Newspaper Page Text
pfee San Francisco Sunday Call
EVERY SUNDAY'S DERBY DAY
(N GOLDEN GATE PARK WHEN
THE MARVELOUS MINIATURE
RACERS SCUD TO AND FRO
OVER the PLACID SURFACE
OF SPRECKELS LAKE
tHIS is no tale of splendid cup de
fenders fighting through a bois
terous *e< with wave washed
decks and spars and torn
■ ,ut the tiny craft that flicker to
», and as they go, skim with an
level keel the liquid silver from
• : shallow waters of Spreck
;:<■ in Golden Gate park—just a
•" little play yachts. To the Sunday
i they send no stir of- thought
thrttl of excitement —but to the
.at sail them, they are a source
dless fascination and breathless
;i you were in knickerbockers
, ~-!■ rig a shingle with a hair
ttd a square of paper and send
■..at shingle sailing in the batntub?
on remember the excitement mi
luspenee as you blew with all your
upon the sail to hurry the slug
couree of that plwe of wood?
In tae Model Yacht club of San I- ran
cl» w voutn and old age Join hands.
oyi of 12 swell with the dignity
of age and old men run and jump aitU
laugh and quarrel, Just as they
yean a«C fvor the shingle in
■ub of water.
* • * *
'Say, you lubber, fill your mainsail.
Fill it 7 tell you. What do you mean,
anyhow? Fill that mainsail. Do you
fsnr me? ,,
3 the commodore shouting. He
as jumping up and d'-wn and waving
hands and legs in his exc!tem*Bt>
But the sailer m fei lnw -
He grunted a gutteral -'Don't have to
and settled the situaUuii by <Eiviae the
yacht a shove amidships with a long
bamboo pole that, sent the boat floun
dering- tiut into the middle of the lake.
Then he turned and laughed mockingly
at the purple face of the commodore.
The little boat sent so precipitously
from the shore went over on its side
until the tip of its topmast dipped into
the water. But in another instant it
righted itself, veered and yawed, and
then grew steady cm an even keel as a
stiff western breeze caught its slack
sails, shook them out and filled and
swelled them. Then, swiftly and surely,
it leaped forward, holding , steadily on
Its way, ovc-rtaking and slipping easily
by the commodore's boat, that was
swinging on a lazy, deliberate wing.
As it glided over the "line" that marked
the end of the course it was just 13 sec
The commodore's breath was coming
in gasps. He rushed up .to the vic
torious sailor and waved a book of by
laws in his face.
•isay, , ' he shouted, "you make me tired.
The bylaws say that you must fill your
mainsail when you shove a boat off."
, they don't," answered the sailor.
"Yea, they do."
No, they doa't"
"11l prove it."
■ V"v can't prove it."
•Til bet you $5 to a nickel."
"Aw. you make me tired. You cheated."
"Ho, 1 didn't."
"Tee, you did."
Now came the time keeper, Captain
Oliver Madscn. He owns a string of real
ship.? of all shapes and sizes reaching
from here to the antipodes. His hair
and beard are as white as the sails of
his model yacht.
"Say," he shouted, "what are you fel
lows lighting about, anyhow? Hurry up.
There's going to be another race."
Then they all rushed back to the start
ing point, unmindful of the scorching
rays of tlfe September sun
In common week-a-day life the
commodore is a capitalist and the sailor
is a "gas man." When the commodore
enters the stock exchange he is greeted
on all sides with a respectful doff of the
hat and a solicitous "How do you do,
Mr. Brannan?" The "gas man" spends
long, weary hours during the week col
lecting bills from people who groan
when he puts in an appearance.
But when these two men—one is 24
and the other «i>—meet on Sunday on
the shore of Spreckels lake with their
boats tucked under their arms ready
for action, they come together as two
swaggering , boys. There is no pride of
ancestry or joy in being a, millionaire
nor misery in having to serve. It is
a question of "Can your boat beat
mine?" and the only way to gain the
respect of a model yachtsman is to
be the owner of a boat that will sail
faster than any other on the lake. On
any Sunday of the year one can find
at this spot men gathered from every
walk of life bound together by one
thought and one desire. Each one wants
to be the owner of the fastest model
yacht. Hope and- enthusiasm is never
on the wane. When a little yacht. In
the construction of which its buildeiv
has spent many a long seance reach
ing over the midnight hour, fails, and
is hooted and jeered by the crowrl
on shore, its owner goes home and
lays the keel for another boat. He is
determined to win out. He monopolizes
the woodshed or the living room, as
may best suit his purpose, and then
digs and pares and shaves and paints
and polishes every minute of the time
that he can spare from office or shop.
Every atom of his wisdom *roee into
this tiny thing, all skin and bone.
He usually builds after the model of
some famous' yacht builder. When
finished it represents the very limit of
his skill. AlvMy; while at work on it
he experiti.cfe n.e exauisite exhllara-
Aon ot being , about to reach the crisis
af his existence. He knows he has a
winner this time.
When the little boat is finished he
takes it out during the week, or very
early Sunday morning, when none of
his brother yachtsmen are about, and
tries it out. His hour of triumph is
at hand and he can scarcely wait for
the race to come off Sunday afternoon.
Before being entered for the races
the new boat must be weighed by the
official weigher of the club. This per
formance is gone through in the club
house, which is situated near the sta
dium. There is a large tank of water
kept for this purpose, and before Che
boat can be qualified the weigher must
wrestle with an algebraic formula that
runs like this. Length multiplied by
the, square root of the sail area and
divided by five times the cubic root
of the displacement.
When the time for the is at
hand the various boats entered for the
race are gathered at the far end of the
lake, where they can get the full bene
fit of the western breeze. The starter
counts off the seconds and at the right
moment a little craft is shoved far out
Into the lake with the aid of a long
pole, and it is left alone with the wind
to prove Its worth. Just 10 second*
later—the interval allowed to prevent
collision—another boat is launched, and
so on until the entire fleet of white
wings is skimming over , the lake. But
here is where the gamble comes in.
There is always surprise and disap
pointment waiting for some one.
For a few moments the boats sail
serenely on like a nock of snowy swan.
Then comes a sudden gust of wind
sweeping through a gap in the rank of
pine that circles the shore of the lake.
The boat that happens in the course of
that gust ie doomed. It is a. contrary
wind and at its mercy the little craft
staggers and plunges. The sails grow
slack and flop hopelessly as it turns
about and drifts to the edge' of the lake.
Another gust through another gap gets
another boat. The "fluky" winds, as
these yachtsmen call the vagrant
draft cfeming through the gaps in the
pines ashore, bring wrath and despair
to the owners of the boats. Said one
"If they wanted to give us a place to
sail our boats, why did they insist upon
planting those trees on the shore? We
never can get a steady breeze. There
is no telling just when one of those
miffs will spoil our sport."
The bylaws of the club permit the
shoving off again of luckless boats.
They still have every chance to win,
for there is no telling Just when the
fortunate ones that thus far have es
caped the contrary breezes will en
counter one and be thrown off the
The race course is an eighth of a mile
long and every man follows on shore in
the wake of his little yacht. When the
race is done he leads it back to the
starting point with a long bamboo pole.
At the end of the day there are few of
these enthusiasts who have not walked
at least 10 miles along the edge of the
Most of the model yachts in the club
—there are 75 of them—are sloop
rigged, that is. one mast with a fore
and aft sail. They are built of cedar
or redwood, and their sails are made of
cambric. Some of the hulls are dug out
of a solid piece of wood until the shell
is less than an eighth of an inch thick.
Many of the hulls are built up of cedar
ribs about as thick as the cover of a
cigar box. The little boats are kept on
their course by a system of elastic
gearing that tightens and relaxes and
allows the sails to shift with the change
of the wind. Most of the boats are
valued far up into the hundreds. They
are exquisitely made and beautifully
There are only two model yacht clubs
in America —the one here and the one
in Prospect park, Brooklyn. There
are thousands of these clubs in Europe
and down in Australia and New. Zea
land there is scarcely a basin of water
that has not its model yacht club.
The San Francisco Model Yacht club
had its origin years ago when the little
boats were sailed from .Meigg's wharf
over to Goat iMand. Eight years ago
the park commissioners gave the club
the exclusive use of Spreckels lake.
When the little St. Francis was re
moved from Union square some time
ago, a portion of it was set down in
Golden Gate park near the stadium.
This building has' been turned over to
the model yachtsmen to be used as a
clubhouse. It is here that the
t??'."3 keep their boats when not in use.
Nothing could tell the history of yacht
ing better than these little crafts as
they stand side by Side in this greet
room. Most of them are models of the
real yachts that have become famous
the world over, the buUders of which
are always striving for perfection of
speed. But when apparently the limit
of skill has been' reached, some one
cornea out with new plans and the rec
ord time is reduced. Immediately all
over the world the model yachtsman
goes to work to make for himself a
model of the champion and the success
attending his efforts is shown by the
number of pennants strung from the
tip of his mainmast.
Here in San Francisco are silver cups
and gold medals possessed ""by mem
bers of the club, trophies won in a
series of contests. J. J. Doyle, the
owner of the "Priscilla," wears a dia
mond medal which his boat won for
him just after the earthquake.
There are 50 members *of the SaP
Francisco Model Yacht club and some
of them have been building anß sail
ing these little boats for over 30 years.
One of the most enthusiastic memberr
of the club is E. S. Milman. He ha a
traveled the world over, visiting ev*rir
notable model yacht clur> on the g'.t-St.
He declares model yacht racing to
the most scientific kind of sailing wnen
carried on under right conditions.
The commodore oi the cfub is Jolia
Brannan. There is never an after
noon that Brannan can not be foSM
on the shore of the lake, sailing arm
leading the "Ruth." He says that
his perfect health is a result of the
yt-ars of devotion that he has given to
model yacht racing.
"It is the ideal sport," he declares.
"One gets lots of exercise in the open
air. There is not too much nervous
excitement. It is just good fun. It
makes you feel like a boy again."
And to spend Sunday afternoon
among the members and listen to them
laugh and joke and shout at one an
other as they chase up and down after
their little boats, one might well be
lieve that these men have found the
real secret of how to be young Rnd to