A Brief Overview of Northwest Regatta History
Welcome to the home page of the Northwestern Ice Yacht Association Regatta. This historic regatta was first sailed in 1913 in Menominee, Michigan. Skeeters, DNs, and Renegades weren’t even invented back then when the big stern steerers ruled the ice.
Dateline January 13, 1913. Wisconsin State Journal. “Representatives of Oshkosh, Madison, Menominee, and Marinette met at the Hotel Menominee this morning and discussed future of the new NIYA….. LF Porter, of Madison, a man who has been connected with several water and ice craft organizations, gave some timely and instructive suggestions in regard to the proper manner of conducting the association. He proposed having two delegates from each club present at a future gathering and from a constitution and by laws at that time.”
In 1913, Menominee skipper E. Peterson won the first Class A championship in “Square People”. Madison, Wisconsin’s Emil Fauerbach won the 1914 championship in the famed Princess II, a boat that went on the win the Hearst International Trophy.
Other notable Class A winners throughout the years include John Buckstaff of Oshkosh, Fritz Jungbluth and Carl Bernard of Madison in the Fritz, Harry Melges of Lake Geneva (Buddy’s father), Carl Bernard again in the Mary B, the Debutante currently owned by Mike Derusha, and Buddy Melges in his Ferdinand the Bull. The DNs were first recognized as a separate class in 1954 when Skip Boston won the inaugural NIYA DN championship. Other notable DN champions include William Sarns in 1956, Jane Pegel who first won in 1960 and went on to capture another nine championships. Class E Skeeters first raced the NIYA in 1936 when Lake Geneva sailor Harry Melges won in Mickey Finn. Elmer Millenbach took the 1949 trophy sailing his Renegade II back when the Renegades and Skeeters sailed together. Other famous ice boating names who’ve won the NIYA Class E championship include Bill Perrigo, Howard Boston, Frank Trost, Jack Ripp, Dave Rosten, Bill Mattison, Lou Loenneke, Buddy Melges, Bob Pegel, and Paul Krueger. The Renegades first raced in the NIYA as a recognized class in 1958 and of course, Mr. Ice Boat, Elmer Millenbach won his first of many NIYA Renegade Championships in Renegade III and went on to win every regatta until 1984. Other winners include Arlyn Lafortune, Lorne Sherry, Jack Ripp, Tim McCormick, Roger Derusha, Don Anderson, and Mike Derusha.
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
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
The 2023 NIYA Regatta is postponed to the first thick enough ice in December of 2023. If no such ice develops, the Regatta will be cancelled on December 31, 2023.
The 2023 NIYA Regatta is postponed to March 24 – 26. There are no sites currently close to having conditions for the event.
The next update will be Sunday March 19th.
1954 Northwest Archives
Since we are on the subject of the Northwest regatta, Kenny Beal, great-grandson of a long-time 4LIYC member, John Bluel, shared some of his grandfather’s documents with the club, including a report from Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Secretary Frank Meyer about the 1954 Northwest.
Rather than the typical three-day event, the regatta was held over two weekends in Pewaukee because of challenging weather conditions. The 4LIYC’s Carl Bernard won the A Class Stern Steerer title in MARY B, competing against Skeeter Iceboat Club’s Lou Loenneke of Lake Geneva.
1954 was the first year that the DN Class competed in the Northwest. The DNs had one race in bad weather, and the Northwest officials decided that the fleet would sail the remainder of their races in the Detroit area “as all the entries were from that vicinity.” Skip Boston won that first Northwest DN title.
The NIYA Race Committee has postponed the 2023 Regatta to March 17th, 18th and 19th. The shoreline at Kegonsa is starting to melt open and the snow event coming Thursday into Friday will eliminate any possibility of regatta conditions. The search for any suitable site within reach will continue this week.
The NIYA Race Committee has called on the 2023 Regatta for Friday March 10th-12th at Lake Kegonsa, Madison, WI. There were racing conditions there this afternoon. The final call will be made Wednesday, March 8, 2023 at noon CT after a morning examination of the ice and launch ramp.
The NIYA Race Committee has postponed the Regatta to March 10th, 11th and 12th 2023. The surface at Kegonsa has not been able to firm up, and will not be available until some colder weather – which is on the way mid-March.
The next update will be Sunday March 5th by 7 pm.
Northwestern Ice Yachting Association
The NIYA Race Committee has called the 2023 Regatta tentatively on for March 3 – 5, 2023 at Lake Kegonsa, Madison Wisconsin.
The lake currently has 15 inches of ice, with a slushy surface from the recent snow that will melt quickly.
The rain event that starts tonight will revise the surface a good deal. The lake will be checked Wednesday morning to see if it is still viable for the Regatta. The final call will be made by noon or earlier on Wednesday.
With 12 or more inches of snow now nearly certain at Lake Pepin, The NIYA Race Committee has decided to postpone without waiting for Wednesday, so the competitors can better plan their week. Next update is Sunday, February 26, 2023.
The 2023 NIYA Regatta is called on for Lake Pepin, launch site Lake City Minnesota. Registration will not open until the final call is made at noon Wednesday February 22nd.
Steve Schalk NIYA Secretary/Treasurer
The 2023 Wisconsin Stern Steering Association regatta has been postponed to February 25 and 26. The next update will be Sunday, February 19. Check back here at that time. The Northwest Ice Yacht Association regatta takes precedence.
The Northwestern Ice Yachting Regatta is postponed one week to February 24th, 25th, and 26th 2023.
The 2023 NIYA Regatta has been postponed one week to February 17th, 18th and 19th 2023. The potential sites are Lake Winnebago, Green Bay and Petenwell, with melting making for a number of possible locations.
The Northwestern Ice Yachting Regatta is postponed one week to February 10, 11, and 12, 2023. Potential sites for that date are Green Bay, Green Lake, and Geneva Lake.
The Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Regatta is postponed to February 3rd-5th 2023. We have cold weather arriving to make enough thickness for the Stern Steerers.
The 2023 Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Regatta is postponed to January 27th, 28th and 29th. The Race Committee is keeping the standard one week window between the ISA and Northwest Regattas.
Via Mary Jane Schalk, Fontana, WI
Hey Ice boat racers,
I just want to thank all of you for so many years of helping me with one of the coolest things I have ever done. We have all been through so much together.
I think I started scoring ice boat regatta’s back in the 90’s. Remember way back then and I did all the tabulating with a pencil and a very long sheet of paper. There were some interesting stories and memorable situations back then! It took a while but so worth it to graduate into computer scoring.
I had so many great people to work with. First of all many of you sailors were my callers, and then I had Renate Intini, Julie Jankowski, and then Deb to work with. As you know Deb and I had some pretty good and crazy times together. We could figure out ways to entertain ourselves during a postponement, and had way more fun that we probably should have!!! Thanks Deb for all the fun times. I would also like to thank Shari Lundberg for teaching me in the beginning all about scoring and tabulating.
I stopped scoring from the ice to help take care of my mom and then we had so many cats that needed care like insulin shots twice a day, fluid under the skin, and medicine that – that kept me from coming back. But I was then able to do the tabulating from home.
I was still a helper by arranging hotels, banquets, and meetings for regattas. I drew for your starting positions from home and called them into Deb. Deb would take a picture of your finishes and call them in or send them to me. Now with me being able to post to the web page on a good day I could score the race and get it posted before the last finisher got out of his boat. That is way cool.
But I am ready for some time away. I have lots of plans for some fun activities while the regattas are on. Maybe I’ll just go down and visit some other retired ice boaters like Gary and Kenny Kessler. Now that would be fun!!! Deb asked one of the DN tabulators, Ann Foeller of the Toledo Ice Yacht Club, if she would score the ISA and NW regattas and she agreed. I wouldn’t leave without a replacement.
I am so happy to have met so many really cool and fun ice boaters. We have had lots of fun times, and made great memories. I can hardly wait for a regatta to come to Geneva Lake, as then I can hang with you all on the ice, and not be stuck at home in front of the computer.
Have fun everyone, be careful on the ice, and sail fast,
BTW I am sharing my favorite version of Steve’s iceboat song. I’d say it a pretty good one! LINK
Via Jane Pegel:
Mary Jane was a significant member of the Lake Geneva YC race committee. She also is a competitive sailor. She handled the front end of Steve’s E scow and his J-24.
She trimmed jib on my class M scow and helped me win Inland Lake YA championships and Blue Chips. She is no doubt, an exceptional woman who is happy to be “involved”.
Mary Jane Schalk has been a crucial part of North American iceboating racing, and she’s decided to take a well-earned retirement. You may have seen her smiling face on the ice of Lake Geneva, but she was deeply involved behind the scenes in every Northwest, ISA, Renegade, and many Nite regattas for 30 years. She took care of numerous organizational details so that you ice sailors could book a room, attend a banquet, see your regatta scores, receive your trophies, and pursue your passion for iceboat racing.
MJ and I share many good memories. One of my best was driving on Geneva back to the Fontana landing towards the sunset. We were singing a silly, fun song at the top of our lungs that we had made up about the late Renegade sailor, Arlyn Lafortune, to the marching chant O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah from the Wizard of Oz. (Yeah, you had to be there…) We both probably enjoyed too much red wine later that night but were always ready for the next day. I know she’ll continue to be the first person I call when I have a funny story to share. – Deb Whitehorse
Northwest Home Page
2023 Northwest Race Documents, via Northwest Ice Yacht Association Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk
The Northwest regatta is tentatively scheduled for January 20, 21, and 22, 2023. Stay tuned for the next update on Sunday, January 15, 2023 by 8 PM.
Ice Yacht classes that sail the Northwest:
A Stern Steerer
B Stern Steerer
C Stern Steerer
D Stern Steerer
John Buckstaff Archives
If iceboating had a hall of fame, Lake Winnebago sailor, John Buckstaff would undoubtedly be among the first to be nominated. Buckstaff’s Oshkosh roots go back to his grandfather, who was born in 1799 and came from New Brunswick, Canada, to Oshkosh in 1850 and started a sawmill.
An early mention of Buckstaff in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern newspaper was in 1903, when he was 14 years old and recognized as a skilled scow sailor. “His first experience was gained, when as a boy in knickerbockers, he constructed an iceboat and sailed it on the frozen surface of Lake Winnebago. Here he learned to be quick and certain with the tiller and to handle the sail and tack.”
Buckstaff was in Menominee, Michigan, when the Menominee, Marinette, Wisconsin, and Oshkosh ice yacht clubs formed Northwest Ice Yachting Association in 1913. The morning after a banquet at the Hotel Menominee, where 200 ice yachtsmen gathered for a feast, they organized the Northwest, which they patterned after the Inland Lake Yachting Association, a soft-water scow regatta still going strong today.
In addition to his Northwest victories, Buckstaff won two prestigious stern-steerer titles, the Stuart and Hearst Cups. In 1903, The Kalamazoo Ice Yacht Club in Michigan persuaded F.A. Stuart, maker of Stuart’s Dyspeptic pills, to donate a trophy for ice yachts carrying 850 square feet of sail or less. Later that year, a Kalamazoo club member wired newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, asking Hearst if he would donate a trophy, in his name, for the ice boat race. Hearst complied and deeded a gold-lined silver cup.
Buckstaff was a stern-steerer man and would point BLUE BILL, FLYING DUTCHMAN, DEBUTANTE III to victory on the ice at the Stuart, Hearst, and Northwest regattas. FLYING DUTCHMAN has remained on her home lake of Lake Winnebago with Dave Lallier. DEBUTANTE III is in Menominee with Mike Derusha.
DEBUTANTE III was a Hudson River-style stern-steerer built in the famed Poughkeepsie, New York iceboat shop of Jacob Buckhought. The “DEB” with 600 square feet of sail was considered the most lightweight iceboat in the world per square foot of sail carried. DEB was the first iceboat to use aluminum runners, a much superior material than the cast iron runners traditionally used. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported that the “DEB” held a speed record of 119 miles per hour clocked on Gull Lake in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
John Buckstaff passed away on the morning of Sunday, January 10, 1960, the weekend when the iceboating community gathered on Lake Winnebago for the Northwest, the regatta he had helped to begin. In a movie-like ending, DEBUTANTE III, skippered by E.W. Stroshine, won the Class A championship trophy that same day.
Northwest Class A Stern Steerer
1923 BLUE BILL, J. D. Buckstaff
1926 BLUE BILL, J. D. Buckstaff
1939 BLUE BILL II, John Buckstaff, Owner; Tom Anger, Skipper
1932 (December) FLYING DUTCHMAN, OIYC, J. C. Van Dyke, J. D. Buckstaff (skippers)
1920 DEBUTANTE III, OIYC, J. D. Buckstaff
1939 DEBUTANTE III, OIYC, J. D. Buckstaff