The Depression Years
Sailing at the Berkeley, California Aquatic Park in the middle 1930's.
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Spreckles Lake at roughly the same time. This shot is taken from the
Southwest corner, where the powerboats now operate. At this time it was
evidently still possible to sail side to side at Spreckles.
Model Yachting reached a peak of activity in the 1930's. It was a relaxing
and relatively inexpensive hobby. Many shop and manual arts classes built
boats as class projects, because a model yacht involves woodwork, metal
forming and casting, and working with fabrics. In addition, the Works Project
Administration of Roosevelt's New Deal built many ponds in urban areas
throughout the United States. One of the finest was at Berkeley, California,
where the WPA constructed both a yacht harbor and an Aquatic Park with
areas for paddleboats, model speedboats, and model yachts. The model yacht
pond was active well into the 1950's, but has now been abandoned.
A Marblehead boat running under spinnaker
Model yachting enjoyed a resurgence after World War II, but never regained
its pre-war popularity. The principal classes were the M or Marbleheads,
the traditional A boats, and the X class. This latter class was established
just before the War, and had the simplest rules of all: 1000 square inches
of sail and virtually no restriction on hull design. X boats tend to be
long, lean and handsome, and the class was very popular on the West Coast.
During the late 1940's the Model Yacht Racing Association of America fell
prey to internal strife and the last publication devoted exclusively to
the hobby went under. Ironically, one of the last issues announced the
most significant event of the era: the winning of the International A Class
Championship by Bill Bithell's Ranger.
The 1950's and 60's
Here is the deck layout of a typical X Class boat of the late 1940's and
1950's. The sliding rig enables the relationship between the center of
effort of the sails and the center of resistance of the hull to be adjusted
to wind conditions.
One of the most interesting developments of the 1950's were the "finless
fin keel" boats of A.R. Lassel. These were the results of his long study
of dynamic balance of free-sailing boats, which also lead him to be one
of the leading proponents of the sliding rig. The idea was to move the
center of lateral area aft and reduce the wetted surface as much as possible.
The photograph below shows a hard-chine test hull, probably built to M
Throughout the 1960's the sport went through a gradual decline in popularity
that was not reversed until practical radio control, and the American Model
Yachting Association, came on the scene in the early 1970's. The emphasis
then moved to advanced materials and designs, and the Vintage Era slowly