The start of a One Metre sailing yacht race. Photo by Jan Wagner
The start of a One Metre sailing yacht race. Photo by Jan Wagner

Sailing regattas with fleets of majestic vessels are always spectacles — even when the boats are barely a yard long.

Last weekend, under the auspices of the San Diego Argonauts Model Yacht Club, 34 competitors raced IOM — International One Metre —  scale model, radio-controlled sailing yachts at the Mission Bay Model Yacht Pond.

The skippers came to race from across the United States for the annual mid-winter regatta.

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As is explained by the International Radio Sailing Association, IOM is the most popular R/C racing yacht class in the world and is raced in over 30 countries.

R/C sailing yachts tack back and forth along the racecourse, propelled by the ever-changing wind — a significant variable out of the skippers’ control. Over the course of the weekend 14 races were run, in an effort to produce fair and equitable overall results. Points were awarded based upon finishing positions in each race. They were added together for each skipper, and then the worst two race scores were thrown out. The lower the total score, the better.

Since the Model Yacht Pond is relatively narrow, the fleet was divided in two and the races were run in pairs of heats.

There is a great deal of skill involved, including designing, building and fine-tuning the R/C sailing yachts; strategy, reading the wind and controlling the sails. Considering the relatively small size of the sailing yachts, and their variable distances from their skippers walking along the shore, vision plays a significant role too — especially when the yachts are in close proximity to each other as they negotiate the course. Blocking and contact — inadvertent as they may well be — are promptly called out and protests are lodged.

The yachts must sail around the floating white markers, which is easier said than done in the congestion and shifting winds.

The relative familiarity of the California skippers with the wind and the pond seemed to provide a home court advantage. At the awards ceremony John Ebey (sailing #193: “britPOP!”) was declared the overall victor, although only by a single point over his nearest competitor, Mark Gollison (sailing #55: “V9”). This is a very competitive sport.

Bob Wells’ race report, including complete results from this regatta, is available online.

The USA IOM National Class Association serves to “promote the design, construction and racing of IOM sailboats and manage measurement, registration, ranking and regattas for IOM sailing yachts throughout the United States.” Yachts are available both in kit form and ready to sail. Several used boats were advertised for sale on the association’s website, with prices in the $1,000 to $3,000 range.

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