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.
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
The Northwestern Ice Yachting Regatta is cancelled for 2022. We have no viable locations left.
Via NIYA Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
The Northwestern Ice Yachting Regatta is postponed to March 25-27, 2022. Possible locations will be identified and announced Sunday., March 20.
Via Northwest Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
The Northwestern Ice Yachting Regatta is Postponed to March 18-20, 2022.
There are still locations with thick ice that just need smoothing out of old drifts and bumps. Next update Sunday, March 13.
Via Northwest Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
The 2022 Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Regatta is on for March 11, 12, 13, 2022. Potential locations are Green Lake, Madison, and Petenwell Lake.
The final call will take place Wednesday March 9, 2022 before noon CT.
Via NIYA Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk
The Northwest Regatta is postponed to March 11 – 13, 2022.
We have 20 to 24 inches of ice in several locations. Mother Nature’s Zamboni is taking over the ice for this weekend and may leave us with regatta conditions for March 11th. Next update is Sunday, March 6, 2022.
Via Northwest Ice Yacht Racing Association Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
The 2022 Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Regatta has been called on for March 4-6. Locations under consideration are Wisconsin or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Final confirmation with location will be on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 by noon CT.
The Northwest is a 3 day regatta for A,B,C, and D Stern-Steerers, DNs, A, B, and C Skeeters, and Renegades.
Via NIYA Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
The Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Regatta is postponed to March 4-6, 2022. Next update will be on Sunday, February 27, 2022
Via Northwest Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
The 2022 Northwestern Ice Yachting Association Regatta is called on with the primary site in Lake Monona, Wisconsin, February 25 – 27. Secondary sites are Geneva Lake and Green Lake Wisconsin.
The first race is scheduled Friday, February 25, 2022.
Final confirmation will be made by noon Wednesday, February 23, 2022.
Northwest races will be held for Class A, B, C, D, E, Renegade, and DN.
Via Northwest Secretary Steve Schalk
The 2022 Northwest Ice Yachting Association championship regatta has been postponed until February 11-13, 2022. There is not enough space for the Northwest at Marinette/Menominee. Next update is Sunday, February 6, 2022.
Regatta Watch: ISA, Renegade Championship, & Northwest Tentatively Called ON for Marinette/Menominee
Via ISA/NIYA Secretary Steve Schalk.
The 2022 Northwest, Renegade Championship, and ISA regattas are on for Marinette/Menominee for February 4-6, 2022. The call is tentative based on acquiring more “on the ice” information on Monday and or Tuesday as to thickness and race area. The landings are already thick enough but the thickness in the racing area – and the size available need to be checked. If there is not enough thickness in the racing area for the Big Boats (Stern Steerers) but there is for Skeeters, the ISA would be held and the NIYA postponed.
Via ISA & Secretary Steve Schalk:
The NIYA is postponed to February 4, 5th and 6th 2022.
The ISA & Renegade Championship is on for Green Lake for January 28th, 29th and 30th 2022. Final call by noon on Wednesday January 26th, 2022.
Via Northwest Ice Yachting Association Secretary Steve Schalk:
The NIYA regatta is postponed until January 28-30, 2022 to wait for ice thickness to build in several locations. Mendota is close but not quite there. Next update is Sunday, January 23, 2022.
Via Northwest Ice Yacht Racing Association Secretary Steve Schalk:
The Northwest Regatta has been postponed until January 21-23, 2022. Next update will be on Sunday, January 16, 2022.
Northwest Ice Yachting Association Secretary Steve Schalk has shared the 2022 Northwest Regatta Notice of Race. See it here.
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.
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.
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.
Marcy Grunert recently sent a couple of vintage images that I had never seen from the first Northwest regatta, shot by photographer Arthur M. Conant of Menominee, MI. Arthur Conant most likely shot these pictures using a Kodak Folding Brownie 3a, which created a 3.25 x 5.5 inch postcard image. (The first Northwest was sailed on Lake Michigan at Menominee in 1913. The Northwest was a competition to decide boat supremacy among the ice yacht clubs of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Stern-Steerers ruled the ice back then before the bow-steering boats prevailed in the 1930s. Stern-Steerers and bow-steering boats still compete for the trophies of the Northwest.)
Marcy’s photos brought back memories of the late Bill Korsgard, a Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club member and postcard collector. Around 2000, Bill acquired a group of Arthur Conant 1913 Northwest postcards on eBay. The postcards offered a fascinating glimpse into the regatta through the eyes of a young Menominee man named Finn, who had written detailed explanations about the boats to a friend in Chicago. I have posted a few of these in years past, but Marcy’s photos motivated me to post the entire collection along with Finn’s notes.
Click on the red icons to reveal Finn’s notes.
“No need of telling you what boat this is. I don’t know what’s the matter with her this year. She can’t do a thing. I think it’s because Ed., working at the shoe factory now, can’t get out and give her his attention. Quimby ran it in the races. Parker pulled a corker off on Quimby at the minstrel. He told Harmon, who was interlockter (?) that an awful accident happened at the race that afternoon. Harmon asked him about it and he said they had to get out a searching party. Harmon asked him what for and he said to go out and find Jimmy Quimby.”
“Of course you don’t know this boat, but I’ll bet you’ll guess. This will answer your questions about the guys. It sure helped. She don’t raise anything like she did last year. The plank is a lot better now too, having some give. The trestle supporting the martingale broke and you can see how I wired it together.”
“All the different cups. Menominee, Menekaunee, and N.I.Y.A. The big one in the center is the world championship cup SQUARE PEOPLE put up and won.”
PRINCESS II, a Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club boat built by William Bernard for Emil Fauerbach
“There is a brace on the spar on this boat take notice. Hello Lewis, this is the best I could get of the Madison boat but Bob is trying to get some better ones and if he does he will send you some. Notice where they have the runner plank on.”
“Redbird Oshkosh. She took the Association Class B Cup. The boat has solid wrought iron runners about 1/4 inch thick. They were just the thing for the snow we have and have yet.”
“Note the nose and [?] also the double set of pulleys. They didn’t work very good forward like that, so I moved the lower ones back to the pencil dot [?] but I haven’t been out since to see how they worked. The name I got on her is FLYAWAY. I could think of nothing better but just as soon as I do, I’m going to change it.”
“The COLD WAVE came in first in Class B the first of the three days but was beat out by the RED BIRD on Friday and didn’t finish Saturday. It was thought she would have won out if it hadn’t snowed.”
SQUARE PEOPLE, designed and built in New Jersey by Dr. Stanborough for the Petersons of Menominee, MI. SQUARE PEOPLE was the name of their furniture company.
Finn’s note on the postcard conflicts with newspaper accounts that mention the boat was made in NJ along with the Menominee boat AURORA.
“Menominee types. Strictly Menominee designed and Menominee made. This is the boat that is all the noise this year. She goes through snow and everything. The way that PRINCESS II beat her Friday is as follows: Along by the crack the ice was almost clear, the wind having blown the snow way over the crack. Peterson wasn’t wise to this but Fauerbach was. I guess the guy on the YELLOW KID must have told him. It was one tack against the wind and he had to run almost straight into the wind to make it but he made it all right and beat Petie out on that race.”
3 CLASS A
“PRINCESS, YELLOW KID, & SQUARE PEOPLE. Three boats in center with sails up.”
A CLASS START
“Note the plank on the PRINCESS II just above the word wind.”
“She’s a lot like the SIRIUS. The Sunday that they were here there was a hell of a big wind blowing, but the Oshkosh boats wouldn’t race as it was against the rules of their club. They went out though and run around the course a couple of times and it looked as though she was putting it over Peterson [SQUARE PEOPLE] but I couldn’t tell for sure. She went some though. She’s coming back when the PRINCESS comes when the ice is good and is going to race for the big World Champs Cup.”
“STORM KING CLASS A: Oshkosh type. Backbone extends about a yard beyond lower boom. Heavy frame.”
PRINCESS [Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club boat, Madison, WI. Built by William Bernard for Emil Fauerbach.]
“Madison-style boat built as light as possible, with as little iron, steel and wire on as possible. Runner plank set far back and spar leaning back as far as possible. She’s some boat. Looks as though she might be a light wind boat, but she beat out Peterson [SQUARE PEOPLE] on the stormiest day. On the first day, she bumped into the Egg, I mean Lotha Smith Jr. and smashed her backbone right in two. Next day they got her fixed up just in time for the race with as pretty a backbone as she had when she came. Note how her spar, as well as the YELLOW KID [Class B boat built by Wm. Bernard] and how far back her plank is. She’s built as light as possible. Only one stay on each side. No guards to the back runner. I’m enclosing a rough sketch to show how she’s built. It’s not a very good picture but it will give you an idea of her.”
YELLOW KID, a Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club Class B Stern-Steerer built by William Bernard
“She came in third in Class B each of the 2 days. She’s built like the PRINCESS. She looks as though she might be a pretty good light wind boat. She beat out Prescott and Jennings though in the heavy winds. They came in third and fourth Thursday and Friday. The RED BIRD was the only B Boat that finished as the snow was too hard and deep.”
YELLOW KID, a Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club boat built by William Bernard.
“These boats it’s at the center of the backbone and these boats can go in some light wind. Then the [?] 2 x 6 connected from the end of the plank to the backbone and the 2 x 6 from the cockpit to the plank on each side. Although you can’t see them, Bob and I were out skiing with a couple of girls, had a great time.
STORM KING Oshkosh
“She’s built with the cockpit sticking out past the end of the lower boom, as were all the Oshkosh boats. The RED BIRD doesn’t protrude past the back of her sail as much as the others though. They’re heavy weather boats.”
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.
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.