WOLFEBORO - The New Hampshire Boat Museum's Back Bay Skippers, a model boat-building club, hosted its first Open International Footy Regatta on Saturday on Back Bay.
A dozen hobbyists turned out to race the Footy yacht-class remote-controlled boats. The handmade yachts have 12-inch hulls, the smallest class for model yacht racing, according to the club.
Regatta founder and director Bill Hagersup became involved in Footy building and racing about five years ago.
"I saw a friend put this little boat in the water and thought, 'That looks cool,'" said Hagersup. Like many other participants in Footy racing, Hagersup also sails full-size boats. After becoming involved with the Footys through the Back Bay Skippers, he decided to form a racing chapter based in Wolfeboro. Eventually, he connected with experts, such as New Zealand-based model boat designer Brett McCormack, who in 2001 adapted the Footy model to radio remote control, and British model yacht designer Roger Stollery, who helped Hagersup establish the regatta. He said 16 countries recognize the Footy yacht class of model racing.
Hagersup said while most participants on Saturday were from New Hampshire, one racer, Scott Wallis, traveled from the United Kingdom to participate. Others traveled from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Wallis, 26, of Bristol, England, said he has been racing model boats for about six years. He participates in a dozen races a year in England, where the weather conditions can be much colder and wetter.
"This is nice," Wallis said, enjoying the sunny day where the winds were just enough to fill the sails and keep the boats moving and racing. He said the radio remote control units have a range of up to a half-mile, but if the boat is that far out into the water, you usually can't see it. The protected waters in Back Bay, which is fed from Lake Winnipesaukee, offered a contained racing area just off the dock that the boat museum and Back Bay Skippers placed to accommodate model boat racing.
Yachting may be expensive, but racing Footy class yachts is not. Wallis said a person could build a boat for about $20. He said one reason he got into the Footy class of boat is that they easily fit into a backpack and can travel with him when he goes on vacation.
Wallis is not the only hobbyist willing to travel for the sport. Herb Dreher of Natick, Mass., recently spent 17 days in San Diego racing model boats. Dreher, a retired tool and die maker, said he's been into the models for about five years.
John Simms of Wolfeboro borrowed a Footy to race on Saturday, but he is no stranger to model boats. He sails his Soling one-meter class boat in Back Bay every Tuesday with members of the club. Mark Whitehead of the New Hampshire Boat Museum teaches a class on building the Soling One Meter class model boat.
Tim Wright of Center Ossipee had been racing a borrowed boat but was forced to just observe from the sidelines when the radio remote control stopped working. An avid sailor and captain of full-size boats, Wright said he builds several classes of models.
"I've sailed all my life," said Wright. What makes it fun? "Over time, you learn how boats work and feel by remote," he said, adding he also enjoys watching how the boats move and race from a distance in a variety of conditions.
"The sailing background that I have helps me. It's fun. It's a nice group of people. People share their knowledge and experience," said Wright.
For more information about the New Hampshire Boat Museum, Back Bay Skippers, model yacht racing and many other programs, go to nhbm.org, or call 569-4554.