After watching adults use remote controls to guide model sailboats around Hagerstown City Park’s north lake Sunday, James Engle said he and his younger brother, Griffin, got their turn.
Then James, 8, and Griffin, 6, headed over to a pavilion with their parents, Cate and Keith Engle, to make their own primitive model sailboats using a kit with pine wood and light plastic.
“I made one in Cub Scouts, … but not as fancy as this one,” said James Engle, of Williamsport.
Members of model yacht clubs from Annapolis; York, Pa., and State College, Pa., conducted several heats as they raced their models around the lake while dozens of people looked on and asked them about their hobby.
An automated megaphone counted down the start times before buzzing to signal the racers to get their boats going. During the countdown, the racers tried to get their boats lined up right, though they were not lined up side by side to start.
The models had to do a couple laps, with some performing tight turns around little buoys and a few running into each other.
John Kircher, of Annapolis, said he helped organize the day’s races in an effort to spark interest in a local club. Kircher said Sunday’s participants didn’t have any plans to return to City Park, though those interviewed said they liked the venue.
“It’s a nice place to sail. It’s a pretty place,” Kircher said.
The group also had a lot more spectators, since normally only about five people watch them, he said.
Kircher said the lake’s water level was raised, by closing a spillway, to help prevent the models from getting stuck in the mud that has accumulated on the lake’s bottom.
While the day appeared to be more about fun than fierce competition, Fred Maurer, 66, of State College, won at least two heats with the model yacht that featured a “Road Runner” on its main sail.
“It’s a very nice venue. It’s excellent,” Maurer said.
A Neighborhoods First organization also helped organize activities for the day.
Farther into the park was the pavilion where people could buy kits, for $6 to $12, from Seaworthy Small Ships of Prince Frederick, Md., to build more primitive models than the larger, expensive ones racing on the lake.
Some children sailed their newly built models in the small cove nearby.
Nicholas Marschner, 17, of Hagerstown, helped some of the children sail their models. Then he took his larger model for a spin on the north lake.
Marschner said he grew up sailing and received his model for Christmas when he was 12.
Via remote control, he can control the rudder to steer, and sails to catch the wind.
Herb Jones brought his remote-control oyster boat.
Jones, 90, of Silver Spring, Md., wasn’t competing in the races, but thought it would be a good opportunity to give his boats a workout after not sailing them for a year.
Jones allowed at least two children to take over the remote control and steer his boat.
As Ty Plum, 10, of Hagerstown, steered the boat around, he asked Jones questions and, occasionally, Jones guided Ty’s fingers on the controls.
“The adults like it, but the kids think it’s marvelous that they can stand and steer the boat,” Jones said.
Ty said the boats were cool.
“Not fast, but awesome,” Ty said.
Kiara Bowman, 10, of Hagerstown, also took a turn steering the oyster boat model.
“It was kind of hard ’cause I kind of wanted to go up and down, but he’s like ‘Nooooo. You can’t go up and down. You … gotta go side to side,’” Kiara said of the joystick controls.