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HOW TO START SAILING

Well done for visiting the Britannia Pond Yachts website. It is a good place to begin your journey of discovery into the world of model yachts.

How to find a model sailing yacht.

Starting out with sailing model yachts is easier than you think, there are plenty of second hand Star, Bowman and Skipper yachts available on auction sites like ebay or vintage sites like Etsy, there is even a Facebook Marketplace where yachts come up from time to time. Prices vary according to their condition, and vintage yachts are becoming very collectable with J. Alexander of Preston yachts commanding very high sums.

 

However the Star SY range are still reasonably priced and appear on ebay regularly the SY range are solid hull yachts that sail very well indeed for their size. The Star MK range are hollow and therefore lighter yachts these sail impeccably well. Bowman had a complicated range of yachts but their solid range of Admirals was the most commonly available and they do come up for sale from time to time, be prepared to pay a little more for a good Swift, Aquaplane, Gull or Heron.

 

Skipper yachts are still relatively modern and very good boxed examples appear from time to time these were made in Suffolk originally and range from 8 inches to 32, with a very nice 21 inch Yawl available for around the £100 mark. There are plenty of older vintage yacht types available but remember their sails and rigging may be delicate and need replacing. You may be lucky to stumble across a vintage racing yacht fitted with steering gear but whatever yacht you own it is true to say the more you sail the more you will love the art of sailing.

 

Since the demise of Skipper there has not been another quality mass produced model yacht range available. However a small number of British artisan makers like Britannia Pond Yachts are out there, producing ranges of high quality yachts to sail.

Skipper Deben Estuary, Britannia Pond Ya

What yacht to choose.

Firstly you need to consider how you are going to transport your yacht, if you use a motorcycle or the bus you will need a compact yacht that is easy to fold away and carry under the arm anything much over 18 inches becomes too hard to handle. If you use a small car then anything up to 25 inches is probably going to be alright but if going away on holiday this size of yacht may be too big to take. If you own a medium sized car then a 36 inch yacht is going to be about the biggest you will want to risk. For Marbleheads and 10 raters you are going to need an estate car and some help to get them in and out of the car let alone in the water. 

Yachts are not all designed to be racers with high aspect Marconi riggs that shoot across the yacht pond, although that is fun. There are plenty of other graceful yachts to choose from fitted with bowsprits and gaff rigs these yachts are classed as cruisers and they do everything in the utmost style and flamboyance.

When choosing a yacht think about where you are most likely to sail, a small pond like the one at Aldeburgh is only really suitable for smaller craft upto about 18 inches, whereas ponds like the round pond in Kensington is more suitable for much bigger yachts. Also think about the depth of water you will sail in, yachts with deep keels will need you to walk out into the pond wearing waders to launch them, whereas cutters with long shallower keels allow you launch them right at the water's edge.

A 1990's Suffolk made Skipper 12 inch Deben Estuary Pond Yacht

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A 1930's 30 inch AJ Fisher type self steering racing yacht.

Where to sail, free sailing.

Yacht Ponds and boating lakes.

Where to sail can be a problem, safety should be paramount especially with young children who should be supervised at all at times. When introducing very young children to sailing model yachts it is best to find a raised pond like those at Aldeburgh near the Moot Hall and in the Croft, Sudbury, here you can free sail quite easily. Many parks have ponds and lakes but maturity of overhanging trees and shrubs often dictates that these ponds are only suitable for radio control or sailing using a tether. Some sites like Wicksteed Park in Kettering however do have specially designed yacht ponds where you can free sail small and large yachts alike. It is a question of going to look before hand to check the suitability of the yacht pond.

Duck Ponds

 

Village and town duck ponds are of course very handy some are in beautiful locations and are perfect for sailing but only if they do not have steep banks and are not choked with bullrushes, using a tether is advisable if some of the banks are inaccessible. One renowned duck pond is Consols pond near St Ives in Cornwall this pond hosts an all comers sailing event every Good Friday this is a tradition that dates back over a hundred years!

The Seaside

Some seaside resorts provide outdoor swimming pools that fill when the tide comes in, the attraction with these pools is that the concrete edges act like break waters reducing the effect of crashing waves creating a virtual harbour providing a calm sailing experience. Smaller toy yachts can be sailed in rock pools or lagoons, but if you want to sail in the sea then you need to find a coast with a long shallow beach, such a beach will reduce the strength and height of the waves. It is best to find a section of tidal estuary like that near the car park in Kingsbridge, Devon. Your yacht should be washed down using tap water immediately after use as the corrosive action of sea water will cause the metal fittings to corrode.

Lakes

Lakes are usually very overgrown with the water only accessible from swims made for anglers, they often have steep slippery banks, so they are usually best suited to radio controlled sailing they can be very large, with many obstructions that will impede free sailing, Such dangers are overhanging tree branches, tree roots, thick reed beds, thick Lily beds and islands. It is advisable to sail with a tether then you can at least pull your yacht from danger. Some lakes in parks do a hard standing and Tarmac paths at the water's edge the waters edge is sometimes better maintained, these lakes are more suitable if you are lucky enough to live near one.

Mill ponds

Mill ponds can be accessible for sailing model yachts but be sure to ask the land owners permission some can be choked with cabbage weed and be too shallow, but you are certain of a beautiful location. Access may only be available from one bank so tethering your yacht would be sensible.

Canals

Sailing in a canal can be difficult if the water is difficult to reach and full of  narrow boats, however there is usually very little current and the banks are free from overhanging trees and bullrushes.

Rivers

Sailing on rivers can be difficult not only can they have steep banks, but the banks can be unstable and slippery. Some rivers are too fast flowing and are too shallow to sail on, however some rivers like the Great Ouse flow very fast and are also very deep. If you fell in you would be swept away. If you do find a suitable river your yacht will of course have to contend with a current, a tether would be very advisable.

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools either outdoors or indoors provide a super place to sail at home the water is clean and blue, you can access the water from all points round the pool, indoor pools are  perfect for sailing in winter keeping you dry and warm, with added bonus of heated water.

Garden Ponds

If you are lucky enough to have a garden pond you can sail your yachts in the tranquility of your garden, just be careful not spook your goldfish. Garden ponds come in a variety of sizes some are ornamental whilst other have been made to support wildlife, either pond is suitable.

Paddling Pools

Paddling pools are usually inflatable, come in various sizes and some are often deep enough to sail small to medium sized yachts. Just be careful not to puncture the pool. 

Tin Baths and Butler Sinks

Some of us are not able to access a local pond suitable for sailing, but if you have a tin bath or an old Butler sink you can at least float your smaller yachts, in fact on Float Your Boat Day you are encouraged to sail anything on or in anything that comes to hand whether a bucket or the bath. Float Your Boat Day is held on the 30th June each year and is held to remember the closure of the Star Yacht factory in Birkenhead near Liverpool. 

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Sailing a Britannia Polestar on a Loch using a tether

Model Yacht Clubs.

If you are a beginner you could join a local model sailing club, you are then joining a support group of like minded experienced people that will help you get the best from your yacht, there are many model boat clubs up and down the country. Members have varied interests some are into radio control others just power boats but there will be someone that like you that just wants to free sail for fun.

 

The Vintage Model Yacht Group is also worth joining, you will then receive The Turning Polethis publication is issued monthly you can read other members articles on racing yachts down to clockwork and rubbered powered toy boats. Along with latest news and items for sale. They have an excellent web site that is full of information.

25 inch Suggs Cutter Britannia Pond Yach

A beautiful long keel 25 inch 1920's Suggs Cutter in as found condition, suitable for sailing in shallow water.

Sailing Your Yacht.

An in depth explanation of of this subject would cover many pages but here is a general outline of how to sail your new model yacht.

To sail your yacht successfully windward (into the wind) you will first need to trim your yacht, to do this you will need to haul the sails in on the horses/travellers or screw eyes by adjusting the bowsies on the sheeting cords. You should not tighten them so that the sails are not pulled dead flat but instead but a little loose so that they are able to fill with air and hence provide nice air flow over the sails.

Your model should sail to windward with both booms parrallel to each other when viewed from aft (stern). The luff of your sails should be as tight as you can get them as your model will not sail windward with a slack luff.

To run before the wind you will need to open up the sails so that the boom is allowed to swing almost square the mast, this is not possible on a lot of model yachts due to the way they are constructed, but let the boom swing as far as it will go. If your yacht has a rudder you can set less helm to help stop the yacht running off wind. With steering gear you can set the quadrant pins nearer to the centre of the quadrant or haul the sails in a little. If your yacht turns or broaches into the wind then more helm must be given or you will need to ease the sails off a little. 

If your yacht self tacks (sails swing freely across the deck from side to side) then a turning pole is a handy addition to your outing as you can flick the bow of the yacht to turn and sail back across the pond. Older gaff rigged yachts will require you to lift the yacht out of the water before turning and swap around the sheeting holding the header sails, they usually have clew hooks fitted to help with this.

It will take several attempts before you learn how to get the best from your yacht, as we know from experience our weather is never the same on any given two days, this challenge is in part what makes the art of sailing pond yachts such a rewarding and absorbing hobby. 

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