Yachts we sail

Radio Controlled Yachts

Radio control model yachts are extremely popular all over the world. SFMYC has seven active fleets, described below.  The availability of largely maintenance-free fiberglass hulls and affordable yet sophisticated radio control has put RC model yachting within nearly everybody’s reach.  Generally, one servo is used to control the sail position, and a second controls the rudder.  Some boats may include a third servo to control the mainsail shape by bending the mast via backstay tension.  The jib sheet and mainsail sheet are routed to a single winch, so one servo controls both sails synchronously.

RC model yachts are raced exactly like full-sized yachts.  They start in a fleet, race around a predetermined course using buoys set in the lake, and follow rules of sailing very similar to those followed by full-sized yachts.  It is very competitive, requiring keen depth perception, concentration, and practice with your boat.  It is also helpful to be well versed with the racing rules and how to use the rules to gain a competitive edge over your rivals.

With the exception of the RX Class, the RC classes sailed in the SFMYC are one-design.  This means that all of the boats in a class are essentially identical, so racing success is largely determined by the skill of the skipper.  Changes to the hull or rig are generally not allowed. The one-design boats are readily available as kits or fully assembled and ready to sail.  The classes are administered by the American Model Yachting Association (AMYA).  AMYA has adopted specific building and measurement rules governing each class, as well as the sailing rules for competitive events.  Each class has a national secretary who can be contacted for more information, such as boat manufacturers, or the date and place of the class's national championship.  Visit the AMYA website at

The RX Class is developmental, meaning that the rules governing the yacht design and construction allow for significant variation between boats.  This is of particular interest to skippers who are also boat builders, willing to try out new ideas to make their boats go faster.  The RX Class is administered by the SFMYC, however, RX sailors do compete under the AMYA rules for sailing.  See the RX Class description, below, for a link to the building rules.

One advantage the RC yachts have over the Freesail yachts (described below) is their flexibility to sail on different bodies of water or even the ocean, and the opportunity to compete with sailors at different model yacht clubs.  Most RC classes have national organizations and host national championships.  If this is of interest to you, then, when selecting a class, you should bear in mind that the smaller sized boats are generally more easily transported.  Also when selecting a class, note that in the SFMYC, the Star 45, the Infinity 54, and the Santa Barbara classes are raced on weekends, the RX class is raced on Thursdays, and the ODOM class is raced on Tuesdays.  All SFMYC races are held at Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park (next to the club house) and all start at 1:00 p.m.  If you own or purchase a boat that is not represented in the SFMYC fleets, it will be difficult for you to develop your skills and race competitively.  For the RC regatta schedule, see the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule.


Santa Barbara Class

Santa Barbara classIf you have been looking for a radio controlled model yacht that majestically sails and elegantly maneuvers like a crew driven Maxi or 60 footer, the SANTA BARBARA One-Design (OD) is for you. The Santa Barbara is a fractional rigged sloop on a near 6 foot long hull. It's designed for racing in a range of sailing conditions from performing well in light winds to being, well behaved and manageable in rough waters and 15 knots of wind.

It was introduced in 1964 and was one of the first classes to be accepted by the newly formed AMYA in 1971. It is recognized as a modern classic throughout the association. Because of the one-design concept the boats built in the 1960's are competitive to those boats built in the 90's when racing around the buoys. Because of the history of stability in design the Santa Barbara remains popular in the association as a "class boat". The portability of the Santa Barbara is enhanced due to the removable mast, rudder and keel. Most sedans or coupes can transport your yacht to the nearest pond for a day of sailing.  Design specifications and manufacturers can be found at the American Model Yachting Association, as well as contact information for the class secretary.

SFMYC members have approximately 20 Santa Barbaras.  There are eight races during the season, all held on weekends.  See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for race dates.


RX Class

Click here for a larger picture The RX CLASS is the radio-controlled counterpart of the freesail X-class.   The X Class was created in 1939 as an “experimental” class, to allow builders to try out different ideas in yacht design.  Thus, it is a developmental class, unlike the other RC classes in the SFMYC, which are one-design classes.  The RX Class's overarching rule is a limit of no more than 1,000 square inches of measured sail area, with almost no restrictions as to hull shape, length, weight, materials, or type of rig.  Very quickly after 1939, the X Class became very popular all over the country.   With the development of radio control, some X-class boats were converted to RX boats. The class remains popular in the SFMYC although it has faded away elsewhere.  The RX Class is not recognized by the AMYA and the class is administered by the SFMYC.  RX sailors do, when racing, follow the AMYA rules for sailing.

The class is too small to attract a dedicated manufacturer.  Today, the RX class boats are custom made, or are modified from other classes, such as10-Raters or Marblehead boats with up to 1,000 square inches of sail.  RX boats are generally very fast, high performing yachts, much more so than their freesail counterparts.  The SFMYC adopted certain limitations on the freesail X boats for the purpose of keeping older boats competitive.  Known as the "SF Restrictions", these included displacement and draft limits.  The RX Class did not adopt the "SF Restrictions".  Fiberglass tends to be the material of choice, and the boats are long and slim, with deep keels, tall rigs, and light displacements.  See the RX Class Rating Rules for more information governing the RX Class specifications.  SFMYC members have approximately 14 RX boats.  They have an 8-race season, and compete on Thursday afternoons.

Star 45 Class

Click here for a larger imageThe STAR 45 is a hard chine hull designed to be simple enough for an entry level modeler to construct himself, using thin plywood for the hull.  It is a semi-scale model of the full-size Olympic Star boat. It a one design class, based upon an official plan set available from the AMYA.  Some of these models are scratch built. Others are assembled from manufactured kits, or partially fabricated with major components available from suppliers. A typical prefabricated approach for a Star 45 with all radio electronics could cost $500-$600. This one design class allows few variations.  Visit the American Model Yachting Association for class specifications as well as contact information for the class secretary.  SFMYC members have about 12 boats.  They compete on weekends, and have six races per season.  See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for race dates.

Wheeler Class

Wheeler class

The WHEELER is a one-design high performance replica of a Maxi Ocean Racer, and, in the words of Gordon Stout, who has won national championships in several AMYA classes, "It is as close to sailing a real boat as you can get with a model sailboat." The Wheeler is a big boat, with an overall length of 79", a waterline length of 63", a beam of 15", and design displacement of 30 pounds. The Wheeler carries 2,000 sq in of sail, which allows it to plane when the winds are up.  It is extraordinarily fast, and smooth:  an impressive sight on the water.  Because of it's size, however, it is the most expensive  and most difficult to transport of the RC classes at the SFMYC.  Design specifications, manufacturer, and class secretary information are available at the American Model Yachting Association.

Currently, only four SFMYC members have Wheelers, so the class has not yet grown to the point where it can host a regular season race series. 

Infinity 54 Class

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The INFINITY 54 was designed to meet the needs of the beginner as well as experienced sailors with a yacht built to last for many years of active racing. The boat sails well in light winds and performs beautifully in a blow.  Similar in size and performance to the developmental RX Class, the Infinity 54 is an AMYA sanctioned one-design.

A remote controlled sailboat that doesn't take an expert to build and sail competitively and won't cost you an arm and a leg! Not only that, the class rules are laid out to eliminate experimenting and out dating of older boats including a three channel limit on functions. This is truly a high performance ONE DESIGN by definition.  Visit the American Model Yachting Association for class specifications, manufacturer, and contact information for the class secretary.

Members of the SFMYC have about nine Infinity 54s.  They have an eight race season, and race on weekends.  See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for race dates.


ODOM Class

Click here for a larger picture.ODOM (One Design One Meter) is a one-design class, created by selecting one of the best examples of the U.S. One Meter Class, which is a developmental class, and "freezing" it to make a one-design class.  As such, all ODOMs still qualify to race in U.S. One Meter events.  The ODOM is an AMYA sanctioned class.

Originally intended to be an entry level boat, The ODOM has grown into one of the fastest growing one design classes in the country. It is being enjoyed by a wide range of skippers- from beginners to world class sailors.  It's popularity stems from the fact that it is very moderately priced, very easily transported (it can be fitted into many cars without even being unrigged), and a very good sailer.  Where the Santa Barbara may be likened to a GT sedan, or an Infinity 54 to a Ferrari, an ODOM is more like a light and nimble sports car such as a Lotus.

Your finished boat will sail like a dream. She will heel at about 30 degrees in a two to ten knot breeze and point into the wind about 40 degrees, requiring almost no rudder input to stay on track. When you do steer the boat, you will find her to be very responsive to rudder inputs. Down wind running, wing and wing is very fast. She resists nose diving in strong wind puffs extremely well.  An  ODOM likes to be sailed in strong winds and has enough inertia to sail well through choppy water yet she's not too heavy to retard good acceleration in a puff.  Visit for class specifications, manufacturer's data, and contact information for the class secretary.

Members of the SFMYC own about 22 ODOMS, making it the largest RC class in the club.  The club itself owns one ODOM which it makes available on a day use basis for those who would like to use it.  SFMYC ODOMs have an eight race season and race on Tuesday afternoons.  See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for race dates.


Victoria Class

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In 2013, the SFMYC added the Victoria One Design class to its fleet of radio-controlled model yachts.  Not only is it an actively-raced boat in many communities around the world, sanctioned by the American Model Yachting Association, it is a well-balanced, sweet-sailing model yacht.  Better yet, it is relatively inexpensive. The Victoria is a simple, affordable, sailboat manufactured by the Thunder Tiger Model Company, and distributed world wide. The kit's low cost (about $130 for the kit and another $100 for servos and radio,) ease of assembly, and good sailing characteristics make it a great first yacht, while remaining fun to sail and race for old hands as well. It is easy to transport, fully rigged, in the smallest of cars. Most of the Victorias sailed at SFMYC are in a so-called “Silver” fleet, utilizing the stock spars and sails that come with the kit.  Under AMYA class rules, a “Gold” fleet is also permitted; they use custom-made carbon-fiber spars and paneled sails. That adds about $200 to the cost of the boat, and a few of our members sail them.  There are now more than 30 Victoria skippers in the Club, more than a dozen of whom have built their own boats. We also have four Club-owned Victorias which are kept handy in the Boathouse, making it possible for members, new members, and prospective members to sail a Victoria without cost. To reserve a Club boat, or to get hints about building your own, email Michael Fischer, Victoria Fleet Captain: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Victorias have an 8-race season, sailed on Wednesday afternoons.  Every Wednesday afternoon throughout the year rain or shine, will find at least a handfulof Victorias on the Lake -- come sail with us!  In late summer 2015, we will hold on third-annual Golden Gate Challenge Regatta -- Victoria skippers from up and down the West Coast will come to complete with (and often beat) us.  But some of us just like to sail around peacefully, steering clear of the dynamics of racing, and ou wuld be more than welcome to enjoy that aspect of our hobby.

See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for race dates.


Freesail Yachts

The SFMYC was established in 1898, long before the invention of radio control models or fiberglass hulls.  The challenge was to build a wooden boat, then carefully balance and adjust it to sail all by itself.  Freesailing was once very popular all over the United States and Europe.  Virtually every large city had a model yacht pond and associated club.  With the advent of radio control, however, freesailing has almost disappeared.  The ponds and model yacht clubs often still exist, but with radio sailors only.  The exception is San Francisco, where the tradition has been kept alive in the SFMYC.  It is the only place in the world where a full season of regularly scheduled freesail racing continues with four different classes of model yachts.  The SFMYC has been working hard to re-establish an interest in freesailing at the San Diego Model Yacht Club with some success.  The SDMYC freesail group has slowly grown to include two A-Class boats, two X boats, one or two M boats, and about five 36R boats.  They don't yet host host any regular season races, but do hold one 36R Invitational Regatta each year.  The SFMYC has also been instrumental in reviving freesail racing in Great Britain, where activity had dwindled to one national regatta in each of the A Class, M Class, and 6-Meter Class per year.  Now, thanks to the US/UK Challenge Cup, instigated by the SFMYC in 2001, the British have over two dozen 36R sailors and run three 36R races plus a national championship each year.

xclass5_thb.jpgFreesail racing is an altogether different sport than RC racing.  To begin with, the boats cannot be controlled well enough to round buoys or to sail in fleets.  Thus freesail races are match races, conducted in a round-robin fashion, each skipper racing one competitor (or sometimes two) at a time.  Finish lines are set up across each end of the lake, and a race consists of one downwind leg and one upwind leg, with time between to reset sails and steering controls for the next leg.  The competition is much more relaxed than RC racing, with time to stroll along lakeside chatting with your opponent while your boats are doing their own thing out on the water.  For - truth be told - the real challenge is not your opponent, but rather it is understanding the wind and how your boat will respond to it.  You are really challenging the lake itself, and the fact that you happen to be sharing the lake with another sailor is only to serve as a measure of who has best read the conditions and set their boat up to respond properly.  It is extremely satisfying when your boat responds as you had anticipated it would.  Even if your boat "chooses" to misbehave, there is still the pleasure of simply watching the yachts sail.  The scene is so beautiful, it is as though you were alive inside an oil painting.  This is not to say that there is no racing excitement in freesailing.  Sometimes the boats diverge widely, but often they stay side by side and may finish only inches apart.

Aside from the manner in which the races are conducted, the other primary difference between freesail racing and RC racing, xclass6_thb.jpgis that freesailing incorporates an intoxicating challenge to the nautical designer and modelmaker.  This is because all four freesail classes in the SFMYC are developmental classes, as distinct from one-design classes.  Within a few limits such as length, draft, weight, or sail area, the builder is free to try out different hull shapes or different types of sails.  Thus, no two boats are alike in the freesail classes.  Fiberglass hulls are allowed, but many of the boats are still made entirely from wood. (It should be noted that the RC classes do include one developmental class, the RX class.  See above.)  Unlike the RC classes, there are no kits or assembled boats available for any of the freesail classes (with one exception, see M-Class, below).  All boats are individually handmade.  Occasionally, used boats are available to purchase.  If you are interested in constructing your own freesail yacht, contact the club’s Freesail Officer (FSO).  He can supply you with the construction rating rules for each class, and show you a sampling of plan sets if you don’t feel ready to try an original design.  Also, note that the club owns several X and M Class yachts, which it makes available as a very inexpensive seasonal lease to members.

There is no national organization in the United States that administers any freesail class.  The SFMYC locally administers its X-Class, Classic-X, and M-Class yachts (as well as the RX-Class).  The Model Yachting Association of Great Britain (MYA) administers the 36R Class.  The International Model Yacht Racing Union (IMYRU) does sanction the M-Class, but its class rules differ in certain important aspects from the M-Class rules adopted by the SFMYC. See the M Class Rating Rules for details.

A major limitation to freesail yachting is that it is only practical to sail on purpose-built ponds that have an accessible edge all the way around, such as our own Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park.  With few exceptions, notably the 36R Class, competition is limited to the SFMYC and Spreckels Lake , since freesailing isn’t done anywhere else.  Another possible limitation for some sailors is that freesailing is a bit more physically demanding than RC sailing.  It requires one to walk up and down the length of the lake a half dozen times, about two miles for a regatta.  After racing, the sailors retire to the clubhouse for a period of socialization and refreshments.

The racing rules for freesail yachts at SFMYC is found here.

On the web, more information about freesail boats can be found in the Vintage Model Yacht Group (UK) and the US Vintage Model Yacht Group Sites.  

All SFMYC freesail races take place on weekends and all start at 1:00 p.m. For the freesail regatta schedule, return to the home page and click on the Sail Squadron Calendar.

X Class

Click for a larger picture X Class – The X Class was created in 1939 as an “experimental” class, to allow builders to try out different ideas in yacht design.  It’s overarching rule is a limit of no more than 1,000 square inches of measured sail area, with almost no restrictions as to hull shape, length, materials, or type of rig (although spinnakers are not allowed).  The X Class quickly became very popular all over the United States.  Boats in the San Francisco club date all the way back to 1939, and the class remains popular in the SFMYC.  A few SFMYC rules limiting, among other things, the minimum weight to 22 pounds, and the maximum draft to 15 inches, have successfully restrained development to keep the oldest boats competitive with the newest, but there is still plenty of latitude to interest the amateur naval architect.  Go to the X-CLASS RATING RULES to find the class specifications.

Since the rules do not penalize overall length, X boats typically have graceful overhangsClick here for a larger picture and look beautiful on the water.  They are also the largest and fastest of the freesail classes racing at SFMYC.  X boats generally range from about 66 to 76 inches long and from about 22 to 32 pounds.  While there are a few exceptions with simple rigs, in general X boats are too large to be easily transported and almost all of the active fleet is stored in the clubhouse.  They are taken to the lakeside in wheeled dollies.

SFMYC members own almost 40 X boats.  A number of the yachts belong to the club, and are available for seasonal lease to club members very inexpensively.  The X Class races on weekends.  They have a six race regular season, plus the Skipper's Cup regatta, a combined X vs M event.  See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for race dates.


M Class

Click here for a larger picture M Class – The 50-800 Marblehead Class was created in 1930 and formally adopted by the Model Yacht Racing Association of America in 1932 and the International Model Yacht Racing Union (IMYRU) in 1937. By the mid-1930s it had grown to be the most popular class in the world.  The basic class rule is 50 inches maximum length and 800 square inches of measured sail area.  It remains the largest freesail class in the SFMYC, with the club and members owning approximately 50 boats.

It is a developmental class, with few restrictions beyond the basic 50-800 rule. With the overall length limited by the class rules, M boats have mostly evolved to have short or no overhangs at the bow and stern.  The class is still recognized by IMYRU. However, the SFMYC fleet has adopted certain draft and displacement limits which have successfully kept the oldest boats competitive with the newest.  Thus SFMYC boats are no longer competitive with modern IMYRU boats, some of which are still sailed in England.  See the M-class rating rules (pdf) for details.  All of the SFMYC M boats are custom built, either with wood or fiberglass hulls (with wooden decks).  However there does exist one manufacturer who will build you (to SFMYC rules) a freesail M Class yacht to your order.  GRP Model Yachts, in Watsonville, California.

Although smaller than the X Class, M boats are still a bit large to be easily transported.  Nearly all of the active fleet of M boats is kept in the SF clubhouse.  The club owns seven M boats which are available for seasonal lease to members very inexpensively.  The M Class races on weekends.  They have a six race regular season, plus one Invitational Regatta open to non-members, plus the Skipper's Cup, a combined X vs M event.  See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for race dates.

36R Class

Click here for a larger picture The SFMYC was founded in 1898 by members sailing 36" yachts.  It was not, however, the same class as the 36R being sailed today.  The 36R Class ("R" for restricted) was established in England in 1929, predating both the X and M classes.  It is a developmental class based on a very simple rule:  if the hull fit into a 36" x 11" x 9" box, anything was legal.  The rule has been amended several times (it is now 37" including a rubber bumper on the bow), but is still essentially wide open, with no weight or sail area limitations.  The class is administered by the Model Yachting Association of Great Britain, where it is known as the 36" Class, and primarily sailed as radio control boats.  See the 36R Class Rating Rules (PDF) for details.

Although older than the X or M classes, the 36R Class is relatively new to the SFMYC.  It wasn't sailed here until 2002.  In 2000, the SFMYC proposed challenging its British counterparts to a race.  The challenge was accepted, and in 2001, the first US/UK Challenge Cup was raced, in England, using M Class yachts. Thereafter, it has become a biannual event, alternately held in the United States and England.  After the first race, however, it was realized that a smaller, more easily transported boat was needed, so the 36R Class was chosen.  Consequently, a crash building  program was undertaken in order to have enough boats in the SFMYC to meet the British here in 2003.  The 36R Class immediately became very popular in the SFMYC and has grown to about 35 boats, including one boat owned by the club which is available for lease to a member.  The US/UK Challenge Cup has also sparked a resurgence of interest in freesailing in Great Britain, with about two dozen boats now supporting 3 season events plus a national championship.  A nascent fleet is also growing in San Diego, where the SDMYC has about five 36Rs.

In keeping with its status as a "suitcase" boat, plus the fact that the clubhouse did not have room for another fleet, no members store 36R yachts in the clubhouse.  The 36R Class races on weekends.  It has six regular season races, plus one Invitational Regatta for nonmembers.  In addition, the SDMYC also hosts one Invitational Regatta.  The 6th US/UK Challenge Cup will be hosted by the SFMYC in 2011, tentatively in early October at Redd's Pond, Marblehead Massachusetts, and at the Reflecting Pool, Washington D.C.  (Now that does sound like fun!)  See the Current Sail Squadron Regatta Schedule for this year's race dates.