May 29th 2022
World Pond Yacht Day
What is a Pond Yacht?
A Pond Yacht is a toy or model yacht made using a buoyant hull of a suitable size, that can be launched by hand and that has been suitably balanced with a weighted keel to allow adjustable working sails to provide free sailing on the open water.
The term Pond Yacht has today become wrongly generalised to cover all types of model boats, including speedboats. Some 150 years ago craftsmen like shipwrights and shoemakers would spend the winter months in their sheds carving and making a one-off artisan yacht, ready for the spring, these model yachts would have been carved out of hollow selected timber or carved from laid up planks all glued together (Bread and Butter construction) using gouges and hand planes. These yachts would have followed the shapes of full-sized cutters and trawlers of the time as these were beautifully shaped craft designed to make good sail and were then at the cutting edge of technology. Fitted with topsail cutter Riggs, a long-weighted keel and a deep hull, the yachts would have originally been fitted with a gaff sail rig with doubleheader sails fitted to a long bowsprit. Some of these early yachts were works of art with superbly crafted fittings.
As the Victorian era came to an end, yacht designers began experimenting with sleeker hull shapes and began using the Bermuda rig. The sport once having been the select reserve of the wealthy became popular with working classes. Clubs had by now established racing classes to standardise the hull length, displacement and sail area. Municipal yacht ponds were springing up everywhere and had become popular around the world. A model yacht became the must-have Christmas or Birthday present of many boys and girls. Mum and Dad and even Grandma and Grandad would all go down the park and spend a sunny Sunday afternoon watching children sailing their model yachts, Dad or Grandad might even have brought along their big 10 raters, often pulled along on a specially made cart.
After the Great War, the popularity of sailing had come to the attention of many entrepreneurs and many companies sprang up manufacturing model yachts to sell on the high street in many toy shops including Gamages and Hamleys. Some of these yachts are now highly collectable. Between the two world wars, sailing Pond Yachts became the most popular hobby of them all, even more, popular than angling. Sadly the advent of cheap clockwork and battery-operated toys saw the popularity of this pastime decline, today there is a resurgence in interest with specialist companies like Haycroft Pond Yachts and Grove Pond Yachts building beautiful craft once again. Tirot of France and Gunther of Germany are still producing beautiful new toy yachts to this day.
A lightweight Ailsa Pond Yacht of the early 1960's originally designed in the 1920's