Charlotte’s Cypress Yacht Club is for the young at heart
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Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2014

Charlotte’s Cypress Yacht Club is for the young at heart

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/24/13/02/1cGSqz.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - HOPE YANCEY
    Some of the members of the Cypress Yacht Club at The Cypress of Charlotte retirement community near SouthPark are: front row, from left, Alan Ross, Victor Osborne, Charles Carmichael, Dallas Allison, Ann Phillips; back row, from left, Bill McElwain, George Duensing, Joe Piemont, Gayle Wylie and Ann Wylie.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/24/13/02/zN1MC.Em.138.jpeg|181
    - HOPE YANCEY
    A remote-controlled boat zips across the lake at The Cypress of Charlotte retirement community near SouthPark. Members of the Cypress Yacht Club race their boats on the lake.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/24/13/02/1pOWsW.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - HOPE YANCEY
    Ann Phillips, a member of the Cypress Yacht Club at The Cypress of Charlotte retirement community near SouthPark, shows off her miniature boat.

It’s a humid Sunday afternoon, and a small crowd of spectators has gathered at a lake at The Cypress of Charlotte retirement community.

Members of the Cypress Yacht Club, at the water’s edge in matching blue shirts and white yachting caps, prepare to launch their boats.

You won’t be able to board any of these yachts, however; the fleet at the Cypress Yacht Club consists of miniature remote-controlled boats.

Resident Alan Ross, 86, founded the club to make use of the lake, in an attractive courtyard on the community’s campus near SouthPark.

Some of the club members started with remote-controlled helicopters. They soon switched to boats after their aircraft ended up on the roof of an adjacent building. “We gave up (helicopters) after that,” Ross said.

The club races boats twice a month in the spring and summer. Boats are in “dry dock” during the winter months, Ross said.

Club membership varies from five to 15 members. Traditional ceremonies for commissioning a vessel – complete with a little champagne – take place whenever someone buys a new boat.

There are jokes and laughter as members enjoy the club’s camaraderie. “This gentleman’s name is ‘Speedy,’ ” said Joe Piemont, referring to his

friend, Ross.

Piemont, 91, handles public relations for the group. He said the club has lost a minimum of four boats to accidents or sinking.

Ann Phillips, 92, is one of only a few women in the club. She also owns the only boat that carries passengers: two tiny plastic figures.

“They don’t have life preservers. They did fall out one time – the little lady did. I thought she drowned, but she floated,” Phillips said.

Phillips said she considers her boat more of a “pleasure craft” than a racing boat, and she doesn’t want her boat to be hit.

The boats perform maneuvers and sometimes navigate the “Osborne Loop,” named after member Victor Osborne, 91. The loop is a tricky stretch of water around the fountain at the center of the lake, where boats have been known to run into trouble.

The boats that members operate typically start about $200, although costs can run higher. Ross said his boat was about $650 with the batteries it requires.

Several members have miniature replicas of the Chris-Craft boats known for their quality craftsmanship.

The Cypress has installed a stone landing next to the lake for the club’s use, with a table and chairs, as well as a hook for pulling stalled boats from the water.

Hope Yancey is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Hope? Email her at hyanceywrites@gmail.com.

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