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What do you get when you take a Club 500 and an Eco 400 and put them in a mixing bowl and stir? The answer is an all new class of fast electric model boat currently nicknamed GT 400. This class is so new that the racing rules were formulated over the 2002 season by members of the Southend Model Power Boat Club for what looks to be very exciting and cheap formula.
This formula is the brainchild of George Turner and Graham Fright who are both members of the Southend Model Powerboat Club. It originally started out as a one-off hull resembling the Fairey Huntsman for Graham who made the model representative of the one James Bond used in the film from Russia with Love. This was even down to the extra fuel drums! The model is a styrene hull and superstructure fitted with a Graupner Multispeed 400 Set, and powered by six sub C cells. This gave a performance that was equal near enough in speed to a Scud but with far greater duration than four minutes-in actual fact closer to 15 depending on the cell capacity, but with better handling than the Scud and to some extent a Club 500.
The first time I saw this boat was at the Barleylands steam and traction engine show in September 2001 where it impressed public and fellow boaters alike. Graham liked the performance so much that he felt that there was the possibility of introducing a new class of racing. So George and Graham looked at developing the idea further. The net result of this is that the Southend club gradually developed this formula during 2002 and promoting it as a formal club class during 2003, which may well be adopted nationally.
So why do you think that this class of racing could be so much better than the two aforementioned and established classes? I hear you ask. There are several reasons why I think this. Firstly it is cheap and is a one make class where you do not have almost identical boats. Secondly it uses a cheap Speed 400 motor powered by cheap sub C cells. Thirdly the boats are a lot faster than club 500 which provides excitement while having good handling which is important for encouraging newcomers to the hobby. These factors are liable to appeal to junior and senior modellers alike as well as novices.
So what is there to do in preparing one of these boats? Well, not too much really. You are provided with a set of vacuum formed styrene mouldings which you will need to assemble. These mouldings comprise of a hull, a deck moulding, and currently you have at the time of purchase a choice of 12 styles of superstructure mouldings. These are many and varied and include Huntsman, Sunseeker, speedboat, powerboat, pilot types. This is where this class could appeal to so many owing to the variety. There is the Graupner Mutlispeed 400 Set (Part No. 1970) which includes motor and propeller with the shaft and mount and coupling assembly, water cooling coil (currently available separately), and at this time you will need to supply your own rudder tube and shaft assembly.
Assembly is straight forward just like building a Scud (see my review on this kit elsewhere on the site). Cut-out and trim the hull and deck mouldings allowing about five millimetres of lip on both, and cut whole in deck where superstructure is to go. Align the deck and hull parts and hold together using pegs or bulldog clips. Apply Plasweld (this is better than Liquid Poly) to the joint. Once set final cleaning up of the joint and lips can be and undertaken, before adding the spray rails. The addition of the spray rails is important to get the hull to perform properly.
35millimetres from the transom drill a hole to suit the rudder tube. Also drill a hole in the skeg to suit the prop shaft. I also drilled a hole for the water cooling inlet tube 20mm in front of the rudder tube, and 10millimetres to the right of centre (looking from the underside of the hull). I left the drilling of the water cooling outlet hole until I fitted the motor in order to get the correct position. The prop tube was then fitted, and the Multispeed set was also fitted into the hull. It should be noted that I made a support for the motor/clutch housing out of styrene and bonded this to the hull. When going to epoxy the stern tube into the hull do please take note of the tube lubrication hull and ensure it is positioned correctly. Make sure that there is no more than three millimetres of stern tube protruding from the rear of the skeg. This is critical.
Once set I drilled the water cooling outlet hole and epoxied the inlet and outlet tubes into place. I also made out of some styrene sheet a rudder servo mount, which was then glued inside the hull.
The superstructure mouldings are trimmed and glued as necessary. There you have it after some two and-a-half hours work you have a nearly completed boat. All you need to do now is to paint the boat how you want it before fitting the rudder servo, electronic speed controller, and receiver.
With a freshly charged pack of sub-C's fitted, and the superstructure deck join taped up the boat was put on the water. Opening the throttle the GT400 leapt away and tracked nice and straight. The model was planing nicely so having admired the boats lines on the water and the wake it produced let's see what the turns are like. Turns are sweet, and the model stayed up on the plane throughout. There are no nasty vices with the model so it was then ready to race.
Well I have raced my GT400 over the past season in varying format, and I can tell you that the rules for 2003 (a copy of which have been reproduced by kind permission of the SMPBC), and should be on this web site, should make racing really exciting. When you are racing against several similar boats the racing is competitive, and the rules are really designed towards focusing the newcomer on taking the time to get their course right i.e. to avoid missing buoys and other boats. This provides good close racing where the better driver - or the luckier driver should hopefully win.
It is fast, it is close and it is exciting. In an attempt to help keep costs to a minimum, race duration has been limited to offset the trend to higher capacity nicad or Nickel Metal Hydride cells. Race duration of 8 minutes plus have been found to start to make the races boring, and just means that the better boat will win by a bigger margin.
The individual shape and finish of the models make the class appealing to the eyes of both competitors and spectators alike, and make it easy to keep track of a particular boat in a close group.
Racing on an M shaped course the size of the Club 500 one, in an anti-clockwise direction, ensures that turns are not to the left all the time. It really is good to see these boats on the water. The race from the start to the first buoy is thrilling, as are the battles to overtake.
I will not be surprised to see this formula become established nationally over the next year. Already there are elements included that would make it easy as far as I can see for the class to be adopted nationally.
The class is cheap, and I understand from George Turner, that if you want one of these boats you can get one through contacting AsTec Models and Electronics, their web site is http://www.astecmodels.co.uk. I have found this class very exciting and would recommend it to any newcomer as a good class to start with. It also offers some scope of a personal touch to make the model unique, which appeals to those who want to stand out from the crowd. I will let you know how things develop during 2003. In the meantime I have included some pictures of both my GT400's to wet your appetite.