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A sailor’s life for me

Model yacht enthusiasts feel at home at Lake Victoria

Created date

April 24th, 2012

Author William Arthur Ward once said, The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. Tom Foster, commodore of Oak Crest s Blue Heron Yacht Club, uses the latter approach when racing his 31-inch Victoria class model yacht. Just like a full-sized sailboat, the wind is what powers our model boats, says Tom, who lives at the Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md. You have to use the wind to your advantage. Each boat has a ribbon at the masthead (called a tell-tail) to show which direction the wind is blowing. You then have to set the sails and course accordingly.

Sail ho!

The 15-member Blue Heron Yacht Club kicks off its sailing season this month with opening ceremonies on May 2 at 10 a.m. (weather permitting) at Oak Crest s Lake Victoria. The man-made lake encompasses one acre and reaches depths of three to four feet. A deck and gazebo overlook the water and allow club members a place from which to maneuver their vessels. Two boathouses store boats and equipment. We race every Saturday through October, says Tom, the club s founder, whose 16-year-old boat Nokomis (which means daughter of the moon) is the oldest in the fleet. The sails and the rudder are controlled by radio control, and each boat is assigned a sail number and a radio frequency. The course is usually triangular, and the race begins into the wind forcing each boat to tack several times to get to and round the first mark. If it touches the buoy, the boat incurs a penalty and has to perform a 360 degree turn before reaching the next mark, he says. Scores are kept for each race, and at the end of the season, the Nash trophy, made of a cut-glass boat displayed in wooden paneling, is awarded to the sailor who has won the most races. A second trophy is awarded to the sailor of the year who best exemplified good sportsmanship and helped the advancement of the club. For many enthusiasts, like Tom, who sold his 19-foot sloop upon moving toOak Crest, the yacht club is the next best thing to being out on the water. Years back my doctor (who was also a neighbor) invited me aboard his 23-foot sloop, and I was hooked immediately, says Tom. Eventually I bought my own sailboat and joined a club called the Chesapeake Mariners. I really liked the challenge of sailing. I switched to radio-controlled boats after I moved to Oak Crest. Members sail Victoria racing class boats built from kits. According to Tom, the kits start at about $200 and include the boat, radio, and rechargeable batteries.

Learning the ropes

Retired architect Jack Webb was a novice when he joined the group in 2003. I ve been a passenger on boats a few times, but I had never sailed as a skipper on a sailboat in my life, he says. I had to learn a lot about the wind effect. My son helped me with that. I also learned a lot from watching Tom. I thought, Well I m just going to do what he does. A year after moving to Oak Crest, on a whim, Jack bought a used model sailboat from a neighbor, which he named JAX for obvious reasons. His son, an experienced skipper of both full-sized and model yachts, rebuilt the boat with the exception of the hull. He did a great job on it, says Jack. It turned out beautiful a lot more sophisticated than the skipper who sails it, he jokes. Over the years, the Blue Herons have traveled to area retirement communities to help them start their own yacht clubs and later competed against them both at home and away. As for Tom and Jack, they are both looking forward to dusting off their boats and getting back out on the lake. We have a great time laughing and enjoying a little friendly competition, says Jack. I look forward to it every year. It really is a wonderful hobby.