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Saturday, March 2, 2013

A page from Model Yachting’s past...

In the beginning, lacking external positive control of a model yacht (i.e. radio control) model yachting was more properly described as pond yachting. The boats of this era used a variety of nifty little widgets to help them sail from side to side of a venue while tacking up wind, or straight down the pond on majestic spinnaker runs. A boat required a mate to redirect it when it reached to opposite shore of a tack, usually by tapping it with a long stick! Control was achieved by building very balanced boats that would hold their tack until repositioned, and later by various weighted rudders and other devices until about 1905 when the Braine gear was developed, and later the vane, and self-tacking vanes of the 1930’s and 40’s. This is an interesting subject, and each device is worthy of some discussion (at a later point). One of the most important Model Yachtsman of era was John Black, who was a designer and builder of legendary reputation. Like many early model yachtsman, he had a background in the metal and woodworking skills required to build good boats, and was employed as the Director of Industrial Arts in Watertown, MA. During the period when the large A-class dominated the international scene, and the holy grail of model yachting was the Yachting Monthly Cup help in the UK, Black competed valiantly with various permutations of his “Bostonia” boats, narrowly losing several times from 1926-1932. He also won the first international Marblehead championship (as on Olympic demonstration sport no less!) at the games held in Nazi Germany in 1936. The boat that won that competition, “Cheerio”, would later be the subject of an early bible for model yachters of the era, entitled appropriately enough, “Yachting with Models”. The book described in great detail how to build, sail, and control two boats; the Cheerio herself, and a close sister Cheerio II. This is a great, rare, book and I’ll have to write a review of it sometime…I wonder who holds the publishing rights to it? I’d love to republish it… Anyhow, Cheerio I and John Black, who wetted my interest in these beautiful old pond yachts, are a good place to start my musings on model yachting, and are pictured above at the site of their triumph in Hamburg, 1936…

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