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This review is intended as a personal review by a modeller that may be of interest to fellow modellers, and therefore comments made are the opinions of the reviewer only.
Fast electric boat racing has been around for a number of years now, but it only really started to gain popularity over the last ten years as cell, motor and electronic speed controllers have evolved. The consequences of these developments is that there are several classes with differing regulations to which one can enter with associated variations in cost, and complexity. One of these new classes has been the advent of the Eco 400 class of racing, which is for fast electric boats to be powered by the very popular Graupner Speed 400 motor, using 7 off Sanyo 800AR cells. The objective of this new class was to establish a club level fun racing boat. There is more flexibility in the rules than say the Club 500 class, where there is only one make of boat eligible. In the Eco 400 class a close level of racing, and promote inter-club racing is promoted, with the attraction that while more than one type of hull is available, the motor and battery pack are controlled. This format is growing in popularity at club level and would encourage newcomers to the sport (both young and old). Owing to the small size of the boats, they can be a bit skittish, which can be very entertaining to onlookers.
This formula has been undergoing development in the last year, certainly by the Southend Model Power Boat Club (Website: http://www.smpbc.ukf.net/). Details of the regulations can be found at the website. AsTec also have a website (Website: http://www.astec.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/), which details the Scud and other Eco 400 models in their range. In fact the designer of the Scud is a Southend club member. It was having seen these race at the club, and a club talk on building the Scud that enticed me to have a go.
So what do you get for your money? Well, because this is a formula more akin to other classes of fast electric, there are various options. There is the basic hull kit which comprises the styrene mouldings for the hull, deck, and deck top. You can also get a running gear pack, of which there are more than one type available (one is available from AsTec). The running gear pack I had was made by one of the Southend club members which comprised a lightweight prop shaft and tube, brass rudder, with a bushed metal rudder post, motor mount, and coupling.
What other items are required to complete the kit? A two channel radio control system with one or two servos (depending on the method of motor control one wants to employ), an 8.4 Volt nicad battery pack comprising of Sanyo 800AR cells, and charger to suit, and a suitable receiver aerial tube. Also, if you intend to race the boat a couple of small pieces of 'hook' side Velcro strip, and a number plate screw and nut for attachment to the deck top moulding to enable race number fixing. Aside from these items you will also need some epoxy, Plastic Weld (as opposed to Liquid Poly as made by Humbrol.
This is fairly straightforward, and I will concentrate upon any areas that may cause a problem, and any personal preferences. One point to remember when building the model is that the sytrene sheet has a clear plastic film protecting the glossy surface of the material and this needs to be removed prior to gluing parts together.
First cut out the parts leaving a 5mm lip to the hull and deck, and drill holes in the hull and deck mouldings as required. Cut out the access hatch from the deck moulding and tape it back in place. Next cut out the deck inner, this provides the lip to which the access hatch fits against. Glue this inner piece using a liquid polystyrene ideally Plasweld as this appears to be stronger. DO NOT APPLY TOO LIBERALLY as it travels a long way by capiliary action and you do not want to stick the access hatch back down to the deck moulding! Once this is setting remove the access hatch just for safety's sake to ensure it does not become bonded to the inner.
The hull and deck moulding are next joined. First carefully align the two halves so that they are true. Use clothes pegs or ideally small bulldog clips to hold in place and run Plasweld around the join. You can run some Plasweld around the inside to help ensure a good bond. Additionally you can mix some scrap styrene with some Plasweld can also be used internally along the join to help strengthen it further. Leave this to set before progressing further.
As a recommended departure, I glued a couple of pieces of scrap styrene to the inside of the hull where the aerial tube, motor water cooling outlet tube, and power lead sockets would be fitted. This is to help strengthen the hull in these places.
Out of some scrap styrene (though I opted to use some fibreglass board) make a rudder tube support/rudder servo mount and glue inside the hull with the rudder tube.
Next comes the job of fitting the motor (Graupner Speed 400, 6V), motor mount, motor cooling jacket, and prop shaft assemblies. Take your time to get these aligned properly, though I won't go into the details involved. The water inlet/outlet tubes were glued in place.
You need to plan your radio installation early on, and depending upon the cell pack configuration to suit your model. To date I have seen three configurations for cells, a saddle pack form (3 cells resting on 4), a 7 cell stick pack like a transmitter pack missing a cell, and two sticks comprising 4 and 3 cells joined in series. I chose the latter placing the 4 cells on the centreline of the hull behind the prop shaft, while the other 3 cells rested on the hull to the left (looking from behind the model). A Protech SD200 micro servo was srew mounted between the transom and rudder tube to the right of the hull, with a Futaba 27MHz Receiver wrapped in a balloon in front of that and the speed controller in this case a Kontronics Easy 1000 in front of that. Good old Velcro being used to hold these items and the cells in place.
It is necessary to be able to connect/disconnect the power once the boat has been taped up. This has the advantage of reducing the panic of having to wait to get the frequency peg (if you're in a club), and taping the boat up, after connecting up the pack and switching on the radio. More importantly for safety if the boat needs to be stopped in a hurry, removing an arming link disconnects the power. To achieve this, I fitted an arming link comprising two off 4mm gold plated plugs and sockets inserted in the positive supply from the battery to the speed controller. The sockets were bonded to the deck, with a flying lead in my instance with plugs fitted also protruding from the deck on the left hand side when viewed from the rear.
Another recommendation is that 2 or 4mm gold plated plugs and sockets, or with Powerpole connectors be used for the speed controller/battery pack connection. Either of these have greater current handling capabilities and lower connection resistance (which equals less supply volts drop, therefore slightly faster speed/duration). Also, do use good quality silicone insulated wire for wiring from the battery pack to your means of speed control and motor.
Finally, I applied some trim and the Velcro/number plate fixing screw and nut for my racing number. The nut is epoxied to the inside of the access hatch, and some expanding polystyrene foam to aid buoyancy/righting to the access hatch. The model is then painted, and I was ready to race.
The first opportunity to try the model out was at my club (Southend Model Power Boat Club). It is fitting in many ways that my club seems to be the leading the way in promoting this class of racing, and that this was where my boat would have it's maiden voyage. Also, with such prominent involvement there are some very experienced racers from which there is some good advice about getting the most out of your model.
I use Sellotape Diamond Tape to hold and seal the access hatch, and one way to protect the paint finish on the hull is to put a layer of tape on both the access hatch and the deck, and then place tape over these to seal the join. Simple and effective, and yet makes it easier to remove the tape to afford access without the risk of peeling off the paintwork.
On the water the Scud looks very small, but under power moves quite fast for a small, model, powered by a small motor. Because the hull is small it's direction of travel can be affected by choppy water or over exuberant use of throttle and rudder. This makes racing very interesting at times. The key to success is a well balanced hull and smooth use of the controls and looking for smooth water. This form of racing is good as there are plenty of thrills and spills with close racing to entertain.
Duration of a race under the current regulations is 4 minutes plus the time taken to complete the lap at the end of that time. This is plenty adequate time and means that you do not need to use very high capacity cells.
So did I like the kit, and is it value for money? This has to be yes to both. The kit is reasonably priced, and the cost of the additional items is very reasonable. In terms of enjoyment, this model will provide hours of fun. The racing is close which I like. The time from kit to water is quite reasonable, although I feel that it is not suitable as a first model for an inexperienced modeller, without guidance from an experienced modeller during the model's construction.
I see this class of racing growing in popularity over the next few years. In my club I have seen an increase in the number of Scud owners. Personally, I see the future of fast electric racing in the lower cost formulas. This is a formula for people who enjoy racing and want an added element of unpredictability, who will find it very appealing.