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Sailing in City Park

August 22, 2013|By CHRIS COPLEY | chrisc@herald-mail.com
  • Chambersburg, Pa., resident Mike Cavanaugh shows the East Coat 12 model yacht he raced around the larger lake at Hagerstowns City Park in June. Cavanaugh joins other model yacht skippers Sunday, Aug. 25, to race in a regatta at City Park.
File photo

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.”

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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.

“The mayor said, ‘We should have model boat sailing. They do it in Central Park (in New York City),’” she recalled. 

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.”

He said he will bring three model kits — the 12-inch Sharpie, the 8-inch Bermuda and the 7-inch Minnow — for people to buy and make. Then, sailers can put their boats on the water and watch them catch the wind. 

Cavanaugh said he’s hoping the model yacht clubs can include City Park in their regular racing schedule.

“Having another venue is huge. And we don’t have any that are as pretty as City Park,” he said. “But there is a serious problem. What has happened is over the years City Park lake is filling in.”

The lake is so shallow in places, Cavanaugh said, the model yachts — which sit 8 to 10 inches in the water — scrape the bottom in places and catch in the mud. He hopes the City of Hagerstown eventually dredges the lake.

Holman hopes the event is the first of many regattas at the park. With such a visual event — large model boats catching the wind in their sails and racing around the lake — she expects people will stop by to watch. And maybe try their hand at being a skipper.

If you go ...

WHAT: First Model Boat Regatta

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25

WHERE: City Park’s North Lake, off Virginia Avenue, Hagerstown

COST: Free to watch; $6 to $12 fee for making model wooden boats

CONTACT: Email heather@historiccitypark.com or go to www.hagerstownmd.org/parksandrec. For more information about model wooden boats, www.seaworthysmallships.com

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