Hagerstown is not exactly a hotbed of yachting, but that might change after this weekend.
On Sunday, Aug. 25, skippers from Pennsylvania and Maryland will bring model yachts to City Park in Hagerstown for a regatta. These yachts are not intricate, little things made for display on a shelf. These are high-tech racing models made to move like full-size boats.
And, according to skipper Mike Cavanaugh of Chambersburg, Pa., they’re fun to sail and beautiful to behold.
“The advantage of remote control over being on the yacht is you can appreciate the beauty of how pretty they are while they’re going through the water,” he said.
Cavanaugh will bring several boats to the regatta, he said, but the queen of the day will be the largest yacht, the East Coast 12s.
“The hull is fiberglass and 5 feet long. The boat weighs 23 pounds,” he said. “The mast stands 6 feet above the deck. It was originally a model for a 1960s America’s Cup competitor.”
Cavanaugh said the EC-12s are wind powered, not motor powered, and all EC-12s are made to be virtually identical. The idea is that a skipper will win solely based on his or her skill, not on boat-building craftsmanship. Clubs of owners get together to compete against each other at local ponds or lakes.
Members of model yacht clubs in York, Pa., and Frederick, Md., will meet Sunday in Hagerstown.
Finding a new racing venue what part of the inspiration brought the model yachts to Hagerstown, according to Heather Holman, president of Neighborhoods First, a Hagers-town-based association helping local community leaders to strengthen their neighborhoods.
She said she coordinated with the City of Hagerstown to invite model yacht clubs to come and sail in the larger lake at City Park. The idea grew from an incident in which city workers said city regulations prohibited residents from sailing model boats in the lake.
Eventually, Holman said, Hagerstown Mayor David Gysberts heard about the prohibition.
So Holman and Neighborhoods First organized a day of fun in the park on Sunday. The regatta begins at 11 a.m. and runs to about 1 p.m. Different classes of yachts — different sizes and shapes — will race around a course marked by buoys set in the water.
After the racing, spectators will be invited to try their hand at controlling the yachts. The yachts are wind powered, so a skipper moves a boat’s sails so as to take maximum advantage of the wind. A skipper uses a radio controller called a transmitter to control tiny winches and the yacht’s rudder to steer the boat.
Cavanaugh said model yacht skippers are happy to let people take a turn. It’s a way to get new members involved in the club.
“If we get a transmitter in (a spectator’s) hands, it’s somewhat addictive,” he said.
Holman said in addition to watching races and controlling the yachts, participants may make their own model boats.
“We’re having Seaworthy Small Ships (of Frederick, Md.) come out. They’ll have a boat-making workshop for kids and adults,” she said. “The kids will be allowed to sail the boats they’ve made in the Rock Grotto. There will be a lifeguard watching and someone with a net, so they don’t float away.”
George Surgent, co-owner and kit-maker for Seaworthy Small Ships, said his little boats are not high-tech racing boats. They’re simple, easy-to-assemble wooden boats 7 to 12 inches long. They’re not radio controlled.
“They’re called ‘free sailers,’” Surgent said. “You set the sail and the wind will take the boat all the way across a body of water.”