During an all too brief recent passage stopover at fascinating and beautiful Rathlin Island, just off the north east coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland – but another world – this poster at the excellent fish shop within the National Trust’s Manor House at Church Bay caught our eye.
According to some accounts, model yacht racing has been an island activity for 200 years; about as long then as real size yachting has been an organised sport. So it’s not surprising that there is a wonderful tradition here surrounding the building and racing of, nowadays, beautifully vintage model yachts.
Perhaps, given the more often than not turbulent waters surrounding them, by wind and by tide, it’s not surprising that the islanders chose this avenue of pleasure boating – on freshwater Ushet Lough.
But just because they are models doesn’t mean this is a leisurely sport. Steering is by sail trim prowess and a tacking stick; to keep up with that task requires a brisk pace around the 5 miles circumference of the Lough – and we note that there is a “single-handed” prize.
Here is some wonderful vintage footage from c.1956. [Unfortunately, UK viewers only.]
Got to find out more about this… Could this be the world’s oldest one design class by far?
Budding yacht designers of G.L. Watson’s generation would often be germinated by contact with pond model yacht racing, which during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries developed into a serious – often “artisan” – international sport. Developments in model yacht design were always way ahead of the more conservative advances in full scale.
In his deeply researched and beautifully illustrated biography, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, Martin Black discusses G.L. Watson’s pioneering 1900-1901 model tank testing work at Dennys of Dumbarton for the designs of James Gordon Bennett’s radical steam yacht, Lysistrata, and Sir Thomas Lipton’s America’s Cup challenger, Shamrock II, including the sailing of Shamrock II model proposals on Loch Lomond to test sail configurations.
~ Iain McAllister ~