International Skeeter Association Regatta
The International Skeeter Association (ISA) was organized in the late 1930s and the first ISA regatta was sailed in 1940. Skeeters were developed on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin. They are piloted by a single skipper and steer from the front of the boat as opposed to the original iceboats which were crewed by two or more and steered from the rear.
The Skeeter is the “Formula One” of ice yachting, a wide open development class where state-of-the-art sailing is seen annually. The only restriction on the Skeeter builder is a 75 square foot sail maximum sail area. While the basic configuration for successful E Skeeters has long been established, significant design improvements have been developed within the Four Lakes fleet. Taller rigs and rear seat Skeeters designed and built by 4LIYC members Bill Mattison and Paul Krueger have brought world championship titles to Madison skippers. In 1989, New Jersey’s Dan Clapp took the ice boating world by storm with his first front-seater and dominated the ISA regatta during the 1990s. Skeeter builders are adept with high tech materials like carbon fiber, and Kevlar. The super powerful Skeeters are the fastest boats on the ice. Sufficiently committed skippers find the greatest challenge in these boats, where design, building, and maintenance skills share equal roles with sailing ability
“The Korean War introduced you to the real ‘Honey Bucket Wagons’. You always said, ‘You can never come out spelling like a rose.'”
Lynn Mattison Raley about her father, Bill Mattison.
When Jerry Simon and I were looking through the Krogman scrapbook photos, the subject of Bill Mattison’s Renegades and Skeeters came up. I’ve always wondered if Bill ever had an iceboat with plain old HONEYBUCKET on the side, without a Roman numeral next to the name. (As far as I can ascertain, there has never been a HONEYBUCKET. Jerry Simon agreed that Bill went from SNAPSHOT to HONEYBUCKET II.)
Bill’s daughter, Lynn Mattison Raley, explains the lineage best in a wonderful book she put together about her dad.
“Bill was now really hooked on iceboats and started building his first one-design iceboat, a Renegade. Unfortunately, during the winter of 1949, a fire swept through his family’s home. Damage was confined to the basement, destroying Bill’s new iceboat. Undaunted, he built another. Two years later, SNAPSHOT, named in honor of the family business, Star Photo Service, was on the ice ready for her first race. That boat also met with an unfortunate end. While waiting for his first race to begin, the [stern-steerer] FRITZ came around the leeward mark of the racecourse, spinning out of control right into Bill’s new boat, turning the beautiful SNAPSHOT into a pile of firewood. Then came the Korean War and service with the army. Iceboating would have to wait for Uncle Sam.
After the war, Bill finished his third Renegade. SNAPSHOT’S first race was on Lake Monona. “We had 60 boats on the starting line and I finished that regatta in the top 10,” Bill said. Speed, they say, is a narcotic. You can never get enough. So it was with Bill and iceboats. In 1954, he build his first class E Skeeter, HONEYBUCKET. The rest, as they say, is history. His boats set the standard for the evolution of the Skeeter class. He continually refined and improved his designs, eventually producing 14 HONEYBUCKETS before he retired from the sport in 2008.”
The area sailing community turned out in force for Bill Mattison’s induction into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame on June 7, 2017 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center. Jane and Susie Pegel represented Geneva Lake’s Skeeter Iceboat Club, the Harkens, Perrigos, and Carole Miller were there from Pewaukee, and a big contingent from the Green Lake Ice Yacht Club added to the fun of the evening. The above video was produced by the Madison Sports Hall of Fame and was shown as part of Bill’s induction. Don Sanford and Steve Holtzman deserve a lot of credit for their efforts that resulted in this wonderful evening. Thanks to John Hayashi for taking the social photos.
During his 72-year career as an iceboater, Bill has won countless local, national and international championships in what he describes as the most fickle of sports. You’ll also find Bill’s name engraved on Mendota Yacht Club’s trophies for championships won in class C, E and A Scows. It’s safe to say that no one in the history of MYC has won more trophies in more classes than Bill Mattison.
Bill’s skills as a builder earned him a place as head of the shore crew on three America’s Cup challenges: Heart of America in 1986, America3 in 1992 and Mighty Mary in 1995.
Profiled in Madison Magazine, Isthmus, the Wisconsin State Journal, the Capital Times and on Wisconsin Public Television, Bill is a true sportsman who has gone out of his way to advance the sports of iceboating and sailing, helping others both on and off the racecourse. Whether it was for help splicing a broken mast, repairing a boat, building a fast (aren’t they all?) iceboat or making a new shroud, for more than a half-century Madison iceboaters and summer sailors turned to Bill for help and advice. Even though he’s retired from iceboating, sailors still seek him out for his knowledge on everything iceboat. Perhaps that’s why he was recognized as one of the “Three Kings of Iceboating” at Chicago’s Strictly Sail in 2009.
Bill joins Carl Bernard and Peter Barrett as the third sailor in the 54-year history of the Madison Sports Hall of Fame Club to be inducted.
Tickets for the Madison Sports Hall of Fame Club dinner and induction ceremony on June 7 (5:30 pm social; 7 pm dinner) at Monona Terrace are $50. To reserve your seat, please call Peg Mueller at 608-238-5907. Because we are expecting iceboaters and summer sailors from near and far to show up, call for your tickets right away. Be sure to tell Peg that you want to be seated at the Mattison guest tables. With so many sailors in town, there’s bound to be an after-party, too.
Read more on madison.com.
All photos credit Sail Racing/Jan Söderström
As we prepare for the ISA regatta called on for Lake Champlain this coming weekend, it’s a reminder to share these photos from Sweden’s Sail Racing. Their photographer, Jan Söderström shot thousands of photos at the 2013 ISA regatta sailed on Lake Kegonsa for an ad campaign that was to have been released in the fall of 2013. But due to a very warm autumn and winter in Europe, Sail Racing has decided to wait with the Skeeter story until next season, autumn 2014. They also filmed video which will be released next season as well.
Photographer Jeff Smith shot some photos at the Eastern ISA with his new drone helicopter. See them here.
Well edited video from New Jersey Skeeter sailor Dan Clapp. Great to see the orange Skeeter having fun on the ice at the Eastern ISA.
A 30 mile gale added thrills to the Northwestern Ice Yachting Association regatta on Lake Mendota at Madison, Wisc. January 30, 1938. Here two machines are “hiking”, which is like “heeling” in a sailboat as H.V. Fitzcharles of Chicago, left, sailing High Voltage, and Harry Melges of Williams Bay, Wisc. at the helm of Fancy Flight put up a heated fight to head each other.”
I came across this photo on ebay from a company that specializes in original press photos and snapped it up. NIYA records show Harry Nye as the winner of the 1938 Northwest Skeeter class. Skeeters first competed in the NIYA in 1936. Skeeters didn’t have springboards at that time which must have made for quite an exciting ride in a 30 mph gale.
We’ve started a project to scan all the International Skeeter Association News and Views. Here’s a the 1957 November ISA News And Views which was edited by Jane Pegel. Interesting to note that discussions about Skeeter development from 57 years ago haven’t changed all that much. 1957 November ISA News And Views
Here’s the April edition of the 1957 ISA News & Views, edited by Jane Pegel. Topics include an ISA regatta report, organization of a committee on boat development, Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant report, more opinions on boat development, reports to Jane from the clubs, and a Bargain Counter, where you’l find the “cheapest advertising in the world for the world’s greatest cheapSKATES”. I have no photos from the 1957 ISA but have posted some Skeeter pictures taken by Carl Bernard from around that time.
This is MN based Pat Heppert’s new C Skeeter. It’s an attempt at a lower cost, front cockpit Skeeter that is easy to transport in its small lightweight enclosed trailer, and easy to set up by one person. Will it be fast? Will it be the slowest anchor-like contraption in existence? Will the C Skeeter fleet start to build? Or will it remain the under-represented Skeeter class? More construction pictures are on the Minnesota web site under the “How To” section, www.iceboating.net. Pat says that full size CAD drawn frame patterns are available.”
“Your sail came down because the mast exploded!”
The December 1957 ISA News & Views covers a variety of topics including a discussion of the complications of ice boat racing rules in the years before the National Iceboat Authority was established. There were rules of the Northwest, the ISA, the DN60 fleet, and the North American Yacht Racing Union.
Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant: There are some historic photos from the 1952 Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant which was the second time it was sailed in the west after Ed Rollberg went out east and won it in 1952.
4LIYC News: “Our old member but new Skeeter skipper, Paul Krueger (17) has built himself a new Skeeter with a 23′ rig.”
Read it all here.
In his search to learn more about a Ray Ruge built Skeeter he is restoring, Maine iceboater Bill Buchholz has inadvertently discovered some historic 16mm film in the archives of the Cohasset, MA Historical Society Francis Hagerty collection. The footage centers around the Fox Lake, Illinois Skeeters of the early 1940s. It’s possible that the films are from the 1941 and 1942 International Skeeter Association regattas. Considering the ISA was first sailed in 1940, these are very early films that show the early development of the Skeeter class. Some things to look for in the video below:
- The winners of the 1941 and 1942 ISA regattas from Fox Lake, Harry Salmon and JD Graff (the first JD!)
- The A class stern steerer, Ferdinand the Bull, then owned and sailed by C.S. Jacobs of Detroit, MI
- A really cool ice car that would make a fine RC vehicle.
- Some very early DNs
- Ted Mead, designer and builder of the famous Mead iceboats, many of which are on the ice today.
- ISA trophies (with kittens!?)
2016 International Skeeter Association regatta winner, Steve Orlebeke, posted a great photo of his puppy, Mac, posing with the regatta trophy on his Facebook page today. This gave me the idea to post a related photo from the 1941 ISA and to kick off a new version of Throw Back Thursday with a twist. A related contemporary photo will be included with the vintage photo as a reminder that a new season is just weeks away. See the 1941 ISA Regatta report and video posted below.
We received an inquiry from the nephew of Greenwood Lake, New Jersey Skeeter sailor Art Siebke wanting to learn more about his uncle’s involvement in ice boating.
Above is part of a beautifully illustrated advertisement for Camel cigarettes featuring Siebke. Be sure to click on the image to see the entire panel.
Sailing as a member of the Skeeter Ice Boat Club, Siebke won the International Skeeter Association championship in 1948.
The ISA continues to award the Siebke Memorial Trophy to the skipper who travels the farthest to race his yacht in the annual regatta.
If you have any stories to share about Art Siebke, email to me and I’ll pass them on to his nephew.