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Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran owner of remote-controlled vehicles, it’s important to choose the right kind of boat hull to suit your driving style and intended use. This includes deciding whether you’re going to be casually driving your boat on a calm body of water, or racing against other hobbyists. The body of water that you’re racing on is an equally important factor, as certain boat hulls cannot handle rough waters, whereas others can.
First, let’s consider the type of water that you’re running your vehicle on. Many RC boat hobbyists avoid vast bodies of water or those that are free-flowing, owing to the risk of your boat being stranded out of reach or swept away.
However, with powerful enough systems, it’s still possible to navigate these types of waters. Ideally, you should drive or race your boat on a body of water that is still and unaffected by crosswinds. You should also aim to identify a spot that will allow you to safely launch and retrieve your boats, such as a jetty or pier.
Now that you know where to race your boat, we’re going to look at what kind of boat you should be racing. One of the key components to these vehicles is the hull, which comes in a variety of styles, crafted from a variety of materials. We’re going to look at both these considerations in more detail.
Hydroplane boat hulls can be found as full-body hulls or outrigger hulls, both of which use designs that include sponsons attached to a main body. Below, we’ll look at the key differences between these two types of RC boat hull.
Often referred to as ‘sports hydroplanes‘ or ‘scale hydroplanes,‘ these hulls are suspended on a cushion of air that is packed beneath the boat and compressed by the front sponsons. As a result, boats using a full-body hydroplane can be susceptible to blow overs. Full-body models find it difficult to turn in more than one direction; typically, clockwise turning is fine, but counter-clockwise does not work well.
Unlike full-body hydroplanes, outriggers have a broad gap between the boat’s central body and the sponson. As a result, these types of boats condense less air than the full-body hull type, meaning that it can achieve higher speeds without the same risk of blowing over. With some outrigger hull boats being capable of over 100 mph, these boats are the fastest varieties available in the RC hobby world, and clearly purpose-built for racing.
Despite their speed advantage, outrigger hydroplanes suffer the same limitations around turning as their full-body counterparts. What’s more, they do not perform well in rough water, but as we’ve mentioned above, you should in most cases avoid racing an RC boat on treacherous waters.
Monoplane boats have a single-plane surface, compressing air as it runs much like the hydroplane hulls. However, the air is diverted off the sides of the boat rather than being packed and compressed beneath it; thus, these boats are often called ‘V hulls’. This design creates lift that suspends the boat a small distance above the water, giving the boats excellent turning control. They’re also capable of handling rougher bodies of water than full-body or outrigger hydroplanes.
As the name would suggest, the majority of catamaran hulls in the RC world are based on the appearance of a real catamaran at full scale. In performance, they are similar to hydroplanes; the boat sits on an air-suspended hull supported by sponsons. However, the sponsons on a catamaran run the full length of the underside of the boat. They’re susceptible to being blown over much like hydroplanes, but they have a better turning circle and can handle choppier waters. These traits make them popular choices in RC boat races.
Whereas some RC boat models will disguise the propulsion system, almost all boats with a tunnel hull use an exterior motor for propulsion. Although tunnel hull boats suffer the same problems as hydroplane hulls on rough bodies of water, they do have a far better turning circle. These boats handle turns well in both directions. They’re also very straightforward to build and maintain, with no need for complex tools or hardware kits. Tunnel hull boats are not as fast as hydroplanes, but if you’re willing to sacrifice some speed, you get far better turning and control.
The material used to construct your RC boat’s hull will largely depend on the price you’re paying for the boat. For example, many kit boats come with plastic hulls, whereas an expensive model might run with a carbon fiber hull. Alternatively, fiberglass is a popular material, given that it is extraordinarily strong and waterproof.
Though steel is frequently used in the construction of real boat hulls, it’s not used for RC models; the metal carries too much weight to keep a scale model afloat without loss of speed. If you’re into RC racing as a serious hobby, you’ll likely find that there are class rules in place for many races, which prohibit you from using hulls made of a certain material. For example, you might be limited to fiberglass over more exotic materials such as carbon fiber or Kevlar.
To sum up, everything we’ve covered, there are four distinct hull types to choose from. Hydroplane hulls are the fastest, but they only perform well on still bodies of water and can only turn well in a clockwise direction. Monoplanes aren’t quite matched in speed, but have better control than hydroplanes on rough water, as well as being better able to turn in either direction. Catamarans are well-balanced in both areas, with good speed and turning circles, while tunnel hulls are slower but have more stability and can operate in rough waters.
When you’re choosing an RC boat and its respective hull style, you should keep these factors in mind and consider where you’re going to be sailing or racing. There may also already be RC hobby groups in your area and they may prefer to opt for a certain hull style.