On a warm and blustery Saturday in June, with the stiff breeze making a good day for sailing, a dozen enthusiasts prepared their crafts on the shores of Frederick's Whittier Lake.
With the cry of “Boats in the water!” a flotilla of small model boats glided silently through the water, with the occasional rustle of a sail the only noise.
But along the shore, there was plenty of action.
Members of the Northern Maryland Yacht Club paced quickly along the edge of the lake, twisting the knobs of their remote controls as they guided their boats around a series of buoys as they tried to stay ahead of the pack. As one race began, Bart Drummond was deciding if he wants to start with a port or starboard tack – meaning whether he wants to begin with his main sail leaning left or right.
Staff photo by Bill Green
Members of the Northern Maryland Model Yacht Club paced quickly along the edge of the lake, twisting the knobs of their remote controls as they guided their boats around a series of buoys, as they tried to stay ahead of the pack.
As one race began, Bart Drummond was deciding if he wanted to start with a port or starboard tack — i.e., with his main sail leaning left or right.
“What way is the wind going?” he muttered to himself as he fiddled with the knobs and joystick that control the rudder and the sail of his 650-centimeter sailboat.
Each race consists of two laps around a series of buoys at one end of the lake. Sailors have to avoid running into each other's boats, as well as follow other rules that guide the races.
“That's what makes this sport very unique,” Drummond said. “It's easy to get a boat and sail it around in a pond ... but it's hard to win a race because there's certain rules you have to follow.”
The 12 boats represented a good turnout, Drummond said. The club has 18 members, but people from other clubs usually attend events, too.
The group gathers on the first Saturday of each month to race their radio-controlled boats, drawing boaters from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, Drummond said.
“Out here, we just want to have fun,” he said.
He's trying to promote the club to new people and suggested that married couples who are having problems give the sport a try. They can work on the boat, as well as travel and sail together. “It gives you time together,” he said.
While he works on the boat, his wife also participates.
“She's not quite as competitive as me,” he said with a chuckle.
Club member Mike Cavanaugh enjoys the camaraderie and competition of race days and has made friends in multiple states through his hobby.
He remembers seeing a grandfather and grandson sailing a model boat on a lake in Michigan when he was younger, “and they were having so much fun, I was just hooked,” he said.
Now he has a dozen boats and races as often as possible.
He said he prefers sailing models to real boats. “When you're in a sailboat, you can't see how pretty it is,” he said.
For Mari Spina, the joy is the chance to be outside with the combination of the sun, wind and your own reflexes, as you guide your boat around the lake. “I commune with the water,” she said.
Spina has participated in races for about five years and owns 13 boats in a variety of classes.
Your first year of racing is typically spent learning the basics of the sport and how to control your boat — “then maybe you're competitive,” Spina said.
One of the purposes of the club is to help new racers practice and gain skills.
They usually race five to six individual races, take a break to announce the winners, and then split into teams with better racers teaming up with those at the bottom of the standings. They give each team about 10 minutes to talk, allowing more experienced sailors to mentor newer ones, Drummond said.
“We want everybody to get better, and this is one of the ways we do that,” he said.
News-Post staff writer Mary Grace Keller contributed to this story.
Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP