Come sail away in Irvine

Mason Lake is considered one of the best model sailboat lakes in America.

A vintage model sailboat that stands taller than an NBA basketball player is making a comeback at Mason Regional Park.

“They’re majestic on the water,” says Bob Schumacher, launching his Newport 12 in the park’s 9-acre lake. “These boats have been dormant for years, but now people are racing them again.”

Schumacher, who’s raced model sailboats for nearly 50 years, nudges a lever on his radio-controller and watches the sail catch wind.

“Some people move to be near their favorite golf course,” he says, grinning. “I moved from Beverly Hills to Irvine because of this lake. It’s one of the best sailing venues in the country, maybe the world.”

Irvine’s Sailing Club

In a city known for parks, Mason stands out for its tranquility.

It’s popular for watching birds, turtles and model sailboats that remind you of a park in Paris.

“Whenever I’m here, I lose track of time,” says Don Frakes, commodore of the Orange County Model Sailing Club.

Since forming in 1975, the club has produced more than two dozen national champions, yet it’s also known for a spirit of inclusion.

“Come out and try one of our boats,” says Frakes, whose club meets here Wednesdays and weekends. ”If you’re interested, we’ll help you get started.”

Eight Feet Tall

The Newport 12 measures 6 feet long and 8 feet tall. It was the first model raced on Mason Lake.

And it still turns heads.

“We saw the sailboats and had to come look,” says dentist Nikolay Sky, with his wife and son.

Soon, his son is holding the radio controls of a 52-year-old handmade sailboat as both parents watch with pride.

“Every time we come here,” Sky says, “it’s like a little gift to ourselves.”

For details about the Orange County Model Sailing Club, visit

Bob Schumacher, a model sailing enthusiast, teaches an Irvine child how to sail a vintage Newport 12 sailboat. Years ago, California’s favorite TV personality, Huell Howser said he had “an amazingly good time” as he watched the boats run through the lake.