Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Raising the bar for single-channel ships

Identifying the Need-

The venerable R.C.S. America had been in service fora year and 8 months, when I finally got around to asking the question, "how good can I make a single-channel ship"?

As the America's age advanced, two major problems needed to be addressed for the next generation of 1-channel ships (1-channel ships are those which use only 1 radio channel, usually rudder, The ship just goes at one constant speed, until you catch it or otherwise force it to stop).

The first problem was the quality of the fiberglassing. Despite the solid appearance of the America's initial coat of fiberglass, she developed cracks along the bottom corners of the hull, allowing water to corrupt the cardboard of the hull. In he next generation, an extra coat or 2 of fiberglass would be required to guard against cracking.

The second problem concerned propulsion. I was beginning to feel the America's power was barely enough for a ship of her size. Not wanting to trouble myself with a 2-channel boat, I remembered the original configuration of the Sovereign of the Seas. She had not one but 3 radio-shack 18,000rpm motors. While she turned out to be too heavy for those, certainly 2 motors would yeild better results on a ship the size of America.

Therefore, the propulsion for the new ship was determined. 2 Radio Shack motors, single-channel radio. Now I just had to select the ship to model.


The Itallian Michaelangelo-class ship had long been on my list of ships to build R/C. The real ships were built in 1965 for the Genoa-New York run. In fact, I started an 8-foot hull of her in high school, 10 years ago. However, when I came back to the design in November of 2005, I felt more inclined to build the lesser-known "Raffaello". I sent away for the deck plans, and they were very very helpful.

The completion of the Raffaello took no more than 3 weeks, which is fairly standard for a ship of her size. She finished up at 60 inches, 5 inches longer than the America.

The detail of her superstructure far exceeded that of the America. The deck plans made that possible. They also made her accurate proportions possible. I was careful to make note of the differences between the Raffaello and Michaelangelo. The funnels were an extra rewarding challenge. As you can see in actual photos of the real ships, They are an intricate maze of latticework. I contemplated making them solid black-sided, with white paper strips wrapping around the black sides for support, but I am very glad I did them open-air like they should be!

Service Life-

The R.C.S. Raffaello began her life on the morning of December 3rd, 2005, at the Mesa Model Yacht Club Boat Show on Dobson Lake. To mark her first voyage, I decked her out with confetti.

Immediately I noticed major improvements in her speed and performance compared to the America, and for a time, she reigned supreme as the best specimen of single-channel ships.

Though no longer the overall best single-channel ship in the Green Sea Fleet, she raised the bar more than perhaps any other ship since the Queen Mary 2. Her sleek lines and detail make her still the best looking ship for some, and her construction will likely see her sailing for many years.


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