Control System for Topsail Sloop c. 1740? - Page 2 - RC Groups
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Dec 27, 2012, 09:01 AM
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beneteau3's Avatar
Brooks, I respectfully withdraw my maneuverability statement. I was just attempting to describe my personal experience. I would, though, be extremely interested in observing anyone successfully sail a 6 foot long square rig on the aforementioned pond without destroying it. This pond, used by the club members, is a narrow man-made city pond surrounded by rocks and concrete walls, and commonly has flaky, variable winds. After my first frustrating summer of chasing the brig rig on larger lakes, I decided to change to a schooner rig as opposed to turning this ship into a "shelf queen". I have had no problems with the new rig on the pond.

As far as the propensity to quote John Harland, one might be interested to peruse his statement on page 9 of his book pertaining to his personal sailing experience: "My own practical experience is minimal, being limited to half a dozen trips moving motor fishing vessels (naval MFV's) from Cape Town to Durban, thirty years ago". No disrespect intended to Mr Harland - His book is excellent.
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Dec 27, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Brooks's Avatar
And what did he (John Harland) say about sailing a topsail sloop, Clay?

Beneteau3, I don't discount your experience. What you described (frustration when sailing in flukey winds) is just what I experience too. Squareriggers don't work to windward as easily as fore&afters; they make 1-2 pts to windward while f&afters make 3-4 points. If you don't tack on every wind switch, you will not make progress.

Since the modeler is not on the vessel, detecting windshifts in flukey conditions is very problematic. Sometimes, the only way I find out is when the ship goes aback, Ack! With a schooner, or sloop, the skipper has more time to figure out what has happened since the vessel has made more ground to windward. And, when I sailed Aldebaran as a pure schooner, I found I could leave her to her own devices - if the wind switched while I was yakking to a friend, the schooner would tack herself...she makes me look good, even when I'm kibitzing, hoho.

So, if your pond is plagued by flukey, light winds, then maybe a squarerigger model is not going to be as much fun as a fore&aft rigged model. Sadly, park superintendents are enamored with Trees. Trees are nice to look at, but they absolutely wreck the windpatterns. Trees have wrecked many a promising model yacht pond, sigh. My best ponds are located in new subdivisions, where the trees are still saplings....CuSO4 is a root killer...alas, as a Westerner, trees are too precious to me to remove.

I will stand by my assertion that squareriggers are more maneuverable... But I'll add that that maneuverability does require steady wind. And I'll reinforce my previous statement that they don't work to windward as easily as schooners.

It is possible to get better sailing them. When I first started, I spent a lot of time picking Pamir off the lee shore. After a couple years, though, I learned how to sail her better; Now I hardly ever have to make a trek to the site of the stranding :-).
In defense of Harland: If you believe in libraries, then you don't have to personally experience everything to become an expert. John has read probably 90+% of everything ever written in English about sailing squareriggers. He has corresponded with the foreign sailors and researchers, so non-English sources are represented in his book also. He is still, or at least when I talked with him on the phone 12 years ago, seeking information from contemporary squarerig sailors, so his knowledge is not just book-learning. I've derived great enjoyment with my models over the past 5 years testing his sailing statements - so far everything he's written has rung true.
Last edited by Brooks; Dec 27, 2012 at 10:23 AM.
Dec 27, 2012, 10:37 AM
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Brooks's Avatar
Tips for maneuvering:
1. Pick your wind&wave conditions. Don't try to tack if the waves are big and the wind is dying. Just as at sea, waves are not uniform; there are patches of water where they are less high, use those patches to your advantage.

2. Wait for the ship to start accelerating before commencing a maneuver. That is, wait for an increase in wind. If you decide to turn while the wind is slowing, then a squarerigger will probably fail the tack. If you don't think ahead wrt wind and wave, then prepare to say hello to Mr.LeeShore.

3. Learn to turn using your sails. If the sails are fighting the rudder, guess who's going to win? Multimasted ships can use their "air-rudder", and Must, if the maneuver is to be performed with grace and elegance. If you remember the start of my Pamir thread, I was able to tack and wear with no rudder control at all. It was not easy, and it required close attention to 1. and 2., but it was possible. Rudder is icing on the cake, it is not the cake.

Squarerigger models require micro-seamanship. When they perform as requested, the feeling of awe and gratification far exceeds the pleasure I ever got from slamming a sloop around. Sloops are fun to race. They teach racing tactics. I also learned of the air-rudder with my sloops; racers seek every edge. I have a box of sailing trophys, so don't have a problem with sloops. But for a different level of watery bliss, try a ship that requires something more of yourself. Only a gazillionaire could afford a real squarerigger. But a modeler can vicariously re-live those days of Hornblower, Villiars, Capt. Jack, if he wishes.
Last edited by Brooks; Dec 27, 2012 at 10:55 AM.
Dec 27, 2012, 11:12 AM
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beneteau3's Avatar
I hope Clay doesn't mind our jumping into his thread with our discussions! Brooks, I am not disagreeing with you as far as square rig capabilities. All that I have read definitely indicates that square rigs were much more suited as a good heavy armament gun platform or as a merchant ship with useful capacity. Most of the successful naval schooners that existed were quite small and could not carry much weight in guns or cargo.

I also realize that not only does a square-rigger need good winds, it also requires a great deal of patience and practice to obtain the skill required. I respect your apparent sailing skill that you have accomplished, and your extensive expertise in sailing technology.

Like I said, absolutely no disrespect to Harland. His book is one of the few current references, if not the only one, in existence that actually covers the subject with such thoroughness. Even authors like James Lees and Howard Chapelle don't have much personal experience either. It was a cheap shot upon my part. But then, who does have that kind of experience these days that writes about it? I wish some of these people that currently sail some of the existing historical square-riggers would pick up a pen and write.

As far as a future attempt on my part towards sailing an rc square-rigger, I think I would require an inexpensive boat made of rubber and a powered chase boat to go after it.

P.S. Where the heck do you sail in Bozeman, Montana??
Last edited by beneteau3; Dec 27, 2012 at 11:27 AM.
Dec 27, 2012, 11:47 AM
Registered User
Brooks, you're a fountain of information! I don't have all the permissions to share all the notes I have from other sources, but I don't think John Harland will mind if I share the summary of his part of the discussion:

"It will be instructive to see what happens on the pond. My guess is
that the other sails will trump the effect of the square topsail. If
the mast were vertical or nearly so, the Center of Effort of the
topsail would be ahead of the Center of Lateral Resistance, and
therefore tend to push the bow off the wind, whether full or aback.
Because of the extreme rake of the Bermuda Sloop's mast, the CE is
almost central, and should exert almost no torque one way or the

I suppose it is stupid to predict what will happen, since Clay will
soon learn how to deal with it, but my thought would be that the
model will tack quite readily using the rudder control provided she
is moving at a reasonable speed. The topsail will flap as she turns
up into the wind and then fly aback. This should not interfere with
the tack. Once she is through the wind, swing the topsail round. In
theory, the ideal moment to swing would be when the sail is ashiver,
but experience will show whether this can be managed.

Anyway, Happy Sailing!"
Dec 27, 2012, 06:32 PM
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Brooks's Avatar
As long as I'm not just a fountain of steam and sulpherous water.... hopefully that remains in Yellowstone Park.
Mr. B, I think you'd be pleasantly surprized at how much easier a topsail makes it to sail, that was certainly my experience with Aldebaran. The topsail will tell me when I've passed the eye of the wind in a tack - it goes aback, which is easy to see, compared to trying to pick out a small tell-tail flag on the mast head. Phillip, the designer of your boat, planned them for parallelogram bracing. He was my inspiration to install it on my boats. My version is not as elegantly engineered as his, but it seems to get the job done.

And the only way I can wear Aldebaran is to use the topsail(s) - my main boom hits the backstays before it's all the way out. That restriction of travel hurts my ability to turn downwind on a run or broad reach. But by angling the topsail yards so that their lift turns the bow the way I desire, I can wear in most conditions.

I've also seen photos of a topsail schooner whose topsail yards were moved to the correct tack automatically by the swing of the mainsail boom (no RC needed). The braces cross and are run aft along the deck to the boom. When the boom swings to starboard, it pulls on the starboard (new leeward) brace, forcing the yard to swing. Since the topsail wants to assume a beat position, all you have to do is get it started. I have not seen the topsail schooner actually sail, so I can't say how well the system works. I think it'd work best with a medium wind, enough to give the mainsail some leverage. I think it'd be only the work of an evening or two set it up on your schooner if you wished to try it this Spring. You'd not gain the ability to use the sail for maneuvering, but it might be fun to see something different at the pond. A topsail should not much hurt your ability to work to windward. When I sailed Aldebaran in her different rigs, the pointing ability, from poor (1pt) to good (3+pt) ran: brig, brigantine, topsail schooner, pure schooner.
Clay, you may find the same, that your topsail makes it easier to sail your sloop. Your sloop and my Aldebaran both have raked masts. That puts the backstays right in the way of the mainsail boom on a run. On real ships, the stays are "running backstays", meaning they can be cast off on the leeward side to allow the real boom adequate swing. I've read of modelers who've installed running backstays, but I never have tried it. On our boats, the topsail can be used to assist steering, and that has certainly helped my schooner.
As for where I sail in Bozone, there are a couple small ponds (4 and 8 acres) with little vegetation around them, so far (new subdivisions). There's a big lake about an hour's drive west; I haven't sailed there since I found the closer ponds. When I fly over the area, I am surprized at how many ponds I see; unfortunately, most are tree-lined. Fun, frustration-minimized, squarerigger sailing is definitely sensititive to wind conditions. However, I can handle heavier winds with my squareriggers than I can with my fore&afters. Since I can strike sail easily, I'm never forced to leave due to constant knockdowns.

Note to Clay: if you want to be able to handle different windspeeds, be sure to incorporate some method of reefing your mainsail and jib(s). Also, I hope you noticed that it's not necessary to run braces to all the yards. The rigging diagram you posted is good for real ships, but you can simplify to 1 set of braces for both your topsail and topgallant (run it to the topsail yard, just let the mainyard and topgallant yard follow the topsail yard). I'd leave off the main square course. It just adds sail area down low, which you already have with your boom mainsail and jibs. Sails high up will catch zephers, allowing you to sail in wind too light to make ripples. By the time the wind gets up, you won't want the main square course anyway. Unless you are set on adding it for your own personal/historic reasons. When the real ships sailed, they probably only set a main course for the same reasons we would set a spinnaker - run or broad reach. You'd kill your beat with one up.
Last edited by Brooks; Dec 27, 2012 at 06:55 PM.
Dec 27, 2012, 07:36 PM
Registered User
Well, Guys-
Thank you for all that input- and please keep it coming. I've been scratch-building in the general area of the smaller vessels of 18th century America (sloops, privateers, frigates, POW ivory models, etc.) for decades, so I know all the bits and pieces. I have a full library, including Harland, Lees, Steel, Chapelle, Davis, etc., etc., so I'm pretty good at static stuff. It's the rest that gets me. I'm torn between the "easy" way, width a double arm bolted to a fairly large winch servo to do all of the sails, vs three separate servos to do main, jibs and topsail. Change my mind twice a day.(Whoops, there it goes again!) Certainly would be congested with three sail arms down there, two being double.

What to do; what to do.

Jan 04, 2013, 02:51 PM
meatbomber's Avatar

i suggest you have a look at my 2 small models if you want to have a look at congestion inside but i strongly suggest at least seperating your square braces from teh F&A sail.
My small schooner brig had a very hard time tacking without the fore top`sl and while your square sail might not be such a overpowerin manouvering sail as it is on a 2 master nounted on teh fore i think a lot of the time you will want to have the square feathered while tacking which means you will need seperate controlover it during the turn.
Jan 04, 2013, 05:48 PM
Registered User
Thanks, Meatbomber--
That's the same conclusion I had come after studying a number of choices and models, including yours! I just need to work out how the jib should be controlled; the foresail seems pretty obvious if you want port and starboard control- a double arm servo, but getting the overlapping jib to the opposite side confuses me.

Jan 04, 2013, 06:03 PM
meatbomber's Avatar
i`d just make it self tacking most probably... that shouldn`t be a problem with teh size jib you will have (large jib)
Jan 04, 2013, 08:09 PM
Registered User
The flying jib is the big one; I thought if I ever used that one, it would be like a genoa- only for very broad reaches through running before the wind (which seems pretty unlikely with the backstays being non-adjustable. The jib proper is much smaller and maybe should have some direct control??
Jan 04, 2013, 09:55 PM
Damp and Dizzy member
Brooks's Avatar
Clay, I mentioned John Dowd's no-snarl winch design in an email to you, I think. Here is his thread showing the "winch boxes" that he makes (Reply #20):

His home page:
Jan 05, 2013, 12:32 AM
Registered User
Yes, Brooks. I found the diagrams with your help and have them safely tucked away for use on the GWS six turn winch (for the gaff mainsail boom) I've already decided to use. Then a QWS 180 servo for the topsail, another for the foresail (? and jib) and a GWS 60 servo for the rudder. I've got a 2500 mah NiMh battery, a Fly Sky six channel CT6B transmitter and an on-off switch with a charging port from Hobby King. It'll be a little cramped, but I think I can do it!

Jan 05, 2013, 09:06 AM
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Brooks's Avatar
Space saving: A Lipo battery will be lighter and smaller than a NiMH. You'll need a SportBec. or equivalent to reduce the voltage, but the package will save you weight and space. My Aldebaran hull is stuffed; using a Lipo helped me immensely.

Names: Not sure what you mean by "foresail".The names of the squaresails are course, topsail, topgallant. The names of the jibs are more variable, but could be, starting from the mast going forward: main staysail, inner jib, outer jib, flying jib (or mainstaysail, jib, flying jib). You can name your sails whatever you want. It just helps others to understand what you are talking about if you use standard names.

For your single masted vessel, a single servo will suffice for all square sails. It will be powerful enough, and there is no operational advantage to using separate servos for bracing sails on one mast.

Jibs: the mainstaysail can be run off the same servo as the mainsail. For servo arm sloops, that is the common way. Maneuverability will be greater if they are on separate servos, but the Bermuda-rigged sloop racers seem to be satisfied using just one. I get away with just one servo for mainsail and jib on my gaff sandbagger bottle boat.

The other jibs may need to be on one separate servo, though (which can be the mainstaysail servo or the squaresail servo, see Pamir thread for how to do that). The jibs out on the jibboom have such leverage, that you may find your ability to turn into the wind impaired if you can't slack their sheets before moving the rudder.

I have a huge rudder on the sandbagger (just like the real boats, btw), and it usually can turn the boat even with the big jib sheet tight. I played with the finkeel location to ensure I could do that (finkeel too far forward, and can't turn downwind, too far aft, can't turn into the wind).

The easiest way to make jibs self tacking is to cut them so there is minimal overlap. You'll likely be the only person at the pond who realizes that they don't overlap like real jibs. If you want max authenticity (overlap), then go for it. With a lot of overlap, you'll need a special jib servo setup, as you are aware. But if you are running out of room below decks, simplifying the jibs may be one way to help.

The penalty for jib clews not crossing over after a tack: Well, appearance, if the ship is near shore (surprizing hard to detect by appearance if the ship is offshore, though). Not so obvious, and of real importance: The jibs will become less efficient if they don't cross over. The ship will not be balanced, and will develop a large weather helm (meaning that the ship will be trying to turn into the wind, and you have to hold lots of rudder to prevent that). On Pamir, under some wind conditions, this means that my ability to resist an unwanted tack is impaired. To oppose this weather helm, you can use your air rudders, that is the sails. Just let out the mainsail sheet a bit, and you'll regain steering control. You'll lose some ability to point up on a beat, but a sloop never has the trouble going to windward that a squarerigger has, so it's not so critical.
Last edited by Brooks; Jan 05, 2013 at 09:15 AM.
Jan 05, 2013, 09:12 AM
Registered User
Thanks, Brooks. I appreciate all the information.

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