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Destination Recreation: RC Sailing - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Destination Recreation: RC Sailing

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WATERBURY, Vt. -

It isn't exactly a sprint at the start on Waterbury Reservoir Friday. That's because right now Mother Nature, isn't cooperating.

"That was messy at the start but now the wind has come out again a little bit," says announcer Charlie Berry.

Berry says these boats will eventually work it out. But he's glad he doesn't have one out there.

"This is a day I'd rather be doing race director than racing!" he says.

There are no motors on these J yachts, so they rely on the wind like normal sailboats. The handlers can control the rudder and sails via radio handsets, but that's about it.

Gradually the boats make their way through the red buoys -- their start line -- and head across the water, where another set of buoys marks their turnaround point. They'll finish at the yellow marks. One thing that sets these boats apart is their size.

"So these boats are about 8.5-9 feet long, they're very heavy, very big, incredible graceful," says Rob Hill.

Hill traveled up here from Westport, Massachusetts, and has been racing for 15 years. He started because he was bored. Now, he's anything but.

"It just grabs you as an activity. It's building and it's sailing, so it's 12 months. And when you're in cold-weather climates, the building is a big part of the activity," he says.

That's right, many of the boats on the water here are built by the men driving them.

"If you build a boat that doesn't perform... not so good. It's headed for the burn pile. For most of us these have very little value if it does not perform," Hill says. "There is a degree of competition in this."

Competition that's mostly for bragging rights. It's a big group of friends, so the races are a social occasion, a time to try out the boats or just watch. Aside from some thumb work, it's not a physically-demanding activity, but participants say that mentally it's tiring because they have to focus on details for the whole race.

"I've been doing this for a while but I still have a lot of sailing to learn," says Tim Stone from Essex Junction. "I think everyone would probably say the same thing here though."

Stone has his wife and kids to thank for his current racing obsession. They got him a small model, and after a summer, he was hooked. Then when his friends made the transition to J yachts, he followed suit. Friday was his third time racing his boat, and he says he's still getting used to it.

"Just the size -- it's unbelievable," he says.

And once the races are done, it's time to take the boats out of the water for some TLC.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: "So then you really have to be kind-of dedicated to want one of these?"

Tim Stone: "Yes, I'd say so. And a little nuts doesn't hurt either!"

Recreation that's a little nuts, but a lot of fun!

The racing continues Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. on the pond behind the Commodore Inn on Rte 100 in Stowe. Those boats much smaller, called the EC-12 class. They encourage people to come watch!

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