Dirt Report: Now That The Dust Has Settled

Dirt Report: Now That The Dust Has Settled

An excessively enthusiastic Daniel Hearn contemplates DRIFTER in the desert. Photos via Facebook: Ralph Raymond

Now That the Dust Has Settled

(Report from Daniel Hearn on the America’s Cup of Landsailing)

He called at exactly the right time. It appeared the Fat Lady was about to sing. (Oops, lack of wokeness. Much work to be done on my sensitivity. What I meant to say was, “that the perfectly round person, who is currently identifying as a female singer, was about to share a vocal performance”). The ice sailing season was all but over. I’d had a good run but was intrigued with the idea that the solid surface action could be extended. Or maybe I’m just an addict. There are worse things.


“Just fly into Vegas, “the laid back, but highly convincing man said. “I’ll have the boat on the playa ready to go. A couple hours later, I’d purchased a ticket, rented a campervan, and confirmed that my buddy was still bringing Drifter v.1. Check—Mini Skeeter designer, John Eisenlohr is bringing me his fully sorted boat that no one else can beat. (I can fix that). Check—C-Skeeter Bubble Boat designer, Pat Heppert is driving west and bringing all the food. Check—All I have to do is show up with a helmet. I’ll never be closer to rock stardom.


It’s different in the dirt. You’re not a Skipper or Helm, you’re a Pilot. Most pilots use a pusher off the line, but the pusher can’t cross the line. A boat not using a pusher can push for as long as they desire. Races last a specified period; usually 15 minutes. Scoring is a combination of laps completed and finishing position. Start line is closed after the flag drops. Boats must pass through a “scoring line” adjacent to the start line on each lap, for that lap to be scored. The boat on the right always has right of way. Protests are rare. And get this—they sometimes round to starboard. Now that’s a mind bender!


Many ice sailing skills seem to transfer. But I was also reminded that old habits are, indeed, hard to break. 18 Mini Skeeters and I was feeling pretty good about myself finishing in the second position in my very first race. Back in the pits, however, race winner, Dave Gluek, another long-time ice sailor, realized that the top three finishers had all rounded the bottom mark on each lap in the wrong direction. We’d spent the entire training day rounding all marks to port. But on race day when it counted, everything was backwards for the ice sailors. We successfully rounded the top mark to starboard and opened a big lead on the rest of the fleet. Approaching the bottom mark, we were so focused on each other, we forgot it was a starboard hike we should be managing. Top three to DSQ. Ugh! Since misery loves company, many others made us feel less stupid, repeating the same error. Our PRO remarked that he’d never seen so many DSQs across all the fleets in a single race. An anonymous, highly experienced dirt pilot, having committed the same rounding error, further magnified by failing to cross the scoring line on the first lap succinctly summed up his performance with, “fast boat, slow mind.”


“Push like your pants are on fire,” read the starting tip in the Mini Manual. Taking that to heart in another race I gave it my best Usain Bolt. >From either the tremendous thrust I generated, or the fact that my steering dampener had loosened a bit (not sure which), my steering flopped to leeward just as I was jumping into the cockpit. I found myself on a fast-closing collision course with the pilot below, unable to grab the steering bar in time. So, after laying some rubber on him, apologizing profusely, and confirming no damage, I pushed off sheepishly hoping to chase down some of the fleet. DFL at the first mark…lots of work to do. Fortunately for me, the breeze was up and down, and shifty. I was able to keep MS1 in the pressure, recovering to a sixth place finish. Not bad considering my embarrassing start.


Same as ice sailing, the dirt people were really cool. Super friendly, glad to see a new face, happy to help and great competitors. Serious racing, for sure, but nobody seems to forget we’re just doing this for fun. The camaraderie on the playa is built in. Most everybody stays right there on the dirt in various camping rigs with hard sides. We saw gusts to 49 mph, so you can imagine the soft sides of a tent might not be the best choice.

Dave Gluek was clearly the fastest in the Mini Fleet. He would have run away with the title if it were not for his gracious personality. Up to the last race he was all bullets, except for his Race 1 DSQ for rounding the wrong way. In the last race he racked another bullet, but then inadvertently sailed over the start line when he turned to waive a thank you acknowledgement to the Committee. Unfortunately, this gave him a second DSQ and prevented him from getting his name on the trophy this year. But the rest of us knew he was the pilot to beat, and his classy display of sportsmanship will be remembered for many years to come. Also had the pleasure of meeting his wife, Vicki. Nice lady. Will look forward to seeing Dave, Vicki and all my newfound dirt friends on the playa in the future.


Big thanks to John Eisenlohr for inviting me to come and providing a boat. (The performance of the Mini Skeeter on the dirt greatly exceeded my expectations)! And to Team Eisenlohr for all the help, guidance and tips to a dirt virgin. And to my good friend, Pat Heppert, for doing all the hard work and putting up with my excessive enthusiasm.


Team MMS (Midwest Mini Skeeters) has officially launched. It appears we may be building at least five boats, possibly to live on a shared trailer. If there are any other Midwest ice sailors who may be interested in extending their hard surface seasons, please reach out to me. dhearnUS5352@gmail.com

4LIYC Racing Report: Fun For the Faithful

4LIYC Racing Report: Fun For the Faithful

Ken Whitehorse’s Class A Skeeter WARRIOR. Photo: Ethan Brodsky

4LIYC Racing Scores

Fun For The Faithful

This time of year, when both the weather and the Fat Lady are warming up, it’s only the faithful who show up for possible ice sailing. What looked to be a questionable weekend turned out to be loads of fun. On Saturday morning, the ice had firmed up nicely, but there didn’t appear to be a lot of wind, as our launch area was on the protected shore. Undeterred, as the rest of the faithful had what we’ll call a casual setup pace, I pushed off to check things out. Once clear of the point, Chaos, my Renegade, hooked up immediately. For about the next hour, I explored the entire lake, never seeing any ice to be concerned about. By about 11:00 or so, the rest of the fleet made their way out to the .9 mile course set up by our esteemed Treasurer and Saturday PRO, Jerry Simon, assisted by the Goddess of All Things Ice Sailing, Deb Whitehorse. It became apparent that racing might be a challenge at this point. And since we were now conveniently located on the Springer’s side of the lake, we decided the wise call would be to head to lunch. We summoned our Ice Uber, a red Bombardier with license DX 4967, driven by Jerry, who promptly delivered us to our destination. Delicious lunches were had by all. And one beer, but not by an iceboat pilot.


Shortly after 1:00, we decided it was time to give it a go. By the time the first flag dropped, the ice had softened up quite a lot with the increasing temperatures. The Renegades went off on port and the DNs went off on starboard. The first lap was great for everybody, but then the combination of slushier surface and lighter wind turned the remainder of the race into a pushing contest. The former runner and the former triathlete, both with bad knees, continued their battle until realizing the RC had taken down the bottom mark. The sailor who prefers a supplemental push at the start and the one who had some work done on his ticker, were much smarter than the over-the-hill athletes. They retired after the first lap chuckling to themselves watching two knuckleheads try to sail in slush without enough wind. Chris Berger in his DN was able to keep her going for three laps, so he was our one race overall winner.


Hoping the forecasted afternoon wind would arrive, we made our way back to the pits, some with motorized assistance. After an hour or so of visiting in the pits, the breeze did indeed fill in. The surface was slushy in spots, but we now had enough velocity to blast right through. The DNs ventured back out, along with Greg McCormick and me in our Renegades. We had a wonderful afternoon just sailing around. Once it started to drizzle, we decided it was time to call it a day.


When I pulled up to the ice Sunday, it was already a great day. It warmed my heart to see my friend, Tim McCormick, on the ice setting up his Renegade. Tim has been fighting a more important battle, so I was thrilled to see him. And joining the optimism for the day, were Kenny and Pk setting up their A-Class Skeeters, with the newly MacGyvered DN Western Region ATV stationed nearby. As the morning progressed, many guests arrived with Nites and DNs. It was wonderful to meet so many new people who share our passion. Also joining was a couple who came all the way from the Twin Cities just to check out ice sailing. They’ve been following the action on our website, so with an open weekend available, Greta and Handan (sorry, doc, if I just sent your name to the ER) to see if they could get a ride. After a tour of the various boats and a spin on the motorized kick sled, they took turns driving my Renegade assisted with the new boat-pusher Kenny made for the WR-ATV. With the coach just astern, “left-right-sheet in-sheet out” were the only instructions needed. They both did great and also took turns in Tim Mower’s DN. Hope they’ll join us again!


By mid-afternoon, the breeze had filled in nicely. With the, now, pretty slushy conditions and wise age of our A-Skeeter pilots, they elected to do flying starts for their races. We’d wind them up with the WR-ATV; they’d get themselves in close formation and pass through the line together to start each race. It worked great and PK and Kenny had a ball. At least until PK’s mast dropped near the top mark. You’ll have to get those “dets” from him on that. The Renegades ripped off four races, each won by a McCormick. And the DNs also notched four, with Matt Meyer setting the pace.


Back in the pits, it was a group effort to get everything off the ice using the aluminum ramps to protect the ice. Andy McCormick showed up at that time. It was either a meeting of the Irish Republican Army–Madison Chapter, or a discussion about the Northwest. Maybe both.
Daniel Hearn

Shop Talk from Spaight St. Syndicate: Trust The Engineer…Or Else!

Shop Talk from Spaight St. Syndicate: Trust The Engineer…Or Else!

Previously: “That Will Buff Right Out”
Via Daniel Hearn, Spaight Street Syndicate

Trust The Engineer…Or Else!

Since it was determined last weekend at Lake Pepin that I have a weak spine, this weekend it was time to man up. First I removed the ragged skin to the closest bulkheads, sideboard or stringer. Then I cut out the what remained of the old spine. The original T-beam was constructed of 5/8” Sitka, 2-1/2” wide with triangles underneath. I made the new T-beam out of 1” x 3” White Oak with two verticals on the bottom, triangles underneath and horizontally at the bulkhead joints. For additional peace of mind, I added a layer of 45 degree carbon and a layer of biaxial carbon around the entire beam, plus one more layer of carbon on the top. And finally, carbon gussets at each of the corners were the beam and bulkheads meet. This construction should be dramatically stronger than the previous, which would have been fine, had I just followed Pat’s plans.


Rather than using a traditional top-mounted mast ball track, which would have spread the load out across 14” or so, I used a 6” countersunk style. This required the removal of a fair amount of material directly under the mast ball, when the shorter length was already concentrating the load in a smaller area. The mistake I made was not accounting for these impacts. But the countersunk style looked cooler. (That’s what we call “solid” marketing thinking!)


The spine didn’t actually collapse, rather, the track twisted, blowing out the side of the original beam. It was breezy that day on Lake Pepin, so in addition to carrying a bunch of lead, the stays were slacked off, which caused more side load on the mast ball, hence, the twist.


Hopefully the Northwest will be “On” for the coming weekend, so I can give Lorem Ipsum another shakedown, and try to catch Pat!

“That Will Buff Right Out”

“That Will Buff Right Out”

Via 4LIYC Commodore Daniel Hearn:

Wow, what a time we had on Lake Pepin over the weekend! Such a beautiful place to ice sail, with the surrounding bluffs and bald eagles flying everywhere. Thanks to Pat Heppert, who scouted ice on Friday, we knew we were in for a special weekend, if the wind cooperated. We had a massive sheet of nice ice. Not perfect, but plenty smooth even for the little boats. And no heaves to deal with. The light wind forecast for Saturday kept many interested sailors away, but the C-Skeeters were able to sail all morning. And then the breeze filled in nicely in the afternoon. Pat and I ripped around for hours working on tuning, joined by three DNs (Bob Cummins, Matt Meyer and Erin Bury) and one Mini Skeeter (Tom C).

Also got a chance to sail my wing boat for just the second time. Great fun, and I was particularly amazed at the upwind performance. Couple local kids hovered around the pits all afternoon, asking lots of questions and helping out. When I asked if they wanted to give the wing boat a go, at first they thought I was kidding. Patrick and Philip both made her go nicely, and returned to the pits impressively with smiles as wide as the lake.

Breeze was up considerably on Sunday. Pat and I put up our small sails, loaded up with lead and slacked our stays. It was game on, for sure! Looking to catch Fast Pat in our first official race, I was striving to minimize my end plate effect. I definitely closed the gap between my boom and hull, but it exposed my weak spine. (Yeah, I know, not the first time).

With the help of my sailing mates, we removed the boom and sail, and then “de-penetrated” the mast. No damage other than a spine that needs to be rebuilt. Ahhh, but a scratch! So I pushed in to retrieve my wing boat that was already set up and ready to go. And GO it did! Even with next to no wing driving skills, the boat was fast and smooth. In particular, I was blown away with the upwind performance. A hard wing climbs the upwind ladder like nobody’s business.

To complete our amazing weekend, Pat and I sailed all the way down to the infamous Pickle Factory for a delicious lunch. (Picture taken through the window of the bar). It’s 6 miles one-way, and we never had to even negotiate a heave. There, we met up with local Ed Newcomb, who is the owner of two Madison-built A-Skeeters–a Mattison and a Whitehorse–both of which were on the ice, having just completed a sporty session.

About a dozen DNs sailed numerous scrub races while Pat and I were on our adventure. Lots of good tuning took place, with great times reported by all.

Hopefully the fun can continue at the Northwest next weekend!

Two Tales of ATVs

Two Tales of ATVs

Ken WhiteHorse problem solving the DN Western Region ATV

Via Ken WhiteHorse:
We had the Western Region DN ATV at the Past Champs ICEBOAT shop for repairs. I was just about to cut out the flux capacitator with the blow torch when 4LIYC Renegader and DN racer Chris Gordon walked in with battery boosters and various electrical analysis gadgetry. He says, “Hold your horses there WhiteHorse!” He started at the battery and worked his way forward, testing for open circuits, fried wires, and relays. Within an hour, he found the problems! We turned on the key, and yes, the lights came on! Pushed the green button ✅ yes, the starter engaged! The powerful Ka-ma-sa-ki! rice burner fired to life on the second revaluation! Even so, I still recommend replacing the flux capacitator in the very near future.

Via Daniel Hearn:
I didn’t know our talented DN World & North American Championship photographer, Cathy Firmbach, could also wax poetic about something as utilitarian as our racing marks. Oh, what an interesting group we are!

But, man, are we rough and tumble. Talk about taking a beating! In spite of Pat Heppert’s efforts to protect the stoic fixtures, they took on more damage than a fraternity house during rush week. Delta, Delta, Delta pledges, no doubt, as they were clearly the recipients of excessive hazing. Good thing we have a bunch of handy types here in the Western Region. We’ll get them patched back together before our next rodeo.

Chris fluxing the capacitators.

You may have also heard that the Western Region ATV decided to check out during the events, as well. Thanks to Kenny Whitehorse, with help from Chris Gordon, our chariot is back in business, and better than ever. A faulty winch switch fried a couple of fuses. Our machine was dead on the ice in the middle of the lake. A super cool ice fisherman loaned us his ATV to tow our wounded sled back to the pits. We thanked him with a case of beer the next day. He said, “Mama enjoys a cold Lite by a warm fire!”

K. Whitehorse Enterprises insisted that I come over to inspect the work in progress. Fortunately, the fuses saved the wiring from further damage. With most of the plastic off, we agreed it was the perfect time to put on a new muffler. Current muffler has a sizeable hole, and a local shop wouldn’t fix it last year when their mechanic couldn’t just slap on a direct replacement. (Ever wonder what happened to problem solving? They don’t seem to make Kenny Whitehorses and Paul Kruegers these days!) We’re also going to drill a hole through the plastic into the air intake, so we can easily squirt some starting fluid, if our machine is ever grouchy on a particularly cold morning.

Many thanks to Ken and Chris for donating their talents and expertise. I’m going to meet up with Kenny on Friday at the “Past Champions Iceboat Shop” to help with reassembly and to sweep the shop floor. It’s always good to align tasks appropriately with skills!

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