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North Down Model Yacht Racing Club are Back on the Water

26th November 2022
Race Officer Robin Gray (second left) with the North Down Model Yacht Group
Race Officer Robin Gray (second left) with the North Down Model Yacht Group

What do keen big boat and dinghy racers do when they want a rest from the usual inshore and offshore circuits? On the North Down coast, they gather twice a week with their one-design radio-controlled model yachts either in Groomsport Harbour near Bangor or Millisle farther east for what seems to be hot competition among the group run by International Race Officer Robin Gray.

Robin says that “the DragonForce 65 is one of the most popular and certainly affordable boats for radio-controlled model boat racing. They sail like full-size boats and one design means great racing and great fun.

There are over 30,000 worldwide and around 2,000 in the UK. The North Down group races only with the standard A rig which comes with the boat and, depending on the tide, in either Millisle Lagoon (provided the tide isn’t so high it overtops the Lagoon wall) or in Groomsport Harbour on Friday afternoons or Sunday mornings (or both!). The Sunday morning start allows at least one of the bunch to race in the Ballyholme Icebreaker for dinghies.

Model yacht racing in Groomsport HarbourModel yacht racing in Groomsport Harbour

The format is an hour and a half of racing, usually about eight three-round races on a windward leeward course.

The latest racing on Friday (25th) saw 12 boats in a very shifty, gusty offshore wind. Brian Spence, leading the Sunday series, was first overall, two points clear of Lee Stevenson, the on-form and, at the moment, the only woman racing, just ahead of David Speers. Needless to say, even model yacht racing isn’t without hazards as in this race Colin Honeyford discovered that bungs are useful and nearly sank. In the absence of David Milne, Dougie Rennie has taken on the mantle of "Basher". Charlie Taylor was doomed as he had water in the electrics (his icebreaker Laser doesn’t have this problem), and Official Scorer Elaine Taylor had to resort to pencil and paper when she lost the programme off the Ipad. It was soon restored, however.

Official Scorer Elaine Taylor with the Rescue boatOfficial Scorer Elaine Taylor with the Rescue boat

Apart from being an International Race Officer, Robin Gray is an inventor. So, to lay the marks, he uses a modified fisherman’s bait boat, and he even has a safety (rescue) boat, which is a radio-controlled motorboat with a floating line attached to lasso any out-of-control craft.

Model yachts from the North Down Model Yacht Racing Club rounding a mark at GroomsportModel yachts from the North Down Model Yacht Racing Club rounding a mark at Groomsport

Robin Gray has put in place alternative Ad Hoc sailing to allow some Winter competition during spells of bad weather; “ As we are losing some of our Winter Series races due to the weather, we are considering going back to the "Ad hoc" sailing we did in the summer - in other words, if we get a window in the weather, say 24 hours ahead, we will ask on the Members Whatsapp group for competitors. I will still set up courses and bring down the kit, but these will not count towards the Winter Series - just an opportunity to get out and race”.

Millisle Model Yacht Sunday series resultsMillisle Model Yacht Sunday series results

North Down Model Yacht Racing Club resultsNorth Down Model Yacht Racing Club results

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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How to sail, sailing clubs and sailing boats plus news on the wide range of sailing events on Irish waters forms the backbone of Afloat's sailing coverage.

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The packed 2013 sailing season sees the usual regular summer leagues and there are regular weekly race reports from Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Howth and Cork Harbour on This season and last also featured an array of top class events coming to these shores. Each year there is ICRA's Cruiser Nationals starts and every other year the Round Ireland Yacht Race starts and ends in Wicklow and all this action before July. Crosshaven's Cork Week kicks off on in early July every other year. in 2012 Ireland hosted some big international events too,  the ISAF Youth Worlds in Dun Laoghaire and in August the Tall Ships Race sailed into Dublin on its final leg. In that year the Dragon Gold Cup set sail in Kinsale in too.

2013 is also packed with Kinsale hosting the IFDS diabled world sailing championships in Kinsale and the same port is also hosting the Sovereign's Cup. The action moves to the east coast in July with the staging of the country's biggest regatta, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 11.

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Punching well above its weight Irish sailing has staged some of the world's top events including the Volvo Ocean Race Galway Stopover, Tall Ships visits as well as dozens of class world and European Championships including the Laser Worlds, the Fireball Worlds in both Dun Laoghaire and Sligo.

Some of these events are no longer pure sailing regattas and have become major public maritime festivals some are the biggest of all public staged events. In the past few seasons Ireland has hosted events such as La Solitaire du Figaro and the ISAF Dublin Bay 2012 Youth Worlds.

There is a lively domestic racing scene for both inshore and offshore sailing. A national sailing calendar of summer fixtures is published annually and it includes old favorites such as Sovereign's Cup, Calves Week, Dun Laoghaire to Dingle, All Ireland Sailing Championships as well as new events with international appeal such as the Round Britain and Ireland Race and the Clipper Round the World Race, both of which have visited Ireland.

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