Where the Winds Blow...  

by Mark Steele - Auckland, New Zealand

The mess man maketh, yet there is still
pleasure to be found!

It should be the first month of a beautiful, fresh and unspoilt New Year, instead of that (and I realize that this has nothing directly to do with model sailboating), as I open the morning newspaper, a picture confronts me of a crab covered in thick oil struggling to come out of once pristine, now oil-polluted water near Beirut. It sparks the personal comment, “what a bloody mess man maketh of this planet !” However, back to the little boats, what’s left of the world is still worth enjoying, so get your model yacht, find your patch of golden un-polluted waterway and go sailing!

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Most countries are blessed with small lakes, canals, ponds and rivers, and the pleasure of sailing model sailboats where the sails are often reflected on the water and the ripple of the boats wake and the occasional chirp of a bird overhead are the only sounds, make for a peaceful and relaxing interlude, and a period of escape back to our boyhood days.

On now to things less depressing. I got to thinking last August, (remembering that I write and send these columns and the selected corresponding photos to Chuck several months in advance) that there must be a few viewing readers who would dearly love to get involved in this wonderful hobby of model sailboating, but can’t get started for one reason or another - too many boats appeal to them and they can’t decide, or they are afraid to make a start because they don’t know sufficient about the hobby, or about building the boats or even about the intricacies of sail, some even, perhaps hesitant perhaps to ask?

They put the decision off again and again,( “next month maybe !“) and the next month, and the month after comes and goes. Getting that first boat is the all important `first hurdle’ believe me, and that is why I feel strongly that the idea of purchasing a kitset model complete with all radio control gear at a relatively inexpensive cost of a few hundred dollars will result in getting one started, actually `sailing.’ There are a couple of options, buying a starter boat off someone else already sailing and who is moving on to another boat, or going out and buying, say a Thunder Tiger Victoria (left photo, below) as an example, the last cost quoted being US$205.

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Alternatively, you could consider either a Kyosho Fairwind, (see photo of Class Secretary Kerry Pebbles and three of his own such boats). They are a 35.43” long kitset boat fashioned after IOR racing yacht designs of the 1980’ and 1990’ period, or one of the Tippecanoe range of RC boats (like their kitset complete with radio gear 37 RC Racing Yacht). Any of these and you could be up and sailing down at the pond before you know it. And the cost? - Round about the US$250 mark for the latter.

Believe me, you’ll wonder why it took you so long! Go to the Fairwind website online or to the Tippecanoe site fun@modelsailboat.com That website is a gem in itself! That’s three options to think about. Model sailboating, I can almost guarantee you’ll discover to be the most relaxing of pastimes. I always like to remind people that the wind is still free! (It is about the only thing that is, so don’t delay as most Governments are probably considering a `wind tax’ on how much of it we each breathe and pondering on how to apply it!)

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The first boat you own is like an `icebreaker' - You've done it and taken that step into a new world and I am guessing that like me, you'll have that first boat for a long time, perhaps forever as you enjoy it, learn how to sail it, like the writer even how to sail. And if it hasn't got a name, for Gods sake give it one... model boats just referred to as `it' or `the thing' don't respond well!

I was in my late fifties when I took the plunge and bought Fiji Flyer, an unsailed International 1M Bantock `Bikini’, a boat that to this day I still own. I still happily sail it regularly. I have never looked back and though I have other boats, sentiment and the fact that Fiji Flyer still sails so damn wonderfully, dictate that twenty-odd years later I keep this boat up and running.

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Wild Oats XI again took line honours for the second year running. Photograph by Carlo Borlenghi Rolex

One annual event I always look forward to – the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, prompts me to say that the website affords a superb facility for those wanting to keep up with the state of play, and to know pretty well the positions of boats in the fleet in this 628 nm Antipodean bluewater classic (photos above). I registered in order to be able to use this impressive photograph taken by Daniel Forster-Rolex of the front runners in 2006 race heading for the first mark, much of the 78 strong fleet strung out behind. Ocean racing tests the mettles of boats and crews and the Rolex Sydney to Hobart event, part of a big Rolex yacht racing sponsorship programme is a `must follow’ event that starts on Australia and New Zealand’s Boxing Day.

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Well Phil Bolger designed and built a folding schooner, so..."

Over to the Netherlands now, where my friend, Hans Staal builds beautiful models, specializing in his interest in the traditional working vessels of times gone by. He is also a brilliant photographer of model sailing boats which he goes to extraordinary lengths to capture at the right level and angle where the end result often makes the view ponder as to whether the subject is in fact a model or a real boat.

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Hans often gets into the water to get the camera at eye-level or lies prone to await the right moment as these two photographs clearly show. His latest model completed last year is of a Garnalenschuit, flat-bottomed from the 1700-1900 period where they were used for shrimp fishing on the North Sea coast of the Netherlands. Their hulls had to be massively constructed because at that time, Scheveningen had no harbour and the boats had to be beached in front of the village.

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The model is built to an overall 60 cm hull length with an all-up weight of 6kg when the false keel has been attached. Built out of oak, the deck is pitch pine, the boom and bowsprit of Oregon pine, the sails of cotton. Four channel RC is used and Hans sails the model (in up to wind force 4 breezes on a lake just 2km from the North Sea. Hans choice of models for his projects, is a good reminder to `build the type of boat that pleases you, rather than a boat that pleases others!’

Except for a wee write-up in a previous column on the Townson Electron` Round the Island (of Toberua) Race’ I haven’t made comment about the other side of model yachting near and dear to many, the International racing Classes particularly the One Metres. I got started in model yachts in this area here in New Zealand sailing in a couple of the `Nationals’ regattas and involved more as a sponsors representative for the first six years of the (New Zealand) class Championships.

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Serious racing continues to be very popular, particularly with the one meter boats, drawing intently- competitive-minded model sailors, many of whom take it very seriously indeed. Many arm themselves with racing rules ad-infinitum which they are expected to know, this often resulting in post-race protests and `hearings’. Whether the situation has improved or become progressively worse I am unaware, because I no longer keep up with the racing side and I am sure that there are a great many such regattas totally free of agro and regrettable behaviour.

That is not to knock this aspect of model yachting for we are all different, in fact. were competitive events not in existence there would be no winners and indeed no champions in any sport whatsoever. There is a great deal online on the various International classes of model yachting, and if you spent some time on the American Model Yachting Association website you will be blown away as you discover how many classes there are, including one for those little 12” Footy’s mentioned in last months column. There is such a choice, indeed I’d have to say that the model yacht sailors of today never had it so good.

Anyone seen the ball of string? Dave Shull a `Salvation Army pastor in Colorado (seen below)`builds small’, and shows that even without radio control, instead using the simple method of line control, `thinking small’ can still provide boats of great appeal and lots of inexpensive fun. They can be sailed `offshore’ also, the limitations being only the length of string tied to the stern, and the eyesight of the person sailing them. It is just another form of model sailing of which there are many. The schooner (Titan) is just 16 inches overall, the hull of cedar, shopping bags for sails, balsa deck and cabin and skewer sticks for booms. The kite string is attached to 8lb fishing line.

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Hugh Hallston in South Carolina, USA (seen below) has built a couple of boats, the `crème de la crème’ being his Katrina which he is seen with in the photograph. Boats of this size have their drawbacks, (like where does one store them?), but on the water they win the `Sex Appeal Stakes’ hands down. Well I think so anyway! You also see them better too when sailing them.

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Thank you for your interest, and I Look forward to the next journey with you to wherever the winds may be blowing!

Mark Steele

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