Get Started Iceboating
4LIYC Meeting : See you next season in November 2023.
NEW! 4LIYC Shipstore. Order custom iceboat shirts, hats, and gear. More information.
BURGEE: Order your 4LIYC Burgee
FERDINAND THE BULL, owned by Buddy Melges, is one of history’s most successful Class A Stern Steerers. The BULL has its roots in a combination of a beloved children’s book turned Disney short film, a couple of brothers with a metal stamping factory now famous for vintage Coca-Cola machines, and leftover distinctive green paint from a cottage.
I am indebted to Grosse Point Yacht Club, Michigan historian and member Dr. Larry Stephenson M.D., for his article, THE GROSSE POINTE YACHT CLUB CONNECTION TO LARGE ICE YACHT RACING, about the history of the BULL. Read his article here.
Brothers Rex and Clare Jacobs founded the F.L. Jacobs Company, an automotive industry supplier and maker of Coca-Cola vending machines during WW2, which remain popular with collectors. Jack Jacobs, Clare’s grandson, invented the popular “J” iceboats, built for comfortable cruising. Rex Jacobs and George Hendrie, who also skippered, were co-owners of the BULL.
“At some point in the late 1930s or early 1940s, Clare Jacobs acquired DEUCE IV, a serious racing competitor to the BULL.” Both of these boats had been built in Harrison Township, Michigan, by the Vanderbush brothers. Their woodworking shop was just a few hundred yards from where iceboaters had been launching on Lake St. Clair in the 1930s, near the intersection of East Jefferson Avenue and Crocker Boulevard.”
Dr. Larry Stephenson M.D.
Even today, both DEUCE (now owned by Rick Hennig of Racine, WI) and BULL carry the same green livery, and there’s a reason for that. In a 2006 article about his grandfather Clare Jacob’s DEUCE, Jack Jacobs recalled, “The boat was the same flat green that the cottage on Harsens Island was painted. My grandfather felt you should never spend any time on parts of a race boat that don’t make it go fast (like paint).”
The boat’s namesake came from a popular children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, published in 1938. The story, about a mighty bull who would rather sniff the flowers than fight, was made into a successful short film in 1938 by Disney Studios.
The BULL’S long record of championship titles began in 1940 in Menominee, Michigan. Rex Jacobs and George Hendrie traveled there with DEUCE and the BULL to compete against the Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club for the Stuart International Trophy. This race was originally established in 1903 by Michigan’s Gull Lake Ice Yacht Club. Skippered by George Hendrie, the BULL brought the trophy back to Michigan, beating out the cup’s defenders, John Buckstaff in DEBUTANTE III and Tom Anger in BLUEBILL II. The BULL went on to win more championships with Hendrie at the tiller.
“Around 1960, “The Bull” and “The Deuce” were sold to iceboaters in Wisconsin. “Ferdinand the Bull” was sold to Harry “Buddy” Melges, Jr., of Zenda, Wisconsin, close to Lake Geneva in the southern part of the state. Buddy, now 83, is considered one of the most successful competition sailors in history, winning dozens of national and international championships. He was the helmsman in America’s successful defense of the America’s Cup in 1992 and took both gold and bronze medals in Olympic sailing competition.”
Dr. Larry Stephenson M.D.
Someone once told me that the BULL journeyed from Detroit to Zenda on the top of a car. I don’t recall if Buddy effortlessly transported the BULL’s 40-foot hull from Detroit through Chicago’s Skyway to southern Wisconsin. Still, based on another story from Mendota Yacht Club’s Lon Schoor of Madison, Wisconsin, that may have been the case.
“Bill Mattison and I were partners in several A-Scows beginning in 1982. All were salvaged after the insurance company declared them total wrecks. Bill and Buddy were close friends and talked frequently about their shared interest in both hard and soft water sailboat racing. That friendship resulted in some bartering between them. We would build boat parts for Melges sails. Unfortunately, I do not recall the year we built a new hull for Buddy’s Bull, but I believe it was in the 80s… We loaded the hull on the [Buddy’s] Suburban, and I swear the truck was barely out the garage door when the overhanging hull was in the street, stopping traffic. I remember looking at Bill and saying after all that work, it will be a miracle if it makes it to Geneva. …you can imagine the overhang on a Suburban was ridiculous.”
Check out Peter Harken’s tale of survival mode while crewing for Buddy on the BULL as they charged towards the leeward pin during a regatta. You can find the video on YouTube.
Buddy Melges and FERDINAND THE BULL had a strong bond, and Buddy went on to win 22 significant Stern-Steerer championships.
Read More: 2001 Hearst
FERDINAND THE BULL PHOTO GALLERY
REGATTA RECORDS FOR FERDINAND THE BULL
Stuart International Cup
1940 -1947 DIYC, R. C. Jacobs, George Hendrie
1965 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Frank Morgan
1968 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Frank Morgan
1975 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., A. R. Wenzel
1980 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Harry C. Melges 111, Hans Melges
2001 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Harry C. Melges III, Hans Melges, Charles Harrett
Hearst International Cup
1961 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Frank Morgan
1962 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., G. Gerber, Frank Morgan
1963 – 1965 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Frank Morgan
1971 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Frank Morgan
1980 SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Harry C. Melges III, Hans Melges
2001 Ferdinand, SIBC, Harry C. Melges Jr., Charles Harrett
Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Championship
1961 Buddy Melges, Skipper; Morgan & Gerber, Crew
1962 Frank Morgan, Skipper Buddy Melges, Crew
1963 Frank Morgan, Skipper; Frank Trost, Crew
1966 Frank Morgan, Skipper; Buddy Melges, Crew
1967 Frank Morgan & Buddy Melges
1971 Buddy Melges, Skipper; Frank Morgan, G. E. Gerber, Jerry Sullivan, Crew
1980 Frank Morgan, Todd Morgan
1991 Buddy Melges
How do you store your iceboats in the off-season? Dan Morton’s are high and dry, ready for next season.
I’m following Steve Schalk’s lead & hanging my iceboats from the ceiling in our warehouse. 1 – B Skeeter, 1 – A Skeeter & 2 – Nites. And now the trailers can be parked outside.
I made it so the straps are there permanently – then I slip the straps under the 4×4 beams, with the boats on the beams in the summer & then can store the beams up there, when I take the boats down.
It took 2 fork lifts – I put 8’ – 4×4’s on 8’ long pallets, then loaded the boats, masts & planks onto the beams & lifted them up to the ceiling. Then I went up with a scissor lift & slipped the straps underneath the 4x4s and lowered the pallets.
Peter Harken: Reflections on the passing of Buddy Melges
What a story – Peter Harken crewing with Buddy on the Class A Stern Steerer FERDINAND THE BULL. Link to video
Buddy Melges – Fair Winds & Endless Black Ice
Buddy Melges 1930 – 2023
He Was One Of Us
The ice sailing community grieves with the Melges family and with our friends from the Skeeter Iceboat Club on their loss.
Iceboating is a sport that is often difficult to comprehend for the uninitiated. It’s hard for people to understand the effort, perseverance, and rewards that come with the exhilaration of sailing on a frozen lake with your closest friends and then spending the evening rehashing every tack and jibe.
Buddy was one of us. He spoke our language and probably invented many of our sayings. Our sport has gained much positive attention thanks to Buddy’s remarkable accomplishments, including those in the Olympics and America’s Cup.
My brother. Ron Rosten and I grew up around the ice sailing legends like Buddy, Mattison, and Ripp. Buddy was just another ice sailor out on the ice, albeit a damned good one. (I hate to admit this, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized that Buddy was an Olympic sailor and why they called him “The Wizard of Zenda.” – DW)
In May 2022, he spoke at Bill Mattison’s funeral, where he fondly remembered his friend’s genius and their successful America’s Cup campaigns. It was probably the last time many of us saw him.
Buddy was a second-generation iceboater who won so many iceboating titles in almost every class that I’ll need time to tally it all up.
What a life.
Statement from Melges Performance Sailboats Facebook Page
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the peaceful passing of Buddy Melges. Today, we honor the remarkable life and enduring legacy of a man whose contributions have left an indelible mark on our hearts and the world of sailing.
As we mourn the loss of a visionary and celebrate a life well-lived, we invite you to share your cherished memories with us as we collectively pay tribute to Buddy’s life. Your heartfelt stories and messages of remembrance are a testament to the profound impact he had on our community.
The Mead Glider Company
This week, I received a package filled with iceboating memorabilia, which included what seemed to be magazine advertising proofs for Mead iceboats of Chicago, Illinois.
Since the beginning of this website in 1998, the Buy & Sell page has been filled with vintage Mead iceboats for sale, all of which came out of Ted Mead’s Chicago factory.
Who was Ted Mead? According to a 1937 newspaper article, his father owned bicycle factories in Chicago and England. His mother was noted for her exceptional woodworking skills. After graduating from Princeton in 1925, he built houses for a few years; he eventually grew tired of this profession and founded the Mead Glider Company. When the airplane business became unprofitable, Mead moved on to building kayaks, ice motor sleds, and iceboats, and the factory employed 24 people.
Below are links to some of the Mead iceboat memorabilia that’s come my way in the last 20+ years.
Ted Mead Biography Newspaper Article
Announcing Mead’s New Class E Skeeter Racer
Mead Batwing Iceboat Brochure
Mead Iceboat Brochure 3
Mead Iceboat Brochure 5
Early ISA Video
Vintage Film: 1952 Northwest on Lake Monona
Big Tip of the Helmet to Henry Bossett for finding this historic footage of the 1952 Northwest regatta on Lake Monona. If you recognize some of these boats, drop a line to me and I’ll add to the post. Video link
From Skeeter Iceboat to Sunfish Dinghy
The Sunfish dinghy is one of the most recognized and popular soft-water boats ever manufactured, with over 300,000 built. What does this have to do with iceboating? The Alcort company of Connecticut that developed the Sunfish started as an iceboat manufacturer. Dan Heaney, long time DN regatta PRO from Neenah, WI, sent this advertisement and some information about the Alcort Skeeter he has restored. Hopefully, we’ll see some photos of Dan’s restored Skeeter in the future.
Via Dan Heaney: The attached document advertises an Alcott Skeeter. I have one of the iceboats with an original Alcort decal. The boat is basically the same as produced by Alcort. However, the mast was replaced by the previous owner, and I added a springboard and some hull re-enforcing as well as a new runner plank.. The sail is 75 sqft, and it is a true double-seater. My current project is to complete the installation of foot steering.
There seems to be little information regarding the boat and Alcort’s venture into iceboating.
19th Century Bow-Steering Ice Yachts
The concept of bow-steering iceboats is much older than I had imagined, which makes sense because iceboaters have a long tradition of trying different technologies
Henry Bossett discovered an 1897 illustration and an 1850 Boston newspaper article while gathering material for our online Cape Cod Maritime Museum presentation, proving that sailors were familiar with front-runner steering in the 19th century. (Museum presentation, Sunday, April 30, 1:30 CT / 2:30 ET. Register here.)
The big boat in the illustration filled with passengers reminds me of the BERZERKER (a stern-steerer) last seen on Maumee Bay in Toledo. The BERZERKER was Frankenstiened together by the Toledo Ice Yacht Club as a one-weekend party boat. BERZERKER gave many people their first iceboat ride on Lake Erie during that Winter Carnival weekend in 2007.
Virtual Lecture “The Exciting World of Iceboating” April 30
UPDATE: If you missed the video or want to see it again, the fine folks at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum have uploaded it to YouTube. LINK
Please join Henry Bossett and me for a virtual presentation hosted by the Cape Cod Maritime Museum on Sunday, April 30, at 1:30 PM CT / 2:30 PM ET.
We’ll discuss various topics, including some Cape Cod area’s ice sailing history, such as this video about the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (Spars) and iceboating. (Video ink.)
Via the Cape Cod Maritime Museum:
While sailors in New England spent the winter dreaming of getting back on the water, sailors in the competitive world of ice yachting have been busy! Join us for this talk by Deb Whitehorse, who grew up above her father’s iceboat shop in Monona, Wisconsin, as well as Henry Bosset, who’s first sailing experience was in M16 Scows. He moved on to the E-Scow Fleet and eventually started crewing on offshore boats from 24’ on up.
Deb is the longtime Secretary of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in Madison, WI, and a member of their Honor Roll. She is also the Secretary and Treasurer of the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, the world’s largest ice sailing class.
Henry is a three time DN Ice Boat World Champion, as well as claiming North American and Eastern Championship honors in the DN, MScow, and Tornado classes.
“It’s The People That Make the Club”
We had a packed house at last night’s Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club Awards Banquet at Springer’s, overlooking the lake that hosted the most iceboat racing in North America and maybe even the world.
It was a perfect mix of veteran and newer members. Long-time club members like “Admiral” Dave Nelson (Kegonsa is his private lake) and Mrs. Admiral Nancy came in the latest 4LIYC shirts, while Jerry Simon ensured the classic red blazer was present.
Banquet chair Lars Barber surprised the room with a sincere presentation highlighting the season and behind-the-scenes help that 4LIYC members provide to keep the show running.
Trophy chair Damien Luyet handed out the “pots and pans.” Because the club’s trophy engraver, Ray Karas, is no longer engraving, Damien and Donny Anderson had to devise a new way to get the job done. Ray was one of the last engravers we know about who could carve on a rounded surface. Damien asked that all trophy recipients make a base to make it easier for flat engraving.
The trophy base-building winner is Paul Krueger, who whipped up a base this morning for his Class A Skeeter trophy. Who will be the next person to make a trophy base?