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.
Ran across this photograph a few days ago and it’s too cool not to post. It’s the 4LIYC’s Ken Kreider in his rear seat Skeeter POON sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The background looks like Lake Kegonsa near Madison, WI. Back in those days, Ken was a very competitive Skeeter sailor who loved high wind sailing and his weight gave him an advantage on light air days. Ken won the ISA championship in 1988. Pat Heppert sent along a note about POON: “…this is the boat that I sailed from about 2002 to 2014. When Ken got out of the Skeeters [he] sold everything to Dave Travis in Chicago, I then bought the POON IV hull and springboard from Dave Travis. I remember grinding off all the pink within about the first week of owning it because I just couldn’t even stand looking at it. Great memories. The boat is now owned by a recreational sailor in lower Michigan, who seems to be happy with it.”
Here’s another vintage ice boat newsreel from British Pathé, the 1956 Northwest Regatta sailed on Geneva Lake.
Read about the regatta in this Oshkosh Daily Northwestern newspaper report from January 23, 1956.
Since we’re on the subject of the Northwest, this is a good opportunity to note that there’s a new webpage dedicated to the regatta with up to date By Laws, Sailing Instructions, Records of Regatta Winners, and Northwest Archives. Many thanks to SIBC’s Steve Schalk for helping to organize the page.
1954 marked the first time that the DN class competed in the Northwest and Skip Boston won that inaugural DN title. It was also a year that competitors completed the regatta despite tough conditions that ranged from no wind, 40 mph wind,followed by single digit temperatures. The regatta was scheduled for Pewaukee on January 15-71, 1954. The regatta’s opening day was a wash because the wind never materialized. On Saturday, “high winds, blowing snow, and poor visibility hampered racing…but good ice and 40 mph winds prevailed,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal. [40 miles per hour winds, really?-ed.]
The off season is the best time for this website to catch up on posting iceboating history. Jane Pegel recently sent a magazine page from 1951 Click here to see article.about the Northwest which motivated me to chose that historic regatta as the focus of TBT. Next week, we’ll start at the beginning.
The 1951 Northwest was sailed on Gull Lake in Michigan. The Mary B won the A stern steerer division. That was the third year in a row she won the Northwest and she would go on to win in 1952 and 1953.
The newspaper accounts are full of interesting details, such as the Mary B costing $24,000 to build. (Right click on the newspaper articles to open them in a new tab if you’d like to take a closer look at them.)
- Class A:Mary B, O.T.Havey, Owner; Carl Bernard, Skipper.
- Class B: Miss Jane II, Dan Coffey Jr., Einar Brink
- Class C: Susan Jo, Lambert, Stroshine, Dick Heumueller
- Class D: Rosemary II, Don Ward
- Free For All: Renegade, Skeeter E Class, Elmer Millenbach Detroit, Mi.
- Free For All 2nd Place: Cyclone, Howard L. Boston
- Class E Skeeter: Cyclone 7th, Howard L. Boston
I came across these photos while searching through the Life Magazine photo archives for the 1962 issue with a Pewaukee Skeeter on the cover. It brought me back to a few weeks ago, sitting on Bill and Mauretta Mattison’s lake side porch with a group of old friends who gathered to reminisce about the stern steerers MENACE, MARY B, and Madison iceboating history. Bill shared the story of the time he crewed for Jim Lunder on FRITZ at the 1948 Northwest and how they won the regatta. The last A stern steerer race was sailed in dimming light at the end of the day. During the race, Bill and Jim sailed into Williams Bay which was not a good place to be sailing an iceboat in near darkness because at that time, ice was harvested there and slabs of ice were piled all over the bay. With a lot of luck, Jim Lunder piloted the FRITZ around the ice blocks without hitting them and made it to the finish line in the darkness. Life’s photos from that regatta are posted here. Northwest regatta winners posted here.
1947 Northwest: Post WW2 Boom Years Begin
After a 5 year hiatus because of World War 2, the first post-war Northwest was held at Oshkosh in 1947. 4LIYC’s FRITZ (with new owners, the Lunder brothers and Carl Bernard at the helm) won the A stern steerer trophy. Ed Rollberg, who would go on to bring the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant to the midwest a few years later, won the E Skeeter title. Iceboaters who served in WW2 came back with new ideas about boat building, particularly the great Elmer Millenbach. More about Elmer next time.
Shortly before the 1947 Northwest, Eastern iceboater, Ray Ruge, wrote an in depth article in Yachting Magazine about the state of iceboating in North America. Read it here.
1942 Northwest: WW2 Years Begin
The 1942 Northwest was sailed in Menominee, Michigan just 6 weeks after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and would be the last one sailed until 1947. Neenah Ice Yacht Club’s Jim Kimberly won the E Skeeter title in PHANTOM II. There was no entry in the A fleet that year. The “queen of the ice lanes”, FRITZ, stayed on her home ice that season. (Read more about FRITZ coming out of “exile” here.) In fact no 4LIYC skippers competed in the Northwest that year. Here’s a Capital Times article detailing the winners of the regatta.
In the mid 1930s, stern steerers were still the only class that sailed in the Northwest. The 1934 Northwest A class title was captured by the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club FRITZ, a boat built by Frank Tetzlaff, owned by Fritz Jungbluth, and piloted that year by Carl Bernard. The boat would go on to win the Northwest A Stern Steerer title for a total of 7 times. There’s enough history about this boat for a book to be written. Here are some articles about that regatta and links to some history. Apologies for not having the time this morning to write a more deserving in depth report on this boat.
A Description of Materials, Cost of Materials, and Amount of Labor Used in the Construction of FRITZ”
The photo above is the starting point and inspiration for this week’s edition of Northwest Regatta Throw-Back-Thursday. That’s Skeeter Ice Boat Club’s Harry Melges (you may have heard of his son, Buddy) in front of H.V. Fitzcharles of Chicago on Lake Mendota. The Northwest was supposed to have started on Saturday, January 15 at Oshkosh but a heavy snow storm forced a postponment. The local newspaper wrote in a way all too familiar for those who enjoy this sport, “Oshkosh lost another regatta through an uncompromising Weather Man who has played a ‘dirty trick’ on the city and and particularly its iceboaters.”
Two weeks later, the regatta relocated to Lake Mendota. Harry Melges did win a trophy that year, but not in the E Skeeter. He sailed the Lake Geneva A stern steerer, KOL-MASTER, to victory. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that there was a controversy about “ships sailing out of their class”. You can that article here.
In honor of the 2016 Vintage Iceboat Show and 4LIYC Annual Picnic, here’s a salute to MISS MADISON, one of the vintage stern steerers that will be set up along with MARY B, MENACE, and other iceboats. MISS MADISON, built around 1927, was the last “Madison style” that Bill Bernard ever built. The Hudson River style of ice yacht, such as the MARY B, ultimately proved to be a faster design. MENACE is also a Madison-style stern steerer.
You may wonder what iceboating and WW1 Naval guns have to do with each other but there’s always a way to connect iceboating to anything. (Ask me about Abraham Lincoln and iceboating sometime -Ed.) MISS WISCONSIN won the Northwest Free For All in 1922 and 1923.
In 1918, Madison’s most famous iceboat builder, William Bernard, accepted a commission from the Steinle Turret Lathe Machine Company and built the most expensive iceboat of his career. MISS WISCONSIN cost $1,000, an amazing sum considering that Bernard’s most expensive boat to date had cost $400. Taking her maiden voyage in high winds, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that she broke “all speed laws of Lake Mendota” and picked up an ice fisherman as she swept by him. The man was not severely injured and recovered shortly after his harrowing ride. William Bernard’s son Carl, a young teenager at the time, recalled that there was “no finer ice boat ever built.” George Steinle’s company manufactured 5” guns for the U. S. Navy.
Ice yachtsmen of the midwest united in 1913 to organize the Northwest regatta to determine which club had the fastest stern-steerers. Read more about their efforts and the first Northwest which was sailed in Menominee, Michigan.
Two years later, the Northwest regatta came to Madison for the first time and was sailed on Lake Monona. The Milwaukee boat DEBUTANTE III won the A class, beating local hero Emil Fauerbach’s PRINCESS III. Madison’s most famous iceboat builder of the time, William Bernard, won the B fleet. Interesting to note that there was a C class champion back then but the C class NIYA records that I have start in 1926.
Madison historian, Frank Custer, wrote an absolutely fascinating story about this regatta filled with the kinds of details that iceboaters love to read, like the fact that the DEBUTANTE III was the first boat to use aluminum runners. Custer’s article is a must read, check it out here.
- A Class champion: DEBUTANTE III, D. Van Dyke, K. Doemel, M. Mackie
- B Class champion: VALIENT, W. P. Bernard, H. Nelson
- Free For All champion: DEBUTANTE III, D. Van Dyke, K. Doemel, M. Mackie
Friday, January 22, 1915 Wisconsin State Journal
FREE FOR ALL TO DEBUTANTE III
Milwaukee Owned Ice Yacht Wins SQUARE PEOPLE’S Cup On Lake Monona
The free-for-all race for the Square People’s trophy for ice boats of all classes, which is always a feature of the Northwestern Ice Yachting association regatta was won this morning by DEBUTANTE III, skippered by its owner, Douglas Van Dyke of Milwaukee. The race went 15 miles and the beautiful Van Dyke craft covered the distance in 59 minutes and 5 seconds. Considering the light breeze and the snow, this is considered fair time.
Nine minutes after DEBUTANTE III crossed the tape, PRINCESS III owned by Emil Fauerbach finished. Followed in their respective order were OLD CRAFT of Menominee, PRINCESS II, and TOOT TOOT, the last two being seconds apart.
DEBUTANTE II, the sister boat of the winner, struck a stake and was disqualified. FLIT, FREAK, and VALIANT withdrew.
The final races for trophies in the B and C classes were run off late this afternoon.