I was both surprised and flattered when Earl asked me
to write a foreword to this book. I had been following the references to
his ongoing work on Yankee III in The Model Yacht and on
the USVMYG web site, but had not been in any sense closely engaged with
it. The Vintage Group in Britain is much more concerned with the restoration
of existing models, some of very considerable age, and the idea of revamping
a 1930's design to be built from scratch using modern materials and techniques
was of passing interest rather than central to my concerns.
My attitude changed when I saw a late draft of the text.
The sheer size and weight were impressive. Very few `how to do it' manuals
of model yachting that I have seen are as substantial. Detailed examination
showed that this is an important book, not only in the history of the vintage
movement, but more widely in the development of model yachting. Not only
is it a useful summary of the history of Yankee and Yankee Junior,
it also honours the memory of John Black, one of the leading American designers
and skippers of the 1930s.
The nitty gritty account of `how I did it - and how you
can do it too' is, I believe, the first detailed treatment of this technique
of building models. It is of course developed from surf board techniques,
and this type of foam has been used in a different way by modellers in
New Zealand, but the small scale of the work and the always pressing need
to keep structure weights under control have meant that Earl has very largely
had to develop techniques from scratch. This he has done through a long
series of prototypes, on which, as he honestly remarks, he made all the
Not only has Earl developed a new technique for building
by patient and persistent experiment, he has written an account of how
to do it that ranks with the best descriptions of manual skills that I
have seen. This is a field that I have researched in some depth myself
and I know how difficult it is to produce an instruction manual that will
be fully effective in its own right, without the benefit of `hands on'
demonstration and advice. I suspect that to do so is impossible. I am certain
that this book more closely approaches the ideal than any other I have
seen. Earl has been fortunate in securing the services of M de Lesseps
to produce the extremely clear and helpful drawings.
As proprietor of The Curved Air Press, I am pleased to
be associated with the production of this work.
Chairman, Vintage Model Yacht Group
London May 2004
There are many model yacht kits available to the aspiring
skipper, and the vast majority produce handsome boats with reasonable sailing
characteristics. Why, then, go to the trouble of a scratch-built boat?
Well, the entry level kits available today all look pretty much the same,
with the lines of a modern cruiser/racer. Yankee III doesn't look
like that at all, and to many people she will be the prettiest boat on
the pond. Not only that, but within her limits she sails like a dream.
You will also gain experience and skills that will carry over to other
projects. No longer bound by the kit designers' selections, a whole world
of boats can now be built.
The U.S. Vintage Model Yacht Group exists to study and
preserve the old boats, the ones that look "like a proper yacht." As part
of this charter I decided to develop a sailing model of a reasonable size
and cost, one that could be built by someone who loved the looks of traditional
yachts but who had never built a boat before. A 36 inch long boat is about
the smallest that won't look like a toy on the water, so that is what I
went looking for. Since our membership, and events, are spread across the
country, I wanted a boat that could travel easily by air. The easiest way
to do this was to have a hull and rig that would fit into a hard-sided
golf club case, which is roughly 10-in diameter by 48-in long. The prototypes
of Yankee III have travelled from Albuquerque to Woods Hole, Spring
Lake, Mystic, Detroit, and Newport in precisely this fashion.
I must have looked into dozens of designs, and rejected
them for various reasons, mostly having to do with appearance. And then
our Group got lucky.
One of our members contacted us with some material a
friend had acquired from an uncle, and whose significance he had noticed.
They were plans and a series of construction articles that had run in The
Boston Evening Transcript in 1935. The subject was a 36 inch long free-sailing
model based on the famous J Class yacht Yankee. The model was designed
by John Black, one of the most celebrated model yacht designers of his
day, and he called her Yankee Jr. This had everything I was looking
for in a design: the right size, great appearance, and sailing qualities
guaranteed by a fine designer. All of these promises were borne out in
the prototypes. My task was to adapt her to modern materials and radio
control. Since our boat would be derived from Yankee Jr., which
was based in turn on Yankee, I decided to call her Yankee III.
Of course scratch-building carries the risk of wasting
money, and for many of us, the more precious time. The techniques described
in this book were exercised on five hulls, four rigs, and eight sets of
sails, during which I hope I made every mistake possible. The emphasis
is on low cost, use of readily available materials, and most importantly,
ease and speed of construction. The boat can be built with only a few hand
tools over the course of five or six weekends.
The British have a saying: "horses for courses." Some
go well over a distance, others are best in a sprint; some prefer it dry,
others relish the wet. And so it is with yachts, both full size and model
- no boat will stand up well to stiff winds and still have the ability
to move easily in light air. Yankee III is a light air boat, pure
and simple. She is at her best when pond is like glass and leaves barely
move, gliding along in an uncanny fashion and surging forward on the slightest
puff. When the flags are blowing straight out she can be a real handful
to keep on course. I have eased this limitation somewhat by providing the
ability to shorten sail, but you should keep it in mind when deciding whether
to build, and where to sail.
Since Yankee III is based on a real boat, it is tempting to call
her a scale model. And in a way she is, but a rather strange way: her deck
is devoid of detail, her hull is deeper, and her rig is both altered and
simplified. All of these changes are required so that she will actually
sail. What we give up in detail we gain in the fact that in her element
she moves just as her prototype did, and achieves an a kind of authenticity
that no static model can aspire to. You will learn this the first time
a total stranger comes up to you at pondside and asks: "Is that a model
of a J Boat?" It's a great feeling.