Like real sailing, just smaller
Published on June 11th, 2018
by Dave Reed, Sailing World
The racing season is short enough as it is in Chicago, especially those years when the spring thaw is agonizingly glacial and the fall cold snap comes too soon.
It used to be that things got pretty quiet around the Chicago YC in the offseason, but with the introduction of the DragonForce 65 last year, Lake Michigan locals are no longer forced sit at home and watch their once-great gridiron Bears stumble through another losing season.
That’s right, come wintertime, there’s plenty of round-the-buoys action down at Chicago YC’s Belmont Station where DragonForce fleet founder Daniel Burns is found holding court behind the glass panels of the floating clubhouse’s upper deck. Bobbing in the harbor are as many as 20 miniature sailboats crossing tacks and past anchored marks.
There are no crews, nor shouting between boats, nor spinnakers going up down, rather elbows bumping in the clubhouse, joysticks clacking and the regular banter of model yacht racing enthusiasts. The rate at which the fleet is growing, Burns may have a leg to stand on when he says it’s the hottest wind-driven racing action in Chi-Town today.
“This time last year, there were five boats, with me and a few friends,” says Burns. “Now, there’s about 107 in our fleet.” The variety of remote wielding sailors runs the gambit he says: kids, older seasoned sailors, local hotshots, and even the club’s flag officers.
The instigators were Burns and his friend Mikey Whitford. Not long ago they were looking at getting into “small” boat remote control sailing. They considered the RC Laser, but the Chinese-made DragonForce offered an attractive low-cost entry. The base boat can be had for $200, and the upgraded remote another $35. “They’re not hard to store or tote around,” says Burns, “some members just keep them in their sail locker.”
Burns never saw Chicago’s DragonForce fleet getting as popular as it is today but the low-cost and one-design nature of the class are appealing. There are other DragonForce fleets elsewhere in the country, mostly small in numbers, but nothing compares to the Chicago set. – Read on