Read: Oshkosh Ice Boat Club History & 1939 Northwest History by Harry Lund
All-around iceboater Andy Gratton let me borrow a rich archive of iceboat ephemera, photos, and records from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As anyone who researches history can tell you, the information in libraries like this is filled with rabbit holes that lead you to unforeseen places, always different than what you originally intended.
1930 Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club Letterhead Logo
A report written in 1939 by Harry Lund about the history of the Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club led me to the 1940 Northwest regatta. The regatta was sailed on Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI. It was the first time a Class A Skeeter, Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q, won the ten-lap Northwest “Free For All” race, where the winner is awarded one of the most beautiful trophies in our sport.
1940 Oshkosh Newspaper Northwest Report
The Northwest began in 1913, and the Free For All was the last race of the regatta to compare the speeds of the different classes of stern-steerers. The top two finishers in Class A, B, C, and D stern-steerers were eligible to race for the trophy. 1933 marked the first time the Skeeter class competed in the Northwest, and it only took them seven years to take the Free For All trophy from the stern-steerer class. The Skeeter class has continued their dominance of that race to the present day; Minnesota’s John Dennis is the current titleholder. Thinking about that day in 1940 when Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q became the first bow-steering boat to take home the big cup reminded me of National Sailing Hall of Fame member Jan Gougeon.
Back on Lake Geneva in 1981, Jan gamely lined up his DN with the Class A Skeeters of Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club’s Paul Krueger and Bill Mattison for the ten-lap finale. “It was a scary situation for Bill and me,” Paul recalled. “Jan didn’t realize how fast Bill and I were making the mark. To avoid him, I had to hit the mark, and Bill went to the outside.” From then on, DN sailors who qualified and wanted to compete in the race were allowed to borrow a Class A Skeeter. Jan’s good friend, Ron Sherry, won the 1997 race in a Class A Skeeter he borrowed from 4LIYC’s Bob Kau. (Interesting how Lake Geneva is where Northwest Free-For-All History has been made in 1940, 1981, and 1997!) Ron’s account of that race is a classic story, worthy of another good future post.
The trophies of the Northwest Regatta in 1913. Note the biggest of them all, the Free-For-All trophy
Class E Skeeters line up to race at the 1976 Northwest Regatta on Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo: Greg Whitehorse
Greg Whitehorse posted this on the 4LIYC Facebook page.
Mid-70’s Northwest Regatta on Lake Mendota.
You are looking at just one side of the starting line, so I’ll guess there are probably 28, maybe more, Class E* Skeeters in this race. M-54 is Gary Sternberg’s “So What,” but I think Vic Whitehorse is at the helm for this race. That would be Dave Nelson’s M-150, “Tuff Ship” lined up next. Racing in the Skeeter class with 30-40 boats on the line was a blast back in the day.
Between the late ’60s and early ’70s, I believe club members helped build ten or more Class E Skeeters in Dave Rosten’s basement. It wasn’t unusual to see Dave, Paul Krueger, Bill Mattison, Jack Ripp, the guy who the boat was being built for, and a host of others all helping out. It was an incredible time.
Skeeter Ice Boat Club’s Sparky Lundberg aced out Paul Krueger for the Class A Skeeter win that year. It may have been the first year for PK’s rear seater.
January 21, 1976, Wisconsin State Journal: Paul Krueger’s first rear-seat Class A Skeeter.
1976 NIYA Regatta Winners:
Class A: No entry
Class B: WINTER BELL, B. Herman
Class C: TWIN BEDS, Bill McCormick
Class D: RED WITCH, Dick Slates
Class E Skeeter: Sparky Lundberg
DN Class: Jane Pegel
DN Class Junior:Mike O’Brien
Renegade Class: Elmer Millenbach RENEGADE III
*The Reason Class A Skeeters are called Class E Skeeters in the Northwest Regatta
The International Skeeter Association designates bow-steering Skeeters Class A as “Single place yachts, or two-place tandem Whose mast, when measured along the mast, does not exceed 28’-6″ from the deck to top of mast, including all mast and deck hardware.” Class A Skeeters carry a maximum of 75 square feet of sail. However, when Class A Skeeters sail in the Northwest regatta, they are listed as “Class E.” (When I was a kid, I thought the E stood for “Experimental.”)
Class A Skeeters turn into Class E because there was already a Class A, B, C, and D in the Northwest, and those designations applied to Stern-Steerers. Skeeters got the left-over E. It reminds us that the Northwest regatta is a Stern-Steerer regatta, organized in 1913 by ice yacht clubs, which only sailed Stern-Steerers at the time. 1936 marks the year that the Northwest recognized Skeeters as an ice yacht class.
Notice from the Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Board of Directors:
Northwestern Regatta Page.
NORTHWESTERN ICE YACHTING ASSOCIATION 2021 REGATTA NOTICE
All participating members of the NIYA Board of Directors have been polled and the unanimous decision is to cancel the 2021 event.
The worsening pandemic makes travel, lodging and inside food service for a large group not viable.
It was felt that local club sailing will be possible to conduct safely with protocols in place for face covering, separation and only outdoor activity.
We encourage everyone to get out and sail locally, and look forward to the 2022 NIYA in the third week in January 2022.
Northwestern Ice Yachting Association
Photo by Gary Whitehorse. That’s a lot of horsepower! Stern steerer iceboats start on race at the Northwest regatta which took place on February 2-4, 1973 on Pewaukee Lake in Wisconsin.
UPDATE: The photo was originally taken by Gary Whitehorse and uploaded to the 4LIYC Facebook page.
Peter McCormick (via Andy Gratton) forwarded this picture to the iceboat.org inbox this week wanting to confirm if these stern-steerers were on Pewaukee Lake and when this regatta took place. I started looking into the files and realized that I was there with my brother and dad, Dave Rosten and that my Dad won the Class A Skeeter trophy. Another 4LIYC skipper, Peter’s dad Bill McCormick, won the C Stern Steerer trophy that year as well.
If you have any information on the stern-steerers or the regatta you’d like to share, please drop a line. email@example.com
UPDATE: 30 April:
“I was 16 years old at the time and won the DN junior trophy. Chuck Miller was racing a DN in the regatta called “Chicken Little.” He got a big kick out of racing against me in the regatta. Ever since that time I always felt that Chuck Miller was a really nice guy, someone who really loved his sailing and iceboating.”
Susie Pegel, formerly DN 905
Andy Gratton, WSSA Secretary: “Max Runge sent me this old photo. …There are some boats I don’t recognize, such as the C skeeter, the black mast, the yellow mast, B9, and what appears to be a round backbone second from the far end. V83 is the D skeeter that got turned around and ended up in Fond du Lac in the 1980s with Herb Bankstahl. He named it FIDDLESTIX, I think it came from Sternkopfs. Who is pushing ROSEMARY?”
Peter McCormick, stern steerer (TWINBEDS) and Renegade sailor: “I remember my dad [Bill McCormick] telling me how he took TWINBEDS to Pewaukee on a lumber truck for either a Northwest or WSSA regatta.”
Tom Hyslop: “Not sure about the lake or the year as some of the Pewaukee boats were not built until the late 70`s.
B9 was CLANCY owned by John Olson.
V83 was a Sternkoph boat.
Yellow mast with red V is COUNTRY WOMAN owned by me.
Black mast with V is ECLIPSE owned by Ric Sternkoph and Mike Hasse.”
1973 Northwest Results
Class A: No Race
Class B: CLANCY, John Olson
Class C: TWIN BEDS, Bill McCormick
Class D: DEE WHIZ, Bill Osenga
Skeeter Class A: Dave Rosten, PIRATE
FREE FOR ALL: No Race
DN Class: George Timmons
DN Class Junior: Susie Pegel
Renegade Class: Elmer Millenbach RENEGADE III
Via Northwest Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
Due to the travel concerns with coronavirus, the fact that locations we are traveling from and to are involved with active cases, that our group has many people who are at the highest risk, and therefore to avoid losing a good portion of our active sailors, we are going to cancel the Northwest for season.