RADIO CONTROLLED: Alan Morten with his Dragon Force 65 radio controlled model yacht.

IT’S not quite the America’s Cup, but for a group of enthusiasts, radio-controlled model yacht racing is just as much fun.

Kawerau man Alan Morton has been involved with yachting in Tauranga, Lake Rotoiti and the Bay of Islands in the past, however, a new trend in yachting has seen him sailing on a scaled down version.

Alan is part of a small, but quickly growing group in the Eastern Bay who are intending to get together for fun regattas on a regular basis with their model yachts, and they are keen to encourage others to take up the sport.

With four in Kawerau and and one in Whakatane, they are working on using a small area of sheltered water between the two towns to meet for mini informal regattas.

He says the group is part of a growing trend in New Zealand and overseas, and new clubs popping up all around the country. The closest is in Papamoa, which has around 35 members who sail on the artificial lakes that have been created around the new housing developments there.

The design the groups mostly sail is the 650 millimetre Dragon Force (DF65) which Alan says can be purchased as a kitset for around $335, complete with radio gear.

Alan says he doesn’t have any interest in starting an official club at this stage. “We just want to get together and race, purely for fun.”

As a former yachtsman, however, he says remote controlled yacht racing has a lot in common with the regular sport.

“It’s an activity that’s currently taking off throughout New Zealand. It mostly appeals to retired people, mostly men, who quite often have sailed yachts in the past and are just looking to have a bit of fun and camaraderie in their retirement.”

Though he admits that it can be just as much fun for women and younger people, who are just as competitive as no physical strength is involved.

“It’s just like regular yachting, but they’re under a metre long. The principles are the same, you can use similar tactics.

“A little bit of sailing knowlege is desirable but not mandatory. Anyone who has been used to racing yachts, whether it be just dinghys, centreboarders, or bigger boats, traileryachts, keelers, catamarans and so forth, the racing racing rules are much the same.

“Although,” he says, “racing is much more relaxed amongst the club members at Papamoa and will be here as well. There will be no pistols at dawn – no protests.”

Anyone wanting to express interest in getting involved with the activity can contact Alan on 021 877902.

diane.mccarthy@thebeacon.co.nz