the square radio compartment cover or the metal bridge over the winch drum. Removing and replacing the servo and winch is a relatively simple task (see procedure below).

Last but not least, don't forget the switch - make sure water is not entering around the sides of the switch plastic cover.

6 Rechargeable Batteries

Q: I would like to use rechargeable batteries. Am I allowed to do this under the class rules?

A: Yes. Ordinary AA Alkaline batteries as purchased in any shop are adequate. Receiver batteries may last a morning only, depending on wind strengths, but transmitter batteries should last all day. However you may, if you wish, convert to AA rechargeable batteries to save on running cost.

Note that dry cell batteries deliver 1.5 volts, whereas rechargeable batteries only deliver 1.2 volts. For the transmitter this does not matter but you will require a 5-cell pack (6 volts) fitted with a Futaba plug for the boat. These are obtainable from most good model shops. 8 individual cells are required for the transmitter. We recommend Nickel Cadmium rechargeable batteries but you can use alternatives such as Nickel Metal Hydride or Lithium Ion…..all AA’s. You will also need a purpose made 'slow' charger with an outlet to connect to the boat battery pack and an outlet to connect directly to the transmitter. Again, consult your local model shop.

Once you are set up with rechargeable batteries make sure you charge for the correct length of time. You can determine the total charge time required as follows:-

Time to charge = [Capacity of battery (mAh) x 1.5] divided by the charging rate (mA).

e.g. 1,000 mAh battery x 1.5 divided by a charge rate of 50 mAh gives a charge time of 30 hours.

It is always better to charge as close to the time of sailing as possible (e.g. the day before).

Any local model shop or supplier on the RC laser web sit would be able to help you.

7 Sail Shape

Q: I have never sailed a model or full size boat before. Where do I set the sliding fittings on the boom?

A: You will, with practice, learn how to set sail shape for maximum boat speed. In the meantime we suggest setting the outer boom slider (at the stern most corner of the foot of the sail) approximately 4.5 cm from the end of the boom. This setting, in conjunction with a suitable adjustment of the inner boom slider, should give a nice curve to the foot of the sail. Pulling the inner outhaul slider towards the mast will bend the mast thereby flattening the sail and vice versa. You will soon be experimenting with the controls to set your own favourite sail shapes for different wind conditions.

Some full size top Laser sailors are now sailing with a lot of camber set in the foot of the sail when sailing in light airs. This is contrary to the advice given by top sailors for other types of yacht or dinghy. Give it a go, you may be pleasantly surprised.

In heavy weather you may find it worthwhile flattening the sail a bit to improve air flow over the sail. As this has the added effect of tightening the sail leech (reducing twist) and moving the Centre of Area aft you have to watch what you are doing so as not to increase weather helm too much, and therefore the tendency for the boat to head up to wind.

When setting the sail on the shore be aware that the sail shape will change when the boat is on the water and the sail has wind pressure acting upon it. Always look to the sail shape 'when sailing' - not when the boat is static on the shore.

As you are probably now beginning to realise Laser sailing has more to it than meets the eye. So go out there and start practising. Are you up to the challenge?

8 Mast Bends Downwind

Q: When running downwind in a stiff breeze my mast bends forward. Should this happen?

A: We need to be able to control mast bend so that we can shape the sail for upwind sailing in different wind strengths. We do this by changing the tension in the sail leech (move the inner outhaul slider towards mast for more mast bend and vice versa).

In a stayed rigged boat with backstay, mast bend is controlled by changing the tension in the backstay. This means that the fore and aft bend in the mast remains fore and aft whatever position the sail is in.

In the RC Laser we do not have a backstay to hold mast bend constantly in the fore and aft direction. Wind pressure on the sail is able therefore to bend the mast forward when running downwind. This is exactly the same on the full size Laser. Take a look at any photograph of a full size Laser on a broad reach, or a run, in heavy weather and you see the mast bending with the wind.

Now there is an upside for us compared to a rig with backstay. On the stayed boat mast bend is only correct for one position of the sail and this is usually for the close hauled leg. When the sail is, say, out at 60 degrees to the boat, i.e. a broad reach, the mast, as seen by the sail, is nearly straight - not what we had in mind when we set backstay tension. Whereas on our Laser the mast bend remains more or less as we want at most points of sailing because the mast bending force moves round with the sail - in other words we have a rotating mast.

9 Leeward Mark Rounding

Q: When I round a leeward mark the Laser comes to a halt with sails flapping because the sails do not haul in fast enough to drive on the new tack. How do I overcome this?

A: When rounding marks that are not approached on a very close beat (i.e. the main sheet is not fully sheeted in) you will find it an advantage to start hauling in the main sheet as you approach the mark. If you do not do this and the next leg is a close haul you will lose boat speed waiting for the sail to start drawing.

Practice this technique until it becomes second nature: Its virtually standard practice on the full size Laser.

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