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Team Tropic Sailing Association Where: Walsingham Park, 10601 125th St. N • Hours: 9 a.m. to noon Sunday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday.

Solo sailors race remote control sloops at Walsingham Park

While many in Largo muddled through the workday on a recent Wednesday, Richard Jacques, Gary Kenslow and John Miller focused on the slight breeze. They stood together under an oak tree near the front of Walsingham Park.

The three friends came out to play, uh, race, together. As members of the Team Tropic Sailing Association, a club devoted to remote control sailboats, the men visit the shores of Lake Walsingham twice a week.

"This morning, the wind has been quiet. It tried our patience for a while, but it's finally kicked up just enough,'' said Jacques, 57, a Largo resident and club member for more than a decade.

Their creations, replicas of 20th century international racers, are no more than 10 pounds each. The boats carry a single mast. The sails, made out of a plastic film, include a main sail and a jib.

All agree that the true sailor in the bunch is Kenslow. His boat, dubbed Zipper, is a planked-hull sloop made from balsa wood.

Kenslow, 63, made the 1940s-style vessel from scratch.

"The real thing would be invaluable, worth thousands, and I don't expect to ever be on one,'' he said. "But I do love to sail both miniatures and big boats. I love anything that has to do with wind.''

As the buddies manned the helms of their boats via remote control, a heron walked past, heading toward John Walsh, who was casting his fishing pole nearby.

Under the blue skies, next to the calm water, Walsh, 57, hoped to catch a fish or two. It looked like the heron hoped Walsh would as well.

When asked if he'd be interested in manning the controls of Zipper, Walsh nodded. "The sun isn't too hot, and the breeze is right on. I totally plan to stay outside. If I don't catch something soon, yes, I'd love to take a turn,'' he said.

And he fished on, as the tiny boats continued to cut through the lake.

Piper Castillo welcomes ideas for Largo Explorer. She can be reached at pcastillo@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4163.

Solo sailors race remote control sloops at Walsingham Park 10/11/08 [Last modified: Saturday, October 11, 2008 4:31am]
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