A new scheme launched by the Model Yachting Association is aimed at drawing new blood from local yacht clubs – the only difference is scale

There’s something soothing about model yachting, something about grace and engineering on a Liliputian scale perhaps, that evokes memories of the careless enthusiasm of youth – summer days and skinned knees. Whatever it is, Robert Hobbs, publicist for the Model Yachting Association, is convinced we need more of it.

The ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’ campaign is targeting local yacht clubs for new members, on the principle that, apart from the huge expense and widespread bruising involved in regular sailboat racing, there’s very little to choose between them.

“If you want to follow on from full size sailing. It’s the same rules, the same adrenalin punch as you go to the mark, it’s very competitive,” says Hobbs. “We get ten races a day instead compared with your one start, so if you muck one up, you’re off home but we’ve got all day to go. Nice people, fresh air, there’s 80 clubs throughout the UK and the racing is very strong, very competitive. It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, disabled, male or female – it’s superb.”

It’s not as cheap as, say, badminton, but it’s several orders of magnitude below full-size sailboat racing. True, at the top end of the sport, you could expect to pay £2,000-£3,000 but you should also be expecting to win world championships – your boat would be good enough. “A brand new metre boat would cost somewhere between £700-£1,500,” Hobbs continued, “but most people would start with a second hand boat, going along to the local club, maybe £300-£400, possibly with a radio thrown in, and that’s how much for a start.”

Like windsurfing, wind strength dictates which particular rig should be used.”We can sail in gale force with the tiny rig,” says Hobbs. In nearly every other respect, top flight model yacht racing is remarkably similar to its full-sized cousin: kevlar and carbon fibre are standard materials and a case could be made that model yacht design has always been a step or two ahead because of the economies of scale involved. Certainly there are many ideas that have been scaled up but very few that have been scaled down.

In terms of a typical member, Hobbs is at a loss. “I sail down at Gosport and we’ve got some young people about 16, just starting; we’ve got people 17, 18, and we’ve got one member who’s been in the club 50 years. One or two wives, not too many ladies but there are a few; a lot of retired people take to it, those who’ve got a bit too weary for full-size sailing. I think everybody would be the easiest way, there’s no one type of person. There are professional people, there are labourers, it’s just classless.”
Click here for more information on how to get started because, as Hobbs assures us, although the sizes are scaled down, the fun certainly is not.