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Robotic Marks

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Saw an ad on Facebook for the Robotic Mark https://www.marksetbot.com/.   Thought they were interesting and wanted to see if anyone else saw this and what their thoughts were. Seems like a novel concept I suppose, but they have only tested them in 25 knots and 3 knots of current.  So are they a good idea? Or they just a novelty? 

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at nearly $7000 to buy and $60/month it would be over the value of many of the boats racing......

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19 minutes ago, mal5033 said:

at nearly $7000 to buy and $60/month it would be over the value of many of the boats racing......

Holy crap, I didn't see that yet. Seems like a nonstarter.

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I already have a hacking app on my phone~~~~

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I understand they have been used in the Great Lakes with some success. 

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Would be great to have a small version for RC sailing, but it would have to be very inexpensive too.  Hmmmm.  

 

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Good idea, especially given the difficulty of getting RC volunteers, but I think the price needs to (and will) come down significantly. The technology doesn't seem that hard, I'm guessing a high school robotics club could build one for under $500.

And I can't figure out what the monthly "recurring fee" buys you...

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I looked at these last year and thought it was a brilliant idea until I saw the price. Is probably acceptable for a superyacht regatta but for club racing it's a complete disaster. Our annual budget wouldn't cover two of them and what do you get for the monthly fee?

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We were discussing mark setting issues at a club racing day, mid last year, someone mentioned issues facing the Olympics, apparently the water is very deep. I said something about using drones that you could send out from the dock to programmable positions. One  gentlemans face lit up and he went of to make a phone call. Looks like they have an answer.

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I remember racing around one, either last season or the year before that, here in the PNW.

It was hilarious when the mark started "attacking" one of the boats as they were about to round it.

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Yeah, if the GPS positioning is even slightly dithered I can see the mark driving around trying to get back to its lat/long. Good software could overcome that.

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1 hour ago, TJSoCal said:

Good idea, especially given the difficulty of getting RC volunteers, but I think the price needs to (and will) come down significantly. The technology doesn't seem that hard, I'm guessing a high school robotics club could build one for under $500.

And I can't figure out what the monthly "recurring fee" buys you...

I had a couple of my high school students demonstrate a robotic RC aircraft they built that would fly to a location and loiter (circling) , then allow itself to be controlled like a normal RC aircraft.  Very cool.  Very much within the capability of a motivated high school robotics student.

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3 hours ago, Rain Man said:

Would be great to have a small version for RC sailing, but it would have to be very inexpensive too.  Hmmmm.  

 

Funny you should say that. I’m building exactly that right now out of boredom. My other project is an RC mark set/recovery boat. I think the mark set boat has more potential. 

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2 minutes ago, Monkey said:

My other project is an RC mark set/recovery boat. I think the mark set boat has more potential. 

Maybe for RC, but I'm not sure it would scale up.

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Just now, TJSoCal said:

Maybe for RC, but I'm not sure it would scale up.

It would never scale up. It’s just a silly project for local RC racing to pass the time. 

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I've worked events at Plymouth YC near Detroit several times. The lake gets pretty deep, and it's a pain to reposition marks. The marks stay within +- 5 ft. 

When they work, they're great. Did a team race there one time. a 20 degree shift came along, and all the guy controlling the marks had to do is command the bots to move 20 degrees left., and like magic, they all moved to the proper spot.

These weren't high priced events, high school racing.

I think you can rent them for a weekend, but I have no idea of the cost. Surely lots less than purchasing.

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Maybe the City Island YC Big Tom Wed night series could get one. With all the money they are saving now

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In the PNW, where the water is "pretty deep" - as in 300' to 600' where we typically race - we've developed reel mechanisms for mark setting that are pretty good, but once every so often, a mark goes walk-about, leading to confusion, abandoned races  and occasionally hilarity.  So those things could have a use, if their batteries can last a whole day and they can hold against a current.

There is one of those around here that I've seen up in the San Juan's which was definitely having a hard time in about 3-4 knots of current, which is very common around here.  

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I suspect the business model for these things is going to be for someone to buy several and provide them for regattas as a service. Unless they get a lot cheaper it doesn't seem to make sense for a YC to own them.

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3 hours ago, Monkey said:

Funny you should say that. I’m building exactly that right now out of boredom. My other project is an RC mark set/recovery boat. I think the mark set boat has more potential. 

What are you using for an anchor winch?  The mark has more potential for quick adjustments of the start line.

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Instead of a mark that holds its position, how about one  that meanders aimlessly? That way when you bang a corner, it’s not just the wind shift to worry about.

 Probably less expensive too... thinking just drop an orange dinghy with a trolling motor and give it a 15 min head start? 

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5 minutes ago, astro said:

What are you using for an anchor winch?  The mark has more potential for quick adjustments of the start line.

Not using an anchor. 

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3 hours ago, Monkey said:

Funny you should say that. I’m building exactly that right now out of boredom. My other project is an RC mark set/recovery boat. I think the mark set boat has more potential. 

Need any help on the robotic mark?  I'm a hackable Arduino programmer, if that is what you are basing it on.    Other than my SC 27 rebuild project, I need something to do in the evenings and on very rainy days.

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1 minute ago, Rain Man said:

Need any help on the robotic mark?  I'm a hackable Arduino programmer, if that is what you are basing it on.    Other than my SC 27 rebuild project, I need something to do in the evenings and on very rainy days.

I appreciate the offer, but I make my living off telling robots what to do, so for the most part have a handle on it. Once I get it behaving properly, I’ll get in touch. You may have some great ideas I’m missing to make it cheaper. It’ll be an entirely open source experiment. I’m just bored out of my mind with the bars being closed, so I’ve gone full nerd for entertainment.  I’ve found that using a laser to measure distance settles down the GPS issue.  

 

 

 

 

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Slightly off topic.  What about a mark tracker like a pet tracker.  I'm envisioning a small tag on a mark that broadcasts its location and can be seen on an iPad with chart software.  This would give the RC an overhead visual of the course and precise distances between marks.  It would help with mark boat communications when setting up or moving marks and also warn the RC when a mark starts drifting.  Anything like this our there?

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I can't see why this isn't like a no-brainer for a cash flush ocean-health nonprofit like 11th hour racing to sponsor. If you could pull 3-4 mark boats and all of the associated emissions and pollution and garbage that go along with those mark boats out of circulation at every regatta around the country you could really really really put a dent in the environmental impact of our sport. 11th hour could buy a fleet of ~10 of these marks and loan  them to regattas as part of the overall 11th Hour sponsorship package. 

Also, everyone complaining about the cost of these marks.... how much do clubs with support fleets spend on gasoline, lunches, mark boat maintenance, taxes, registration, etc for all of those? How much of your time goes to finding and training volunteers? You probably start getting up to $7,000 pretty quickly. 

These things should be flying off the shelves and I really really just don't understand why it's not spreading around the country a little slower than COVID.

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6 hours ago, Monkey said:

Funny you should say that. I’m building exactly that right now out of boredom. My other project is an RC mark set/recovery boat. I think the mark set boat has more potential. 

Check with these dudes 

https://shipmodelers.com/index.html

 

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10 hours ago, ChiGuy said:

I've worked events at Plymouth YC near Detroit several times. The lake gets pretty deep, and it's a pain to reposition marks. The marks stay within +- 5 ft. 

When they work, they're great. Did a team race there one time. a 20 degree shift came along, and all the guy controlling the marks had to do is command the bots to move 20 degrees left., and like magic, they all moved to the proper spot.

These weren't high priced events, high school racing.

I think you can rent them for a weekend, but I have no idea of the cost. Surely lots less than purchasing.

Were you at the one I was at, when the kid shouted "Is that how marks are made?" as the windward mark repeatedly mounted the offset mark in its best discovery channel impression?  :D

They're fine, but still lots of redress for marks driving into or away from sailors at the events I've attended.

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They used them for the WASZP racing at Sail GP sydney, was kinda funny watching them all "return to base" at the end of each race

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They used this Liechtenstein version https://www.roboboj.com/ at the Optimist Haloween cup in Garda last year. Seemed to work very well. Deep water but very little current and no swell. Saves trying to wiggle mark laying boats beween 500 optimists!

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11 hours ago, Clockwork said:

Slightly off topic.  What about a mark tracker like a pet tracker.  I'm envisioning a small tag on a mark that broadcasts its location and can be seen on an iPad with chart software.  This would give the RC an overhead visual of the course and precise distances between marks.  It would help with mark boat communications when setting up or moving marks and also warn the RC when a mark starts drifting.  Anything like this our there?

AIS ATON beacons

 

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A decently powerful Saltwater rated Trolling motor with an autopilot interface is readily available. Not so much that you often need 100Lb of thrust but put wind and tide together someplace like Golden Gate on an afternoon flood and there's a fair amount of work to be done. Pitching the prop for "speed" vs low noise should be easy. 

Getting the communications to run on GPRS packets is not that hard either, but you start adding up the components and you get to north of $5k pretty fast. 

Regulatory issues of robotic boats moving about in seaways might be your biggest hurdle. 

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Posted (edited)

G'day Monkey,

If you start getting close my  rc yacht club would interested.  Email tonyfanninathotmaildotcom

 

Edited by basildog
needed to add email address

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On 4/28/2020 at 8:44 AM, Monkey said:

I appreciate the offer, but I make my living off telling robots what to do, so for the most part have a handle on it. Once I get it behaving properly, I’ll get in touch. You may have some great ideas I’m missing to make it cheaper. It’ll be an entirely open source experiment. I’m just bored out of my mind with the bars being closed, so I’ve gone full nerd for entertainment.  I’ve found that using a laser to measure distance settles down the GPS issue.  

 

 

 

 

Won't work for really competitive RC without an anchor.  Needs to be dead still or a boat colliding with it will move it too easily and disadvantage other boats.

Get a working anchor system, 10m of line and a 1kg anchor and you will be in business.  Position of the pin end could quickly be adjusted by letting line in or out.

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I´ve worked with https://www.roboboj.com/ as OA.. and also raced on courses where they were used.. 

there's a number of challenges with their use.. but on deep waters, where shit is normally left on the bottom I can really see their advantages.

/J

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3 hours ago, astro said:

Won't work for really competitive RC without an anchor.  Needs to be dead still or a boat colliding with it will move it too easily and disadvantage other boats.

Get a working anchor system, 10m of line and a 1kg anchor and you will be in business.  Position of the pin end could quickly be adjusted by letting line in or out.

After you asked about the anchor the first time, it made me rethink things, and you’re absolutely right. I was trying to build a mini MarkSetBot out of a scrapped drone I had laying around. Completely unnecessary for an RC course. The ultimate goal is a cheap set of robo marks any RC fleet could build. Here’s the new concept for the prototype. 
 

A foam disc as the hull with a cone on top for visibility. A cheap 4 channel receiver. 2 fixed motors mounted side by side covered with little plastic sink strainers to prevent fouling on the anchor line (steer it like a tank).  2 ESC’s. And a center mounted anchor winch. Just drive to where you want it and drop the anchor. Need to move it, just reel up the anchor and move. 
 

Edit:  Basically something like this, just self propelled. (Not my picture or design, by the way)

89569947-8039-4AE9-B4D2-917DD52581CB.jpeg

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3 hours ago, astro said:

Won't work for really competitive RC without an anchor.  Needs to be dead still or a boat colliding with it will move it too easily and disadvantage other boats.

Get a working anchor system, 10m of line and a 1kg anchor and you will be in business.  Position of the pin end could quickly be adjusted by letting line in or out.

In full size racing I've never noticed marks failing to move when boats collide with them. Is it different in RC? Why? Is an anchor really going to be more effective at holding position than effective full automation.

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1 hour ago, Monkey said:

After you asked about the anchor the first time, it made me rethink things, and you’re absolutely right. I was trying to build a mini MarkSetBot out of a scrapped drone I had laying around. Completely unnecessary for an RC course. The ultimate goal is a cheap set of robo marks any RC fleet could build. Here’s the new concept for the prototype. 
 

A foam disc as the hull with a cone on top for visibility. A cheap 4 channel receiver. 2 fixed motors mounted side by side covered with little plastic sink strainers to prevent fouling on the anchor line (steer it like a tank).  2 ESC’s. And a center mounted anchor winch. Just drive to where you want it and drop the anchor. Need to move it, just reel up the anchor and move. 
 

Edit:  Basically something like this, just self propelled. (Not my picture or design, by the way)

 

I've been working on this concept for a while.  The success is totally dependent on the reliability of the winch.  Must not snag or tangle the line.

The RC sport is plagued by shit start lines, a reliable pin end would revolutionise it.  No more waiting for old men to adjust it.

But just one IOM leaning on an unanchored buoy would take it downwind and ruin the race for everyone.  It has to have an anchor.  Using motors to stay on station takes too much power and is not stationary enough.

I have been working on a catamaran design with central winch.  Hulls made out of 90mm pvc tube.

If adjusting the length of the anchor line was not enough, you only have to pull the anchor a little off the bottom to move.  For club days it would double as a rescue craft.

Let's do it.

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On 4/28/2020 at 12:15 PM, Editor said:

CRA has one down here. Hit and miss.

We dont need to hear about your experiences, just give the helm to someone who can miss and miss.

 

 

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50 minutes ago, JimC said:

In full size racing I've never noticed marks failing to move when boats collide with them. Is it different in RC? Why? Is an anchor really going to be more effective at holding position than effective full automation.

Scale.  Doesn't take a big anchor to hold a 4kg boat on station.

And in RC it is way more common for boats to hookup on a buoy.

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16 minutes ago, astro said:

I've been working on this concept for a while.  The success is totally dependent on the reliability of the winch.  Must not snag or tangle to line.

The RC sport is plagued by shit start lines, a reliable pin end would revolutionise it.  No more waiting for old men to adjust it.

But just one IOM leaning on an unanchored buoy would take it downwind and ruin the race for everyone.  It has to have an anchor.  Using motors to stay on station takes too much power and is not stationary enough.

I have been working on a catamaran design with central winch made out of 90mm pvc tube.

If adjusting the length of the anchor line was not enough, you only have to pull the anchor a little off the bottom to move.  For club days it would double as a rescue craft.

Let's do it.

Backlash on the winch is probably the biggest hurdle. My plan for the first attempt is to lead the anchor line from the winch, over a pressure switch, then down into the water. That way I can monitor when the load on the winch disappears (anchor hit bottom). 

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8 hours ago, Monkey said:

Backlash on the winch is probably the biggest hurdle. My plan for the first attempt is to lead the anchor line from the winch, over a pressure switch, then down into the water. That way I can monitor when the load on the winch disappears (anchor hit bottom). 

If the anchor is heavy enough, you would be able to see the craft lift as the load hit the bottom.  Either that or a simple 'indicator' the the line has gone slack.  The pressure switch is needed more for switching off the winch when the anchor is up.  Otherwise it could either over load of spit the anchor off.

Really important that the craft is composed of stuff you could get at Bunnings or a local hardware store.  That's why I have been looking at PVC pipe that can just be glued together, som cool fittings available off the shelf. 

Some RC classes are capable of sailing in strong winds so the buoy needs to have a good grip on the water and be able to motor into a breeze.  Again why I was looking at a cat design the allows the winch to be central.

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When the America's cup was in Chicago, their marks were towed into place, then the anchors were remote-controlled. They had a technology suite aboard to transmit position and wind, but the actual movement was done externally. 

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2 minutes ago, ScowLover said:

When the America's cup was in Chicago, their marks were towed into place, then the anchors were remote-controlled. They had a technology suite aboard to transmit position and wind, but the actual movement was done externally. 

It's different for RC.  Some clubs used fixed permanent buoys to avoid members having to launch a real boat with life vest etc.  Understandably the wind angles for the start are not idea, too biased one way or the other.  Not putting an elderly guy or two on the water just to move a mark a couple of metres is a big deal. 

Some RC clubs have both sail and powered craft, lots of skills to tap into so I am surprised that a general purpose unit is not already available.

Ideally, it would be cool for plans to be downloaded, taken into the Hardware store, go home and assemble it.  Except for the winch, the rest of the radio stuff should be the same as they already use from the same suppliers.

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9 hours ago, Monkey said:

Backlash on the winch is probably the biggest hurdle. My plan for the first attempt is to lead the anchor line from the winch, over a pressure switch, then down into the water. That way I can monitor when the load on the winch disappears (anchor hit bottom). 

A bit rough, but this is a simple idea for a servo driven clutch anchor winch,

 

 

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12 minutes ago, astro said:

It's different for RC.  Some clubs used fixed permanent buoys to avoid members having to launch a real boat with life vest etc.  Understandably the wind angles for the start are not idea, too biased one way or the other.  Not putting an elderly guy or two on the water just to move a mark a couple of metres is a big deal. 

Some RC clubs have both sail and powered craft, lots of skills to tap into so I am surprised that a general purpose unit is not already available.

Ideally, it would be cool for plans to be downloaded, taken into the Hardware store, go home and assemble it.  Except for the winch, the rest of the radio stuff should be the same as they already use from the same suppliers.

That’s actually what my RC mark set boat currently under construction (literally waiting for epoxy to dry right now) is meant to do. It’s a separate project from the robomark. I’m not quite as concerned about being able to buy all the parts at a hardware store. The internet is remarkably convenient. I’m just trying to avoid expensive or difficult to build. 

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What happens when these robomarks achieve sentience and decide to rise up against their human oppressors?

I, for one, welcome our new robomarkset overlords.

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4 minutes ago, Schnappi said:

What happens when these robomarks achieve sentience and decide to rise up against their human oppressors?

I, for one, welcome our new robomarkset overlords.

I hope you realize, they’re now aware of your resistance. 

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15 hours ago, Monkey said:

Backlash on the winch is probably the biggest hurdle. My plan for the first attempt is to lead the anchor line from the winch, over a pressure switch, then down into the water. That way I can monitor when the load on the winch disappears (anchor hit bottom). 

It will be necessary to be able to pay out a bit more line once the anchor hits the bottom.  Otherwise, if the mark is there for some time and the tide comes up there mark will start moving.  It can always be re-set in place, but it is a hassle when it happens in the middle of a race.

The design of the "anchor" will be important.   It must be heavy enough to stop the mark from moving in strong wind and current, but it must be retrievable with the winch on board and not snag the bottom on retrieval.  Something that grips the bottom harder when pulled sideways, but doesn't "dig in", and releases when lifted straight up.

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On 4/29/2020 at 11:11 PM, Rain Man said:

It will be necessary to be able to pay out a bit more line once the anchor hits the bottom.  Otherwise, if the mark is there for some time and the tide comes up there mark will start moving.  It can always be re-set in place, but it is a hassle when it happens in the middle of a race.

The design of the "anchor" will be important.   It must be heavy enough to stop the mark from moving in strong wind and current, but it must be retrievable with the winch on board and not snag the bottom on retrieval.  Something that grips the bottom harder when pulled sideways, but doesn't "dig in", and releases when lifted straight up.

Completely agree on the need to adjust scope after anchoring. The pressure switch idea I’m trying is just to alert me when the anchor hits bottom so I know only to unwind the winch in small increments after that to let out scope without backlashing the winch. 
 

The anchor of choice is kind of up to the end user. I'm going to try a pair of these at 1 lb. a piece for now. 

0FEDC62F-78F4-4C72-A011-CAF7A518B108.jpeg

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If you have two of those you will not need a pressure switch to tell you when it is on the bottom, you will see the craft lift.

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12 hours ago, Monkey said:

Completely agree on the need to adjust scope after anchoring. The pressure switch idea I’m trying is just to alert me when the anchor hits bottom so I know only to unwind the winch in small increments after that to let out scope without backlashing the winch. 
 

The anchor of choice is kind of up to the end user. I'm going to try a pair of these at 1 lb. a piece for now. 

 

What you will find in short order is it is nearly impossible to keep the anchor line out of the prop/s, especially on light air days.  Good luck and keep us posted.

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3 hours ago, Mr. Squirrel said:

What you will find in short order is it is nearly impossible to keep the anchor line out of the prop/s, especially on light air days.  Good luck and keep us posted.

Kort nozzles are available off the shelf for model boats.  

s-l1600.jpg

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6 minutes ago, Rain Man said:
3 hours ago, Mr. Squirrel said:

 

Kort nozzles are available off the shelf for model boats.  

There are more protected 'jet' versions too.

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On 4/27/2020 at 3:34 PM, ChiGuy said:

I've worked events at Plymouth YC near Detroit several times. The lake gets pretty deep, and it's a pain to reposition marks. The marks stay within +- 5 ft. 

When they work, they're great. Did a team race there one time. a 20 degree shift came along, and all the guy controlling the marks had to do is command the bots to move 20 degrees left., and like magic, they all moved to the proper spot.

These weren't high priced events, high school racing.

I think you can rent them for a weekend, but I have no idea of the cost. Surely lots less than purchasing.

Where?  I didn't think there was 50 feet of water anywhere near Detroit.

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35 minutes ago, Tax Man said:

Where?  I didn't think there was 50 feet of water anywhere near Detroit.

Sorry Pontiac YC, Wet Bloomfield, Mi.

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16 hours ago, Mr. Squirrel said:

What you will find in short order is it is nearly impossible to keep the anchor line out of the prop/s, especially on light air days.  Good luck and keep us posted.

I’ve got a plan for that. I plan to cover the props with a pair of these cute little guys from the plumbing aisle at the hardware store. (They also make a plastic version for the saltwater crowd)

 

edit:  I’m not going for a pretty finished project to market, just a functional concept that’s cheap and easy for anyone to build.  

788A2A0C-48DC-4E61-9203-37BB76A7621A.jpeg

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