What Is a Pond Yacht?
A pond yacht is a small, radio-controlled version of a large sailing vessel. Often built from the original drawings of a full-size ship, the pond yacht is a scale replica of a wind-powered ocean-goer that can provide hours of fun at a local park or backyard pond. Typically patterned after a single-mast vessel, there are occasionally two-masted pond yacht designs that can take a more skilled operator to effectively sail the small schooner across the water. Commonly built by the owner, these down-sized sailing vessels are equipped with electronic servos that operate both the rudder as well as the sail components and rigging.
Popularized in the 1920s and 1930s, pond yacht racing was a common sport in many city ponds and parks. The sport offered the participants a chance to display their sailing skills without requiring expensive sailing crafts, slips and maintenance fees. Unlike the original versions of the pond yacht that required the sailors to read the wind and set the vessel for a straight line run across the pond, the modern boats incorporate a remote-control option to adjust course as necessary. Some competitions require the boats to navigate through an obstacle course marked by buoys and floating flag stands.
While there are no specific measurements that must be adhered to when building a pond yacht for personal amusement, there are stringent dimensional requirements on both hull and sail size for those boats intended to compete in sanctioned races. Much like the Soap Box Derby®, organizations offer racing activities and pleasure sailing activities with points and seasonal trophies awarded to paid membership holders of specifically-built boats. Many clubs will allow the owner of a larger boat to sail with smaller boats, however, the larger pond yacht is not able to win prizes.
There are non-remote controlled versions of the pond yacht available to owners who prefer a more nostalgic boat as well as younger and entry-level boaters. The hand-control system uses a handle and strings attached to the boat to operate the vessel in a straight line from the shoreline. This type of boat requires the owner to walk the shoreline beside the boat as it sails along the pond. One of the primary advantages of the hand-line control is the ability of the owner to retrieve a boat that has succumbed to a no-wind situation. The hand-controlled pond yacht is often able to be upgraded to a remote-controlled boat with little work and expense.
I went to Paris once and in one of the parks there were dozens of people playing with pond yachts. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some were hug and others were barley the size of a minnow.
What was amazing was that with all of those little boats on the water at once there were not more crashes. All of the boats motored around in some kind of invisible order. Even the little kids seemed to know what to do. It was really charming to see and I got a lot of great pictures.
My grandfather was a big fan of pond yachts and when I was a kid and would go and visit him we would always go the pond by his house and mess around with the many pond yachts that he had.
It was a ton of fun and one of my favorite things to do as a kid. We would often bring multiple yachts and race them. Sometimes we would enlist other kids in the park and have really big races. As an 8 or 9 year old this was huge fun.
My grandfather had been messing with pond yachts since he was a kid and I think it brought him a lot of joy to see a new generation having as much fun as he had.
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