Pineville is making its mark in the boating world.
You won’t find vessels as big as those docked along some areas of Lake Norman. However, you will find model yachts sailing each weekend at Pineville’s Lake Park, behind the Belle Johnston Center, 1000 Johnston Drive
That’s the home of the Queen City Model Yacht Club (QCMYC), a group that’s 22 members strong and growing. The club promotes the sailing, racing and preservation of model sailing yachts.
We have teens to retired people coming out here, whoever wants to. We even had a six year old out here sailing several weeks ago.
Brendon Sullivan, Commodore of the Queen City Model Yacht Club.
The group is sanctioned club No. 342 of the American Model Yacht Association, a nationwide organization.
Membership is free and open to anyone interested in sailing the three- to eight-foot boats. In fact, members usually bring an extra boat or two so newbies can give the sport a try.
“The whole thing is about helping each other out. The fun is in the racing and learning the rules of racing. We have teens to retired people coming out here, whoever wants to. We even had a six year old out here sailing several weeks ago,” said Brendon Sullivan, Commodore of the group.
Under Sullivan’s direction, the skippers meet each Saturday morning and most Sunday and Wednesday mornings to race the radio-controlled boats for fun and point recognition for those who place or win.
Sullivan, a northern transplant who used to watch model yacht racing in New York City’s Central Park, retired to the Ballantyne area several years ago.
The veteran Vietnam War helicopter pilot tried out a boat at Sun City, but was unable to join that club because he was not a resident. So he started the Charlotte chapter last year.
“I got bit by the model yacht bug and decided to start the club. Years ago I sailed full sized boats. This is just as much fun,” Sullivan said.
He said about half the members of the club have experience with full size boats, the other half learned their aquatic navigational skills through remote control.
Either way, he says, the sport is exciting, competitive, and a great way to get outside and enjoy the weather he moved south for.
On sailing day, Sullivan arrives early, marking the lake with several buoys dropped by a radio-controlled tugboat. The buoys mark the route the boats will navigate. A fishing line is attached to each buoy and anchored with a rod and reel on shore to aide in buoy collection once the races are over.
A typical race involves two trips around the outside of the buoys. Any boat that breaks one of the rules – such as bumping into another boat - must make a 360 degree penalty turn before getting back in the race.
Most outings consist of at least three races with Sullivan carefully recording the results so appropriate points can be awarded. Those points will help members map their progress and claim bragging rights – at least for the day.
Members join the club for many reasons, but once they’ve sailed a couple of times, most are sold on the hobby.
“I was building static ship models and thought it would be helpful if I really knew how to sail them. This is much more fun,” said Dan Bidwell.
Tim McQuain’s sailing interest was a natural outgrowth of his interest in other radio controlled vehicles.
“I’ve been into radio control for about four years now. I’ve run trucks, boats and free sail gliders, but boats are my favorite. My father was in the Navy so I grew up with them. The thing about radio controlled vehicles is that once you get into it, one leads to another,” said McQuain.
He has posted several You-Tube videos under his name showing clips of sailing and boat construction.
Though the Queen City Model Yacht Club is only a year old, it’s already making its mark on the model yacht world. Sullivan says members of clubs from South Carolina and Florida have visited and sailed on Pineville’s lake, and local members have been invited to visit and sail at those clubs.
Sullivan’s hope is that the club keeps growing and some members become competitive enough that they can advance to regional regattas.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.