Carl Bernard, Camp Van Dyke, John Buckstaff, and Andy Flom sitting on the DEBUTANTE on Lake Winnebago in 1934. John Buckstaff is holding the Stuart Cup.
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
Wisconsin State Journal. February 14, 1935. A time when sports columnists followed the stars of ice yachting and rooted for the home team. The 4LIYC’s FRITZ with Carl Bernard at the helm won the Stuart that year.
Wisconsin Skeeter Association Trophy. Photo: Gretchen Dorian.
Ashwaubenon, WI iceboater Jay Yaeso doubled his racing time and fun by bringing his Class A Skeeter and Stern-Steerer to Menominee, Michigan, on March 5-7, 2021. Jay sums up the weekend in this report. Scroll down below his recap to see a few of Gretchen Dorian’s Skeeter photos.
Skeeter sailing and Stern-Steering haven’t been exactly easy these past two winters. Mother Nature and COVID19 tagged teamed and put a beat down on us. That all ended abruptly the weekend of March 5-7, 2021, when a total of nine Class A Skeeters and eight Stern-Steerers landed at Menomonie, Michigan, courtesy of world-famous Renegade sailor Mike Derusha.
Mike spent countless hours evaluating the local conditions and determined it was green light go for all involved. He nailed it! Perfect landing and ice conditions.
The threat of the Mackinaw icebreaker coming through had us on red alert; however, the Coasties held off their icebreaking efforts the remainder of the weekend.
Day one Friday was all about the Skeeters. Conditions were perfect, a light 5-10 mph southeaster, and we completed four races.
John Dennis (JD) in the U194 and Ken Whitehorse piloting the M197 were the boats to beat. Both displayed blistering speed in this light condition. Most impressive is watching the legend Paul Krueger M165 sail at 81 years young! A true inspiration for any iceboater! Class act! The ice stayed hard all day with full sunshine. Rounding out the Friday fleet was Tom Hyslop V738, Leon Lebeau D888, and Jay Yaeso U311.
Saturday brought out three more Skeeters, Mark Isabell V30, Steve Orlebeke V500, and Alex Peterson V137. The day started with a light northwesterly, and Skeeters and Stern-Steerers shared a racecourse.
The Wisconsin Stern Steerers Association started race one of their championship regatta series. This race was by far the longest iceboat race I have ever experienced. My Stern-Steerer, HAYWIRE, was the only yacht to finish, and what a weird finish it was! She completed the race upwind as a 180-degree wind shift hit on the final leg. It was a grueling race that the Race Committee declared abandoned because of time limit infraction. The incredible wind shift made it easy on the Race Committee because the 180-degree wind shift flip-flopped the course.
The Skeeters sailed downwind and commenced race five of the weekend. Ken Whitehorse was hooked up and won the race. The fresh breeze locked in again from the southeast at 5-10 mph, which made it another great day. U194 and M197 were the boats to beat, with the M165 securing second place in race five and V30 showing much speed in race seven.
The Stern-Steerers plugged away throughout the day and managed to race three more races with the Class A boat MICHIGANDER sailed by Erik and Ritch Sawyer acing every race. Once again, proving a Class A Stern-Steerer is the ultimate ride! HAYWIRE chased the MICHIGANDER, followed up by the remainder of the fleet. Dave Lallier, Mike Kroll, Mark Weiner, Max Runge, Joe Terry and Class D winner Andy Gratton.
Upon completing the day’s racing, Wisconsin Skeeter Association’s morale Officer Ken Whitehorse presented JD the Bottle Trophy. All participants consumed some of Jameson’s whiskey bottle, which capped off a glorious day of Skeeter and Stern-Steerer racing. Following the Bottle Trophy celebration, the WSA gathered at Jozwiak’s Bar and Grill, home of the delicious and delightful hamburger know as the “Wabash” and killer homemade pizza.
Sunday arrived with light conditions with a forecasted south southeast wind at 10-15 mph. The light air gave the fleet leisure set up time. When the clock read 11 AM, we had 11 mph of wind which kept building all day. The Skeeters finished their series with the final race deciding who won the weekend series. JD prevailed with Kenny on his heels. Great to see newcomers Leon Lebeau and Alex Peterson join the Skeeter fleet! We are all looking forward to racing with these guys!
The WSSA wrapped up their championship with the MICHIGANDER winning race five, and HAYWIRE launched and sailing on two runners most of race six for the final race win. Great to see all the familiar faces with lots of new ones. We now can put the Skeeters and Stern-Steerers away fast and ready for the 21-22 season.
A weekend like this happens with a lot of behind-the-scenes help. Special thanks to Deb Whitehorse for all her support, to WSSA Race Committee Ann Gratton, and Mary Jane and Steve Schalk for tabulating and posting all results. Thank you to Mike Derusha for inviting us all up to Menominee. Thank you to Schoelgels Bayview restaurant for letting us drive through their parking lot and lawn to access this great sheet of ice, and Ken Whitehorse for all his work as WSA morale/trophy officer. Not to forget all competitors, thank you to everyone who showed up put in a tremendous effort to make this a most excellent weekend of sailing. Thanks for the incredible memories!
Jay Yaeso U-311 C-47
As reported yesterday, squalls made for some wild rides during the Racine Yacht Club’s HOOK Race downwind from Racine to Door County on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Apparently there were 5 boats that lost rigs, including Jay Yaeso’s SHAZAM, proving again that sailing on Lake Michigan can be more challenging than ocean racing in big “sleds” – something 4LIYC Commodore Don Anderson who has sailed a few Transpacs related to me yesterday. SHAZAM’S mast “oil-canned” (compressed) Saturday afternoon during a 50 mph squall with 8 – 10′ waves. Thankfully, all crew were OK and they were able to pull into Sheboygan after 4 hours on the motor where they met up with Steve Orelebeke who had been sailing on PEERLESS. Steve and crew were forced to pull into Sheboygan because the waves pushed too much water into the hatch. I believe that race tracking did show that Fred Stritt and HASTEN made it to the end of the race. There were quite a few DNFs, possibly 18.
However, there was one group of ice sailors who made HOOK history and “absolutely shattered a Hook race record” by 3 hours, Rick Hennig (owner of DEUCE) and the crew of THUNDERSTRUCK. From crew member Eric Tobias’ Facebook feed:
20 hours, 20 kts of boatspeed, 47 knot peak wind speed, hurricane rain, lightning sky, one exploded spinnaker, one exploded jib, several wipe outs, one absolutely shattered Hook race record, a passage through Death’s Door and one incredibly wild ride. We made it to the finish safe with minimal damage and injuries. Thankfully we didn’t find a new meaning for our boat name (we didn’t get struck by lightning). Go Thunderstruck.
Expect to hear some stories about the HOOK race of 2020 during those times when we are standing on the ice waiting for wind.
MARY B draws a crowd on Lake Monona. Photos: Earl W Brown
In January 1952, Lake Monona delivered and the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club hosted the Northwest regatta and the Hearst Challenge. (The Hearst trophy was donated in 1903 by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.) Lake Monona in the 1950s could be counted upon for sailable ice thanks to the soot pollution from the coal burning power plant on its northeastern shore. The downside for the Skeeters was that the coal dust very quickly dulled runners. Perhaps the coal cinders didn’t affect the big iron of the Stern-Steerer runners.
The three majestic Class A Stern Steerers that competed for the Hearst that year were 2 4LIYC boats and 1 from Oshkosh including the MARY B owned by O. T. Havey and skippered by Carl Bernard with crew Norm Braith and Charlie Johnson; FRITZ owned and sailed by Jim Lunder with Beauford Polglase; and FLYING DUTCHMEN owned by John Buckstaff of Oshkosh, WI and skippered by Chuck Nevitt with crew Bud McDonald. MARY B was able to defend her title that year.The excitement of the regatta drew crowds and prompted the 4LIYC to set up a public address system at Law Park. Someone provided a play by play account during the racing.
These historic ice yachts are still with us today. Current owner of the FLYING DUTCHMEN, Dave Lallier in Fond du Lac, reminded me that FLYING DUTCHMEN is the correct name of the boat, not DUTCHMAN. The Van Dyke brothers from Milwaukee commissioned the FLYING DUTCHMEN in the 1930s, hence the plural designation. MARY B is back in Madison and owned by the Ice Boat Foundation while FRITZ is owned by Fred Stritt and is available for sale.
Stern-steerer fanatic Michael Kroll assembled his first video of the season from yesterday’s sailing highlights on White Potato Lake in northwestern Wisconsin.
Iceboating White Potato Lake with Andy Gratton, Dave Lallier, Mike Peters, Mike Derusha. Also Robbie and Bob Everhard from Oshkosh showed up with a Nite. We had DN’s, a Lockley Skimmer, and my small Stern Steerer. The wind came up quit nice and See if you can guess who was sailing the stern-steerer Sunshine when only 2 runners were on the ice. Fun time had by all. Great day of sailing!