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Pic 1: The venue - the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens - a general view. Pic 2: From about 10am vintage yachtsmen began to arrive and rig their yachts. Pic 3 & 4: Some superb workmanship was on display.

It’s not too often that your scribe gets an editorial commission, but having done the job last year, I was asked to report the 2007 Round Pond Vintage Sail Rally held on Sunday July 15th. A bit like a touring cricket side, the organizers, the Vintage Model Yacht Group (VMYG), hold their meetings at various venues during the course of each year, but this must surely be one of the most picturesque. I believe they also sail at Hampton Court and that must be pretty amazing too. The Round Pond in Kensington Gardens is of course, surrounded as it is by bits and bobs of British history, a historic venue for model boats - one of the very oldest in the country as far as I am aware.

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Pic 5 & 6: Boats like this lovely old beach yawl attracted much attention from boat watchers of all ages. This was entered for the Howlett Trophy - the premier award of the day. Pic 7: An early model being attributed to Bassett-Lowke, though unproven. Owned by Martin Bandey. Pic 8: A lovely vane yacht I did not manage to identify.

The 2007 VMYG Rally

As with last year, I am indebted to Russell Potts, Tony Warren, Martin Bandey and all the other vintage yachtsmen present for help with captions and for extending a friendly welcome to ‘Model Boats’ and its ignorant, power boating ‘old timer’ reporter. I’ll say no more and will leave readers to simply enjoy my pictures of a Sunday spent in the heart of London. Why not go and see for yourselves next year? Have a look at the club website (, and pick a day to go and have a look. If a dyed in the wool ‘engines fan’ like yours truly, can enjoy the laid back sailing day of these genial guys, so can you and I recommend it heartily. Pack yourself a lunch and just go. You might even get to see a fascinating veteran steamboat like I did.

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Pic 9 to 12: Martin Bandey again, but this time with a very old steam yacht.

Both Steam and Sail

The steam yacht in question, owned by Martin Bandey, is as yet unidentified, but was a large and very old looking (late 1800’s was the consensus) beast, with a clipper bow, plank on frame carvel hull and a very large in-line/slide valve twin cylinder engine. The boiler’s pressure gauge is marked ‘made in Germany’ for a British retailer, but who knows who actually made the plant, whether commercial like Stevens, or from castings in a home workshop. The prop. was an absolutely enormous brass casting, interesting in itself.

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Pic 13 & 14: Two lovely racing yachts sail on London’s famous venue. The yacht sporting the white ensign is I think a 10 Rater owned by member Deryck Forsyth and the other is a modern one metre class boat. Pic 15 & 16: I love vintage mechanisms. Here are the two main types of self steering gear pre-radio control, Braine and Vane mechanisms. The latter is still in use on full size yachts.

Martin is a keen collector and had with him a few things that rather caught my eye. For example I have pictured a tinplate four funnel clockwork liner made by Bing of Nuremburg. About 1900 to 1910 or so would be my guess, but I did not examine it closely enough to be certain. I collect Bing trains and if it has any sort of GBN mark it is certainly pre-WWI.

The spring is very strong, almost the width of the hull, and it would have been interesting to see the key as these were often decorative in themselves. There was a pretty small yacht hull over which there was much lively debate re. possible Bassett Lowke manufacture, but what really caught my personal fancy were a pair of minute, carved from the solid model yachts or maybe nice quality toys attributed to a maker called, if I remember correctly, ‘Sugg’. These were quite exquisite and not at all toy like. I’d have loved to take one of them home and as I say, I’m no sailorman!

Attendance was a bit down on last year I thought and there was not a lot of sailing going on - a real waste of a lovely water. Chairman Russell Potts, who did sail his own pretty little schooner ‘Black Joke’, tried to tell your reporter that the vintage group was just as much about chat as sailing, but I was not quite convinced. More likely the fact that there was a thunderstorm hanging about had something to do with it I thought, for unlike my simple Sea Urchin these big yachts take a lot of time to rig and de-rig, then put away etc. A keen vintage sailor was Derek Forsyth who had the Round Pond to himself for quite a while. His yacht sported the white ensign and I, maybe rudely, enquired if he was truly entitled to such an honour. He replied in the negative, but said he had done it to please a friend so I was minded to let him off! Members began to drift away about 2pm when rain finally began to suggest an appearance and I left soon after.

The Howlett Trophy

Before my departure, the day included a competition for the Howlett Trophy. The late Richard Howlett was a renowned restorer of model yachts. This year the trophy, judged I believe by Alistair Roach and Jeanni Howlett, was awarded to Bruce Prole who was sailing his 19th century schooner ‘Joan’ with his son. There were five entries as diverse as a 10R and a beach yawl. The trophy was presented by Jeanni Howlett, who also sailed her Star model yacht, ‘Jean II’. The winning model ‘Joan’, has an interesting example of early self steering gear, pre-Braine type gear I was told by Bruce, who added that he had ‘re-built her from a complete wreck’. Just my sort of modeller is Bruce, as readers will see when my own Aerokits Sea Urchin scratch rebuild is run as a short serial within ‘Collectors Corner’ next year. There are few things more satisfying than taking a ‘bin job’ and turning it into something nice. I recommend it heartily.

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Pic 17 & 18. : Mrs Jeanni Howlett presented the Howlett Trophy to Mr Bruce Prole with his restoration of a 19th century schooner to sailing condition, seen here just getting under way. Pic 19 & 20: I’m finishing with a model I’d quite like myself, this Bing four funnel clockwork toy liner c.1910. Pic 21: So tiny I almost missed them, but these two model yacht hulls really caught my eye. Attributed to a firm (I believe) called Sugg, they are no more than 8 or 9ins long, but just perfect. What were they for? Toys or models, I’ve no idea!

The winning boat was not radio controlled and of course many of these very old model yachts never were. In my view and speaking as a lifelong radio man, free running yachts and power boats are easily much more fun than r/c. Good exercise too! I would not have said that when aged 20 or so, but now, older & wiser by 40 years, I do consider it so and I have done and enjoyed all types of model boating.

Readers, one of the best things about attending this sort of ‘do’ are the people you get to meet. One guy I ran into told me he had picked up a Taycol Supermarine electric motor for £1, yes a pound! Now that is a bargain. Others were kind enough to say how much they enjoyed reading my MB vintage column. As I say, you cannot lose by attending such delightful gatherings. So why not go yourself next year - I shall.