by Mark Steele, Auckland, New Zealand

Of beautiful Gloriana, Arizona’s multi-talented Dennis,
Maryvonne a French yawl, the boats of Saggimau
and a refreshing bit of `Slow!’

It is beyond doubt that some boats are beautiful, sailing boats in particular, but as I said in my very first column for Duckworks several years back, insofar as both fullsize yachts and their model counterparts are concerned the boats are only part of the story, the people who design them and build them, then sail on them (or RC sail them on the pond) while deriving so much pleasure from so doing  represent the other part of the story. In the main they are often interesting, often very talented people, many of them in their later years hanging on to personal dreams and memories while totally relaxed sailing their models.

Andrew Charters my friend in South Carolina and originally from Grand Manan island in Canada where he grew up is a good example. Devoted to model schooners all of which he has built over the years in between a regular job of restoring grand old houses, he has also built, owns and sails the one-off  `tantalisingly stunning’ model of the cutter Gloriana.

Nathanael G Herreshoff designed the Gloriana in 1890 and she went on to win every race in her first season. It has been written that Gloriana `set the directions for the design of racing yachts that lasted for a great many years’.  Built for the 46’ class  she had an overhanging bow that was considered `radical’ at the time but she was the boat that made Nat Herreshoff famous

Above left – On display at the Herreshoff Marine Museum

Alfa Romeo 2009 Line honours victor
passing Tasman Island. Photograph Rolex Kurt Arrigo.

Ocean yacht racing of full sized boats I find pleasantly contrary to my rather unenthusiastic view held of seriously competitive model yacht racing which I do admit is an important part of the model yacht scene that has a large following. Ocean racing sees boats confronted by huge seas and often other weather elements thrown in for good measure, where seamanship and daring and tactics all come into play. Not for the faint-hearted and certainly not for the budget conscious.

Every year I am an ardent follower of the Sydney (Australia) to Hobart (Tasmania) event that starts on Boxing Day, draws a huge fleet and sees yachts of all sizes competing over the 628 nautical mile course. Like countless others I keep a close watch (not to suggest that I sit in front of the computer for the entire race !) on where each boat stands thanks to race sponsor, Rolex and their superb website kept constantly up to date.

The race for line honours (first into Hobart) is open to all yachts but it is the 100’ boats that generally these days have a tussle of their own for victory. This year Neville Crichton, kiwi expatriate took his Alfa Romeo Reichel-Pugh maxi to a line honours victory over 2 days, 9 hours, 2 minutes and 10 seconds finishing 2 hours and 3 minutes ahead of a similar boat Wild Oats a several times previous winner.

Winner on Handicap, Too True
Photograh  Rolex Daniel Forster.

Andrew Fagan is a keen yachtsman, poet, author and owner-sailor of the little ocean-going Swirly World.  When Andrew and his wife, Karen and their young boys lived in England in a houseboat for some years, Andrew also indulged in a bit of whimsy, made a whole a whole fleet of model sailboats entirely out of London waste material.

Cyril the ship of the line

Fiona the Flagship

Sir Francis The Frigate

He even built a floating armchair which he is seen in on the Lee River in East London in 2001. He used to paddle down the canal, on occasions in snow squalls collecting boats of the Saggimau fleet that got stuck in the over-hanging trees. (Saggimau was the mythical land he invented in which the boats of the fleet happily lived and sailed). The red sail boat is Ferocious Fred.

Among the boats was `a solo offshore racer called Maddog Malu, a yellow-sail galleon called Gilly Dim Dim, as well as Sydney described as a Foulmouth Smack, Gooahnahbebe, Sir Francis the Frigate and  Fiona the Flagship among others with equally humorous  names.

The storyteller for children was emerging in Andrew Fagan and this has now led to a first book (sold with a virtually indestructible model yacht called Slib Dib the Nib) which was to go on the bookshelves of Auckland booksellers in December last year. I will tell you about that sometime in another column. In the meanwhile, the Fagan `fantasy boats’ of several years ago serve as yet another example of how wide and varied are the types of model sailing boats, and the fun that they offer in various areas of what is indeed a wonderful hobby.

A lovely photograph of a moidel of a French Bisquine made and sailed by Felix Wehrli of Zurich, the photograph taken by Hans Staal.

Thomas Sanderson of Hartlepool in North East England built  Maryvonne the French fishing yawl featured here. Like many of us (including the writer) he sails with the Darlington & District Model Boat Club on the waters of an 85 X 88 metres reservoir in the village of Middleton, St George. Thomas (I understand from his daughter) is happier building models than actually sailing them. He likes watching other chosen club members sailing his boats and finds operation of RC a bit fiddly.He is currently building a model of the J Class Royal Yacht Britannia built for King Edward V.

It is however the rather lovely 57” long yawl Maryvonne that I’d like to focus on for she is Thomas’s pride and joy with her red wood hull, mahogany deck planking and sails made of  calico, all bolt ropes hand-stitched on (the handiwork of the builder’s wife, Sheila) sails that can be lowered to the deck and removed.

The club was formed in 1982 and there are eighty plus members with sailing twice weekly on Wednesdays and Sundays. The yawl Maryvonne  has a beam of 13” and weighs 10 kilos. Thomas made all the sheaves of brass and the shackles half the size of a little finger nail. He also made 22 pully blocks out of boxwood. The boat is fitted with RC gear.

Thomas is a good example of the more elderly of kindly gentleman among us engrossed in one way or another of this wonderful hobby.

Aucklander Ron Rule's new pirate boat hunter Revenge

An attractive little Y2K-hulled yacht in the UK’

Les Hunter of Hull, UK with his yacht built on the lines of Slocum's Spray

Dennis Desprois hails from the US state of Arizona and is a man of a great many talents and interests. A producer (to order) of replica schooners of which two examples are shown (above), a Seawind Class National race Champion, a maker of own brand (Walrus) for a wide variety of model yacht sails, a manufacturer of his own design Footy boats, a highly skilled photographer and an artist who late last year  held a successful one-man show.

Dennis, a close and personal friend of Lloyd `Swede’ Johnson (whom I wrote about recently) he is another good example of multi talented people who have `discovered’ the joys of model yachting.

Carl Honore

sailing scene

An interesting, and I think, `thought provoking` website for those on the net is In praise of slow’ which tells how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed. Google it and have a look.Carl Honore (photograph above) who wrote the book of that name (In praise of slow) with whom I have shared email contact poses the questions, `Are you always in a hurry ?’ and Does life feel like a never-ending race against the clock ?’  Well, go ahead, think about your own life and answer those two questions truthfully and without addition of ‘Oh yes but that is life today and I am no different to everyone else !’

As Carl writes: ‘Many of us live these days in fast forward mode, in the process (often) paying a price in both our relationships and in our health
(what’s more) hardly ever having the time to enjoy anything, really enjoy it.

When I hit sixty years of age I started really questioning the perilous pace of my own life largely dictated by my job as Regional Director New Zealand for the Fiji Islands tourism effort. I was no longer enjoying all the constant travel, the socializing and the preparation of endless `reports’ that I was convinced hardly anyone ever looked at. I was caught up in a daily mad rush morning and evening on the motorway going to or coming home from work where often inane questions from travel agents on the home telephone would further extend `work time’.  (Whatever happened to my plan to retire early? – My dad had died at age 58 and here I was heading down the same highway!)

Carl who lives in London points out what many of us already realize, that we are caught up in an age of rage and lack of tolerance where we are constantly pressured to do everything faster so that we can do more in order to make more money for others (in some cases perhaps for ourselves but at what cost?). In his book he points out why `slowing down’ can often pay dividends  in every walk of life.

Many of us have realized (late in our lives) the benefits of our windling  model yacht style of sailing as we enjoy sailing our boats across ponds, lakes or rivers in a no-rush, no race and relaxing manner, taking time to to talk with each other as well as to passers-by. For us it is a big step in the right direction – because of our age we are a dying breed and we know it, but we have paid our dues and we are re-capturing some of our boyhood dreams sensibly and at a slower pace before being called to slip anchor for the very last time.

No point waiting until that time to choose to `slow down’ for it will be too late and what’s more, then mandatory to do so, with all the time in the world to rest pushing up daisies or blowing in the wind in some meadow as scattered ash.


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