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Where the model yachts are sailing.

Where the model yachts are sailing

Rails down, driven by the wind, the fleet of sailboats knifing through the sparkling water looks like any West Coast regatta. Only here, the boats are only a few feet long, have no crew, are radio-controlled, and sail upon landlocked ponds. They're part of the highly competitive, scaled-down world of the American Model Yacht Association (AMYA).

On almost any weekend, the diminutive but graceful boats can be found sailing at spots favored by the numerous Western model yacht clubs. Major cities such as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, greater Los Angeles, and San Diego all have local clubs and ponds for sailing. Several inland states--Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona --also have clubs.

As with full-size sailboats, the models have a number of recognized classes (15 at present, based on boat dimensions and sail area). Most boats use a two-channel transmitter that controls the rudder and the trim of the sails. A few use four channels: for the rudder, mainsail, jib, and mast tension. Built from kits or from scratch, the boats have interchangeable sails for different conditions. They sail and respond to wind just like their fullsize cousins, but their cost is, of course, less--prices range from $200 to $600.

The regattas are fun to watch but are serious business for the racers. Rules of sailing remain the same, and it's common to see a busy protest committee. Besides numerous local regattas, several major ones take place this summer: May 7 and 8: California Marblehead Championship, Altadena; May 21 and 22: Western Divisional Regatta, Irvine, California; June 11 and 12: Rose Cup Regatta, Beaverton, Oregon; June 18: Pacific Northwest Divisional, Kirkland, Washington; and August 6 through 14: Race Week (AMYA Nationals), San Diego.

For a list of Western clubs and regattas scheduled this summer, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Model Yachts, Sunset Magazine, 80 Willow Rd., Menlo Park, Calif. 94025. Then call the nearest club and find out where its members sail. Members are pleased to have interested spectators and often will let you try sailing the surprisingly responsive boats.

Photo: The fleet's in at Irvine, California, during a regatta for the popular Marblehead sailboat class. While racing, each boat has its own radio frequency

Photo: Dry-docked in cradles, boats get finetuned before setting sail in San Diego's model yacht basin in Mission Bay

Photo: Starboard tacking Santa Barbara class sailboat dances across Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The skipper guides her from shore with his transmitter
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1988
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