Impatient wives and landlubbers in general have a way of referring to all yachts, great and small, as "expensive toys." In their mouths the term is one of deep opprobrium. But there is one yacht making the rounds at most of the big boat shows this year that even the maker describes as a toy—"an expensive ($375) but marvelous toy," is the way he puts it.
The yacht in question, styled a "half meter" by David Berry and Hank Magierski of One Design Specialties, Toms River, N.J., is a six-foot sailing model complete with all the gadgetry common to boats five to 10 times its size—Dacron sails and nylon sheets, stainless-steel rigging and brass hardware, boom vang, adjustable outhauls, etc., etc. But what makes it even better than the big boats from one point of view is a mass of radio equipment fitted neatly into the hull that makes it possible for a shore-based skipper to control its maneuvering from as far as a mile away.
Radio-controlled model yachts are not a new idea. Some big, grown-up 12-meter sailors in England have been playing with them (for scientific purposes) for a long time, and an airplane-model firm on the West Coast carries the electronic equipment to sail them. But East Coast boat builders Berry and Magierski, whose firm (of which One Design is a branch) recently received class association approval for the first fiber-glass Blue Jay, believe their half meter is one of the best. It differs from other sailing models largely in the sensitivity of its controls.
Instead of responding to intermittent pulse commands as many models do, the rudder on their boat reacts directly and proportionally to pressure on the radio tiller. The rudder itself, unlike those of most other models, can be moved as little as 1/64 of an inch. Sails can be trimmed accurately for any point of sailing from close hauled to full run, with sails and rudder operating simultaneously. The nickel-cadmium batteries are rechargeable almost indefinitely and a charger is included with the boat. "They're ideal for sailors who like to stay indoors in the winter," says Berry.
For land-based sailors who would like to build their own boats, One Design Specialties offers a kit that includes everything but the radio equipment. It will sell for about $100. The radio part can be added for another $250. "Eventually, our customers will be able to buy kits at almost any stage of development. If we've learned anything, it's that sailors like to build their own."
Orders or inquiries should go directly to One Design Specialties, 521 Lakehurst Road, Toms River, N.J. 08753.