The history of international model yacht racing is a long one, dating back as it does for nearly a century but, although most model yachtsmen of today know something about developments in the sport since the early seventies, when R/C racing created widespread interest, few have any knowledge of what happened in the days of Braine and Vane steering. When explored in detail this makes fascinating reading for the student of yacht design but it is not the intention here to give more than a brief outline of what our predecessors accomplished in their quest for faster yachts and national prestige and, in this highly competitive struggle, America, England, Norway and Denmark were the leading contenders.
Firstly, we go back as far as 1851, when the visit of the schooner “America” from the U.S. to England led to increased activities in the yachting and and model yachting worlds. One of the first international races took place at Birkenhead, England, in 1853 when a lugger,”Black Joke”, beat a sloop and a schooner from U.S.A. and a local schooner. This event was reported in a famous English paper “The Field”, of which the distinguished yacht designer, Dixon Kemp, was Yachting Editor in later years.
However, it was not until 1911 that any serious attempt was made to organise the sport on a National and International level. It was then that, in England, the Model Yachting Association (M.Y.A.) was first established under its original name, the Model Yacht Racing Association (M.Y.R.A.) At that time the rating rules of every nation were different and it was therefore difficult to arrange an international contest, but agreement was reached to recognise the 80cm Continental Rule, which produced a pretty and efficient, model suitable for international racing. As a result, in 1912 the M.Y.R.A. was responsible for organising an event at Enghien-les-Bains, near Paris in which England, France and Belgium took part. The interest taken in the event was demonstrated by the presentation of a Sevres vase by President Poincare` of France to the winning Englishman, W.J. (Bill) Daniels, who was later to become famous as a brilliant designer, builder and skipper of model yachts.
After the Great War international model yachting developed quite rapidly. In 1923, Bill Daniels made a single-handed challenge to the model yachtsmen of the United States. His challenge was accepted and, armed with his yacht “Endeavour”, he proceeded over there and was met and defeated by the celebrated American yacht “Polka Dot”. It was arranged that a return visit should be made by the Americans in the near future but at this point the proprietors of the “Yachting Monthly” magazine took a hand in events. The Editor at that time was Major Malden Heckstall-Smith who had devised a new rating rule which he hoped would replace the International Six and Twelve Metre Rules. In order to test out his ideas and also firmly to establish international model yachting, the “Yachting Monthly” donated a Hundred Guinea cup to the M.Y.A. and the Rating Rule under which yachts were built to race for the Cup was known as the Yachting Monthly 6-Metre, because the rule was intended to produce yachts similar to the Six Metre on a scale of 2 inches to the foot.
A challenge was made for the Cup in 1923 by the Royal Danish Yacht Club but their yacht was beaten by Daniels with his “Invader”. A second challenge by Denmark the following year met with the same fate, except that the winner was Daniels’ new yacht “Crusader”. In 1925, Joe Weaver from America challenged with his yacht “Slipper” but Daniels and Crusader were unbeatable and thus won the Cup outright.
In 1926, the “Yachting Monthly” presented a new perpetual Challenge Cup to the M.Y.A. and at Gosport, England, in 1927, the International Model Yacht Racing Association was formed. It adopted the Y.M.6-m Class as the International “A” Class and the M.Y.A. Sailing Rules as the International Sailing Rules. The member countries were Belgium, France, Germany, Latvia, Norway, U.S.A. and Britain. However, after some years it became increasingly difficult for the secretary of the I.M.Y.R.A. to maintain communication with the secretaries of the various national bodies. This was, in some cases, due to inattention on the part of secretaries and, to some extent, political and financial troubles on the Continent. Ultimately, the then Secretary reported to the M.Y.A. that he was unable to carry on and the M.Y.A. therefore decided to treat the I.M.Y.R.A. as a non-existent body. It was in 1936 at Gosport that the International Model Yacht Racing Union (I.M.Y.R.U.) was constituted.
Meanwhile, in the years from 1926 to the outbreak of the second World War, the “Y.M.Cup” was won twelve times by England and twice by the Norwegian, Sam Berge, with the U.S.A. runner-up nine years in succession, their skippers being John Black, who made five unsuccessful attempts to lift the Cup, Joe Weaver who made two attempts, Cox, Baron and Fred Pigeon one each.
After the War, an “All Nations” race was held in 1948 at Gosport, with entries from Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Portugal, U.S.A., England, Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland. The result was a win for the U.S.A. by 73 years old Fred Pigeon and his mate, Bill Bithell, with “Ranger”. Denmark was second, England third.
After the racing, a meeting was held at which the I.M.Y.R.U. was re-constituted .
The “Y.M.Cup” competitions were re-commenced at Fleetwood, England, in 1949. Encouraged by their success the previous year, the Americans sent over “Ranger” again to challenge for the Cup, this time skippered by Bill Bithell with Ains Ballantyne as mate. The interest in the contest was great indeed and some three thousand spectators lined the banks to witness the U.S.A. win the Cup for the first time. The result caused much excitement at the time and it was undoubtedly a shock for the English model yachtsmen and designers, who were obliged to take a long, hard look at their theories.
There was no challenge for the Cup in 1950 but, in 1951, the M.Y.A. raised sufficient funds to send two of their best skippers, Waiter Jones and Ronnie Jurd, to Boston to challenge. Fred Pigeon, who had designed “Ranger”, defended with “Ainslie”, a modified version of “Ranger” and chose the same successful partnership of Bithell and Ballantyne to race her. The English yacht “Shalimar”, put up a brave fight in light weather conditions, but she was no match for the American yacht and the Cup stayed in America.
There was no challenge in 1952 but in 1953 Canada challenged at Berkeley, California and was soundly beaten by “Whiff”, sailed by L. Bourgeois of the Los Angeles M.Y.C.
In 1954, the holder of the Cup graciously returned it to the M.Y.A. and it has been competed for ever since. Apart from England, there have been wins by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Holland.
There were two other international events prior to 1939 – the Chicago Regatta in 1933 for which there were ten entries including an English yacht from Bournville M.Y.C. The winner was John Black (U.S.) with “Bostonia 111” The other event was the Olympic Regatta at Hamburg in 1936, held after the Olympic Games on a specially constructed lake. Two classes were sailed, “A” and Marblhead and the winers were Bill Daniels with his “A” Class “Fusillier and John Black (U.S.) with his “M” Class “Cheerio”.
During the early seventies, commercialy available radio control equipment created an upsurge of interest in R/C racing and the M.Y.A. led the way by publishing racing rules based on the full-size I.Y.R.U. rules. These were subsequently adopted by the I.M.Y.R.U. and more countries took up the sport until the present (1998) membership was increased to 34 countries.
The first World Championships for radio-controlled Marblehead and Ten Rater Classes were held at Gosport in 1975, when nine countries took part. Subsequently, World Championships for the recognised classes have been held at the following venues:
|Durban, South Africa
|M, 10R & EC 12
|Ottawa , Canada
|M & 10R
|New York, U.S.A.
|Lake Bonney, Australia
|St. Cyr, France
|Cape Town, South Africa
|Wellington, New Zealand
|Ramla Bay, Malta
At the I.M.Y.R.U. General Meeting at Dunkerque in 1982, it was resolved to adopt the IYRR and IYRU Measurement Instructions and to follow the IYRU Constitution and Regulations as closely as possible. For the next eight years a lot of very hard work was done by the I.M.Y.R.U., particularly by its then Chairman, Norman Hatfield, to get Model Yachting accepted into membership of the full-size governing body, the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU). This work culminated on 1st May, 1990 when the I.M.Y.R.U. became the Model Yacht Racing Division of the IYRU (IYRU- MYRD). In its turn, in August, 1996, the IYRU changed its name to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and MYRD is now the Radio Sailing Division (RSD).