Sport Scale...

Winning Sport Scale By The Rules

Having judged NAR Sport Scale since its inception (and NAR Scale in the years before and since) I have discovered that one of the biggest weaknesses in a modelers' strategy is that they concentrate so much on the model itself that they tend to ignore the importance of the rules. Understanding the rules is the key to winning Sport Scale. You can build the best model in the world but if it doesn't take advantage of and comply fully with the rules you will have an "also ran" entry that doesn't place as high as it could if you had just made a few simple changes.

The Most Important Rule!

As a judge, I have found the most important, yet most ignored rule has to do with Rule 53.12.1 which is Similarity of Outline. This one rule is the focus of the competition yet most modelers fail to understand and fully comprehend how important this rule is as well as how to take advantage of it. Following is the full text as it appears in the NAR Pink Book.

53.12.1 Similarity of Outline: 200 points.

The contestant is required to submit data to substantiate his/her model's visual resemblance to the prototype. Minimum allowable data consists of:

(a) A line, tone, or color drawing; or

(b) One or more clear photographs, halftones, or photo-reproductions of the prototype, sufficient to show the outline and general configuration of the prototype modeled.

Any entry not accompanied by the minimum allowable data as listed above shall be disqualified. The Judges may disqualify any entry which, in their opinion, is accompanied by substantiation data of such poor quality as to fail to convey a satisfactory impression of the outline and general configuration of the prototype.

Upon a casual reading, its meaning may seem obvious. However, there are subtleties buried within and "between the lines" that are crucial in improving your chances of a winning entry.

First, you must remember that the judge goes ONLY (or he should!) by the data that you include in your data pack. He may be the most knowledgeable expert in the hobby on your particular prototype but you should always make the assumption that the judge knows absolutely nothing about the vehicle you are modeling and therefore supply adequate data for him to fully visualize from the data you provide exactly what the real thing looks like. Conversely, also assume the the judge just MAY be very informed of the prototype you are modeling an therefore you should not provide irrelevant, misleading, inapplicable, or "bogus" data. Doing such won't do your entry any good and could well taint your reputation and trust for future competition.

A very common mistake is to simply photocopy a photo and this is your "data." Since you have built the model, your brain makes the "connection" between the original clear photo and the model you have build and you then begin to view the photocopy as the equivalent to the photo when in fact the photocopy conveys no accurate color information, the true outline of the vehicle is often unclear or obscured by other objects in the picture, or the exaggerated contrast of the copying process obliterates or makes the true nature of the photo impossible or difficult to comprehend. To help avoid this pitfall, you should always work under the assumption that the judge has never seen a photo, drawing, or model of the prototype that are modeling.

Also keep in mind that Similarity of Outline constitutes almost 20% of the total points available...and realistically, when you consider the points that (depending on just how how well you do in Craftsmanship and Mission) at the end of judging it's likely to be more like 30% or more of the total actual score. With this in mind, it is easy to see that it is much easier to get a high score with prototypes of very simple shape than with prototypes of complex shape. It is conceivable and likely (if the judge follows the Pink Book rules precisely) that a prototype with a very simple shape such as the Japanese Pencil will garner a much higher score than a prototype of much more complex shape such as a Vostok. There are simply more "shapes" on a Vostok to mess up on than a Pencil that will lower your Similarity of Outline score. So, unless you are sure you can precisely model complex prototypes, you are working against yourself by trying to model complex subjects in an effort to "wow" the judge. Don't think that you have a good chance of making up for a loss of points by going for "Degree of Difficulty." You don't...because there are only half as many points available for Degree of Difficulty (100). You do the math on this one.

The first sentence of the final paragraph of the Similarity of Outline rule contains the most powerful wording and intent and bears one of only four threats of disqualifications in the wording of the Sport Scale rules in that you must provide a minimum of printed data in the form of at least one line drawing OR one (or more) CLEAR photographs, etc. If you decided to forego drawings and just go with a photo you are running a great risk in that a judge can potentially disqualify you for photographic data this is not clear of of sufficiency to adequately determine the outline of the vehicle you are modeling. My recommendation is to go with drawings over photos or, better yet, BOTH drawings and photos.

There is one other important word within this paragraph to which you should pay special attention and be aware of how it can be interpreted and that word is SUBSTANTIATION. The word more than implies that the data itself be accurate and (though it is not specifically stated) should be from an accurate, reliable, or verifiably accurate source. Don't create a drawing based on YOUR interpretation of what the prototype looks like and present that as your data. Don't download a drawing or sketch from the Internet unless that drawing or sketch is verifiably accurate or from an "official" source such as the vehicle manufacturer or user.

Just as important is that any data that you present with your model is actually representative of both your model and the prototype on which your model is based. Don't present data on, say, the last round of the Little Joe II that was flown when your model is representative of the first round. They both are Little Joe vehicles used in the Apollo test programs but they are significantly different. Likewise, make sure the color data represented by the drawing or photo is representative of the color and patterns you have put on your model. Above all, don't "doctor" your data. You may get away with it...but if you get caught, there aren't too many judges that I know who would hesitate to disqualify you on the spot...and believe me, your reputation will suffer right on the spot, too.

One other significant paragraph in the Sport Scale rules actually comes in the paragraphs before those which actually have to do with scoring. Paragraph 53.6 states: "The contestant must supply data to substantiate his/her model's adherence to scale in shape, color, and paint pattern." Note that all of the elements are required and the word "or" is not a part of the paragraph. I think that this should replace the first sentence of the scoring rule (53.12.1) but it is not and leads many modelers to omit one or two of the REQUIRED data elements because most modelers concentrate on reading just those paragraphs that have to do with scoring. Going back to my preference for drawings, it is very easy for a drawing, even one in black-and-white, to contain shape, color, and paint pattern information. Conversely, unless you are providing a good color photograph you are probably only going to get shape and patterns...since photocopies don't convey color (unless, of course, the prototype is exclusively black, white, or some grey shade in between).

One other mistake many modelers make is to use the drawings that the manufacturer of the kit he is using for Sport Scale as substantiation. Though not specifically stated in the Sport Scale rules, drawings included with the kit by the manufacturer of the kit would not be considered "authentic" or satisfy the meaning of "substantiation." An exception might be if the manufacturer included reproductions of drawings from an authentic source (such as from the manufacturer of the real vehicle). Also, it is very common for manufacturers to include photos of their prototype model which show paint pattern or decal placement...these are not photos that can be used to substantiate a model since the photos themselves are of a model. This is the next thing to using the model to substantiate itself...which is not what any of the NAR Scale events are about. Again, an exception might be if the manufacturer included photos of the real prototype.

Considering all of this, it is very easy to see that the quality and useful quantity of the data that you present is just as important as the model itself...something that is often overlooked by the modeler who spends 99.9% of his time on the model and less than the remaining .1% on data with respect to its accuracy, authenticity, and in content of the required minimum elements.


Don't make the mistake of thinking that because a model is a "kit", even from the most popular of manufacturers, that it is accurate in outline when compared to the real thing. Very frequently manufacturers will make compromises to "scale" kits to make them more reliable and safe (i.e., such as by using larger than scale fins) or out of convenience or pricing (i.e., by using a nosecone from one of their sport kits that is "close"). If your kit model has fins that are too big, build them to the correct size and add more nose weight to compensate. If the nose cone is not right, fabricate your own. You get the idea. Judges are not sympathetic to errors just because they exist in the kit to start with.


  1. Selecting a prototype with a simple shape makes it easier to score more points based on "Similarity of Outline" than complex prototypes.
  2. Don't count on making up lost points you loose in Similarity of Outline scoring by gaining points in Degree of Difficulty (only 100) or Flight unless you are exceptionally experienced and plan on successfully pulling off some really killer flight effects.
  3. The data you present is MORE important than the model itself...because it is exclusively this data the judges will use in evaluating your model.
  4. Don't assume a kit is any better then scratch-building...they often contain compromises that scratch-built models would not have.

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