The Wickford Harbor Mudheads
Published on August 2nd, 2015
by Roger Vaughan, WindCheck Magazine
Many sports offer electronic or mechanical toy or game versions that are lame compared to the real thing. That’s not the case with sailing. Ask anyone who has raced a radio-controlled model sailboat, and he (or she) will go on about what an exciting, ultimate vicarious thrill it is. Even better, ask any of the Mudheads who race radio controlled, quarter-scale Lasers off a 30-foot pontoon boat in Wickford, Rhode Island on Thursday evenings in season.
“My only regret is I said, ‘No thanks’ the first time the Mudheads called me,” says Jim Pascalides, a foot surgeon. “I said, ‘I’m not old enough, that’s nursing home stuff, too lame.’ Man, was I wrong. I can’t believe how much fun it is.” Pascalides, like most of the Wickford Harbor Mudheads, raced Etchells for 20 years in the Narragansett Bay Fleet #8. These are race-savvy, competitive friends who have downsized in a most satisfying way. “We’re not racing big boats anymore,” Pascalides says. “The RC Laser has provided a renaissance for us.”
Even good big boat sailors experience the learning curve with radio-controlled boats. Steering a boat that’s coming at you bow-on takes some practice. “The guys all had two years on me to work on their psycho-motor skills and depth perception,” Pescalides says. “My first season I apologized a lot. They said no worries, they had crashed into each other a lot their first year.”
Jim Myers, a sailmaker who races the full-size, demanding VX One dinghy – and big Lasers – found the Mudheads online and joined them with a repaired junker he was given by a friend. For several weeks he was turning his whole body to orient himself to the model in order to steer. “I provided a lot of laughs,” Myers says. “Then something clicked, and the brain got it.” Myers was so impressed he now sells RC Lasers. “It’s the only true one-design boat there is,” he says, “regardless of size.”
The Wickford fleet started when another Etchells sailor, Bryson Hall, spotted RC Lasers racing in Sopers Hole, West End, Tortola during Christmas, 2010. “I was hooked right away,” Hall says. It took him almost a year to talk his friend, Paul Sollitto, into buying boats and begin racing off Hall’s dock on Wickford Harbor. Annoyed by the swirling wind and other limitations of the dock, they went searching for a pontoon boat that would provide a platform for racing in open water. – Read on