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Hobbico's Aquacraft Brand Reef Racer 2 Boat, New and Improved

Michael Heer explores the second generation Reef Racers, and finds them to "really be improved". Considering how much he liked the first ones, let's look at these!

Splash

Introduction


Length:15 inches
Beam:5.3 inches
Weight:19.9 ounces RTR
Motor:water cooled 380
Transmitter:Aquacraft 2 channel pistol grip
Battery:6-cell 7.2 volt 1100mAh NiMH
Charger:12 volt peak charger
Manufacturer:Aquacraft/Hobbico
Available From:Tower Hobbies

I had the pleasure of having a troop of boy scouts and several friends help me review 4 of the original Reef Racers and we had a lot of fun playing with those boats together. Hobbico has since come out with Reef Racer 2 and I felt it was approbriate to review the newer "Two" version and discuss what the differences were between the two of them. At the risk of killing any surprise it really is improved. That's a good thing as the original Reef Racer is no longer being sold. So join me for a quick review so you can get one now and have fun this summer.

Kit contents

The Reef Racer 2 was ordered from Tower Hobbies and arrived two days later. It included everything I needed to have fun in the water except for 8 AA batteries for the transmitter and those were purchased seperately. The Reef Racer 2 came fully assembled, decorated and ready to run. The original Reef Racer came with a sheet of decals and you could choose how to decorate your boat. With the "2" there was a small piece of foam that can serve as a boat stand. The original Reef Racer had a plastic boat stand. Both came with a 7.2 volt 1100 NiMH battery pack to power the boat and a charger for the boats battery. My Reef Racer 2's transmitter was an Aquacraft 2-channel pistol grip model on channel 6 and a brief instruction manual to complete the package.

Construction

I screwed the antenna into the transmitter. That was it! I'm going to play with my new boat. No, I did not charge the battery first. I wanted to make sure it was fully discharged before I tried to charge it. So within ten minutes of it arriving at my home (6:10 pm) it was in the pool at my house.

Charging the Battery

Reef Racer 2 came with a charger that worked off the 12 volt power plug in my car. The charger was a peak sensing charger and thus turned off when the battery was fully charged. The charger has a forty five minute emergency shut-off, if it is still on after 45 minutes. This can be used at the pond/lake so you don't have to go home after one run of the boat.

The original Reef Racer came with a wall charger when I reviewed them two years ago. The new RR2's charger worked faster and shut off when the battery was peaked. The original charger had to be unplugged and took longer to charge the battery than the new charger. The new charger has a long cord (70") from the power plug adaptor to the actual charger. Thus the charger and battery can and should be outside of the car when you are charging your battery. Additionally, you should monitor the charge even though it is a peak charger and will automatically shut off at 45 minutes if not off sooner. Finally, for safety, don't try and charge the battery too close to water, or if you or the battery are wet. Per instructions, I always took the battery out of the boat for charging.

The only disadvantage to this charger is that a younger person can't charge the battery and play if they don't have access to a family car. This is a reasonable trade-off and the charger is an improvement over the original charger. With my planes I cycle my NiMH batteries several times before I take my first flight. No such concern here as I will cycle them by running the boat.

The battery that came with the 2 was a different shape than the one that came with the original boats. Both were 1100 NiMH packs of 7.2 volts and both weighed 5.0 ounces. The current pack is shorter and slightly wider as it was two rows of three batteries side by side. The original pack was two rows of three cells end to end. Both the original and the 2's battery packs had six 1.2 volt cells. They are just configured differently. Both fit fine in the boat they were intended for but don't fit the other design very well if at all.

Transmitter

Both the original Reef Racer and Reef Racer 2 came with an Aquacraft two channel pistol grip transmitter. The original Reef Racer had a quality Futaba made transmitter, proudly announced on the box. They don't identify anyone but Aquacraft on the Reef Racer 2 box. Both required me to supply the 8 AA batteries to power the transmitter. The original unit came only in a right handed model if I remember correctly while the current model came in a right handed style, it could be converted to a left handed model. The current model also has a handle on top of the transmitter to make it easier to carry. Both models had a steering trim adjustment that was useful if the boat wasn't tracking straight. Just adjust that steering trim control dial on the transmitter until the servo had the rudder lined up straight and true.

However, the original Reef Racer transmitter was much more high tech than the current model as it had reversing switches for the steering servo and the throttle, a throttle trim switch and dual rate for the steering. In practice since both the Reef Racer and the 2 came set-up properly there was no need to use the servo reversing switches on the transmitter so, for use with the 2, their absence wasn't noticed. As for the throttle trim tab feature on the original transmitter I remember playing with it but I don't remember actually needing it on any of the four boats used in the original review. So I don't consider its removal to be significant.

The dual rate or dialable steering change was however slightly missed by me. Some novice users did better with the steering set for less response, making wider turns while the experienced operator liked the turn on a dive response obtained on the other end of the dial. The Reef Racer 2 comes set for turn on a dime with full throw. That said I videotaped a seven year old for the action video and he had no trouble with the quick steering right from the get go. That video was during his first time with the boat...but he is a beginning R/C pilot as well.

Unless you're left handed the original transmitter was more versatile with the dual rate and thus slightly better.

Range for both of them was excellent and they came on six different frequencies assigned to ground and water vehicles. The original Reef Racers came on the 75 Megahertz band and my red one was on channel 68. On the Reef Racer 2 my orange boat is on channel six in the 27 Megahertz band, or 27.255MHz. So now this gives us even more channels, with the Reef Racers 1 on one band, and the 2s on another. These frequencies are shared by cars, boats and planes.

Water Cooled Motor

Here both boats were basically the same with a 380 motor with a metal pipe wrapped around it. One end of the pipe was connected to an intake behind the rudder at the back of the boat and the other end of the pipe went out the right side of the boat. In both boats the running of the boat, especially at high speeds forces water into the intake and it goes through the pipe, around the motor and out the side of the boat. In the process it cools the motor and works very well in both models. The set-up in the Reef Racer 2 looks like it might be lighter than the original.

Controls in the Boat

The steering is performed by a servo with a short linkage to the rudder. It turns the rudder in a wide arc and that allows for such quick turns. The speed controller is a modern escape. We take them for granted but they are such an improvement over the reostat type speed controllers we used twenty years ago. The escape/receiver combo is in a red rubber balloon to help keep it dry so it was camera shy.

Water Tightness -- RR2 WINS!!

This was where the Reef Racer 2 had it all over the original Reef Racer. The original racer had a large opening to the hull on the top for most of the boat and that opening was covered with only the top hatch cover. Foam on the sides of the top hatch cover was designed to keep out the water. The top hatch was connected with hinges in the back and in the front the closure was with a ball link in the hull going through a rubber grommet in the hatch cover. This worked pretty well but we had several pop open in operation with minor high speed touches by boats. Even closed every run allowed some water into the hull as sharp turns were right on the waterline. Fortunately even when flooded the electronics on my original four boats were never damaged. The original Reef Racers could even slowly returned to shore in a flooded condition except when snagged by seaweed in almost all cases.

The Reef Racer 2 has a very different hull. Here as shown in the pictures below we see a closed hull with two circular openings on the top of the hull and they have tight fitting rubber lined hatch covers for those openings. These circular hatch covers twist closed over the openings and seal the hull. Over the top of the hull goes the colored hatch cover. On the 2 it was held in place with Velcro front, sides and rear. These two changes: closed hull and hatch held on with Velcro -- greatly decreased the amount of water that gets into the hull (almost completely) and makes the Reef Racer 2 a much superior craft over the original Reef Racer.

Example: With the Original Racer I used a paper towel to wick out water after every run. Usually not much but some. With Reef Racer 2 I had no water to remove during this review.

Size and Weight

Both boats hull's were 15 inches in length. The original Reef Racer had a 6 inch beam (width) while the Reef Racer 2 had only a 5.3 inch beam. The original weighed 17 ounces without battery and 22 ounces RTR. The "2" weighted 14.9 ounces empty and 19.9 ounces RTR. Slightly more than a two ounce weight saving or about 1/10 lighter running.

Operation

Both the original and the Reef Racer 2 are a lot of fun to operate and the more boats the better. Both came in six different colors on six different frequencies so you can have up to six playing at a time and whether racing or just rushing about I find adults become kids again and kids have a great time especially when there are several in the water at the same time. Operating time is described as six to ten minutes per charge. I found with stopping and starting the average run time was more like twelve minutes, after the battery was broken in, with several cycles of use and charging. People are seldom operating the racers at full speed all the time. (Unless they are like JJ in the video.) The run time was the same for the original and for the 2.

There are larger and faster boats out there but they can't operate in a normal swimming pool and the Reef Racers, 1 and 2, with their ability to turn sharply can be played within a normal size swimming pool. While more space is better, the versatility of being able to operate in a small pond or pool is a big plus for the Reef Racers original and 2. I did a short video in my pool and to me the small pool really makes them look and feel fast.

Photo Gallery

Downloads

Downloads

Conclusion

Final Results

WHERE THE BOATS WERE THE SAME

  • 380 motor and water cooled for longer life and better operation.
  • Battery: same components different configeration.
  • Fun of operating the boats was the same.

PLUSSES FOR THE ORIGINAL REEF RACER

  • Higher tech transmitter with Dual rate for the steering.

PLUSSES FOR THE REEF RACER 2

  • Water tightness and hatch cover staying in place, much much better on the 2.
  • Lighter than the original by 2.1 ounce or approximately 1/10 less weight.

The Reef Racer 2 is a tremendous product. It has a good radio system on six different channels so that up to six boats can operate at a time. It has a water cooled 380 motor for higher speed and longer operating life and it will turn on a dime. It is made and sold by Aquacraft, a company I have found to supply quality products. The original Reef Racer was a very good product but they have truely improved on the boat with the waterproofing they have done on the Reef Racer 2. The average consummer won't miss the changes in the transmitter and the left handed operators will be pleased. The Reef Racer 2 is a dryer, lighter, slightly narrower and slightly faster boat. As stated in the body of the review the downgrades on the transmitter/radio system go mostly unnoticed as they don't affect operation for most operators. The Reef Racer 2 turns just as tight as the original Reef Racer.

Aquacraft continues to monitor their product and they have issued a technical update concerning the operation of the Reef Racer 2. Briefly they have discovered that with prolonged use the driveshaft seal begins to rub on the driveshaft and the friction creates heat and an irritating noise. In the bulletin they show how to simply correct this possible problem with some easy steps using lubrication before you start operation. The notice is attached at the end of this review and can be found in the box with current boats and on Aquacraft's website. This notice after initial release of the product is an example of how Aquacraft continues to support their product.

If you have wanted a boat that was electric, quick turning and fast enough to be fun... get a Reef Racer 2 and have your buddy get one and you'll have a lot of fun. Even my wife likes the Reef Racers and will play with one on occasion, although she never wants to fly any of my planes. Boats are something your non RC friends can enjoy without any experience or fear of crashing. (Although in a pool they may well end up crashing as shown in the original review.) That is why I keep two on hand, so I have one for a friend to use. Get three or more together and the fun grows synergistically. Kids and adults both enjoy the boats and both are surprised how fast they run and how fast they turn. Aquacraft truely improved their product with the watertight the Reef Racer 2!

Last edited by AMCross; Aug 02, 2006 at 03:11 PM..

Discussion

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Old Sep 10, 2006, 09:55 AM
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Joined Sep 2006
1 Posts
well witch is it "new" or "improved" it can't be both. think about it.
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Old Nov 11, 2006, 03:13 AM
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Joined Oct 2003
915 Posts
Might want to try and explain the logic in that.
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Old Nov 11, 2006, 03:22 AM
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Joined Oct 2003
915 Posts
Fantastic comparison Michael. In your opinion, which is the better/quicker boat - The Zig Zag racer 2, or the Reef Racer 2?

Rob
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Old May 14, 2007, 11:02 AM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,378 Posts
Sorry Rob I just saw your question from last year. The Reef Racer 2 was the faster of the two you mentioned.
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Old Dec 23, 2008, 08:00 AM
Twisted Realm's Avatar
United States, FL
Joined Aug 2008
4,222 Posts
Can I put a 2s 1100mah lipo in the boat with out changing the esc or the motor?
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Old Dec 23, 2008, 11:23 AM
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freechip's Avatar
Canada, ON, Rockland
Joined Aug 2008
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sure you can, check this out
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=972157
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