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.
On March 16, 1914, Madisonians Emil Fauerbach and William Bernard brought the Hearst Trophy to Madison, one of the most sought after titles in ice yacht racing.
UPDATE 3-18: The original photo that was posted was incorrect. See more below.
Emil Fauerbach, born 1870, grew up on Lake Monona near his family’s brewery and was obsessed with the beautiful ice yachts he saw flying around the lake, considered the fastest vehicles in the world at the time. One mile away from the brewery on the other side of Madison’s isthmus, William Bernard was born the same year and grew up immersed in his father’s boat livery on Lake Mendota, where he fulfilled his dream of building and designing iceboats.
Fauerbach and Bernard joined forces and chased one of the most prestigious ice yacht racing titles, the Hearst trophy. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst donated a gold-lined silver cup at the behest of the Kalamazoo Ice Yacht Club in Michigan in 1903. Emil’s idea was to challenge for the prestigious Hearst trophy, but in 1904 Emil sailing a Bernard-built boat, returned to Madison from Gull Lake, Michigan, without the title.
Fauerbach and Bernard’s obsession with the Hearst resulted in a new ice yacht explicitly designed to win the coveted cup. Bernard completed Princess II for Fauerbach in January of 1906. Princess II carried 426 square feet of sail, weighed 1500 pounds, and made of the finest white oak and spruce. Between 1904 and 1914, the two determined men traveled six times to Gull Lake, Michigan, trying to win the Hearst. Fauerbach was considered Madison’s “Sir Thomas Lipton,” after the British millionaire yachtsman famous for his five unsuccessful bids to win the America’s Cup.
1914: The Hearst Cup Finally Comes to Madison
PRINCESS II won the Northwest regatta Class A championship in 1914. Shortly after the win, Emil Fauerbach, PRINCESS II, and his crew of Andy Flom, William Bernard, and Hiram Nelson took the train to Michigan.
Fauerbach’s resolve to capture the Hearst for Madison was so great that he put aside his ego and stayed off the boat, turning over control to superior sailor Andy Flom. On March 16, 1914, Emil watched from the finish line as Flom, Nelson, and Bernard finally wrested the Hearst away from the Kalamazoo Ice Yacht Club. They were bringing the elegant trophy to Madison.
When the news of the victory reached Madison, the citizens were ecstatic. Henry Fauerbach, interviewed at Chicago’s Illinois Athletic Club, declared that his brother’s victory would be a good motivation for ice-yacht racing throughout the whole Northwest. In an understatement, Mendota Yacht Club Commodore Lew Porter told the Wisconsin State Journal, “it is possible that the Mendota Yacht Club will hold some sort of jollification as a result of the victory of the PRINCESS II.” The paper went on to write, “PRINCESS II, sailing the colors of the Mendota Yacht Club, has won for Madison the highest honors in this year’s leading American ice yacht regatta…Madison is particularly gratified at the splendid success of Emil Fauerbach’s iceboat because the game Badger skipper has tried several times to lift the cup.” Fauerbach’s win put Madison on the map as an iceboating community.
Sadly, Emil Fauerbach had only a short time to revel in the Hearst trophy’s prestige and honors. Fifteen months after he won the Hearst, Madisonians read the shocking news that their most famous ice yachtsman had passed away. Emil Fauerbach died on May 22, 1915, at 45, from complications of a stomach operation.
Misidentified as “Emil Fauerbach and possibly Andy Flom on PRINCESS I in front of Fauerbach Brewery on Lake Monona, Madison, WI, c.1905. Courtesy of Byron Tetzlaff.” Erich Schloemer pointed out that this boat isn’t a Madison-style boat as all PRINCESS boats were, but instead could be a John Buckstaff-built boat, possibly DEBUTANTE B. Stay tuned for more.
1922 Madison Winter Carnival on Lake Monona. Photo courtesy Marv Luck.
The 1922 photo above is difficult to write about because there is so much history captured at that moment. Pictures like this can send one down a never-ending rabbit hole of history. It’s tough to stick to one topic when there are so many presented in this photo, such as Madison’s history, the history of each boat and skipper, and the differences between the Hudson River and Madison styles of Stern-Steerer. For this post, I’ll try to stick to the subject of DORLA.
A 4LIYC Facebook member in Madison recently asked about the Stern-Steerer DORLA because her family had a connection to the boat. Marv Luck of Oshkosh, who knows the big ships’ history better than anyone, noticed the request and handed me a couple of 8 x 10 photos of DORLA last weekend at the Puckaway Nite and Renegade regatta.
DORLA was owned initially by Henry Meyer of Pewaukee, WI. I’m not sure who built DORLA, but I would guess John Buckstaff of Oshkosh, WI. (Marv can correct me if I’m wrong.) The Meyer family was heavily involved in ice sailing in the first half of the 20th century, and Henry served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Northwest for several years.
The newspaper reports about the 1922 Madison Winter Carnival don’t mention DORLA, but that’s undoubtedly her in the photo because the picture came from the Meyer family. The Capital Times reported on February 3, 1922, “…to make the ice boat races a feature of the Carnival, the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club has received acceptances of a challenge from the Ice Yacht Clubs at Pewaukee, Oconomowoc and Oshkosh. Several Hudson River types of ice boats will be in the fleet of boats from Pewaukee and Oconomowoc. Suitable trophies consisting of cups and pennants will be awarded the three winning boats: in three different classes.”
Henry Meyer and DORLA won three Class A Stern-Steerer titles in the Northwest Regatta in 1928, 1930, and 1931 and the Hearst Trophy in 1931 and 1932. I have found no mention of DORLA until 1947.
In 1947, DORLA appeared again in a Wisconsin State Journal report about the Northwest. She had become part of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club Stern-Steerer fleet and was owned by O. T. Havey and sailed by Phil Oetking. In 1948, the same newspaper reported that Havey’s boat had placed second in the Northwest regatta under a new name ELECTRA. Of course, Havey gained fame as the man who commissioned the MARY B Class A Stern Steerer. In 1956, the boat was called DORLA again with a new owner, 4LIYC member Johnny Adams.
DORLA might have ended up with the same fate as so many old Stern-Steerers, quietly decaying in a barn until put on a burn pile by people who had no idea of her regatta titles and rich history.
Around 1915, the Van Camp brothers of Oshkosh, WI wanted to compete for the most prestigious ice sailing trophies of the day. They looked to the east coast and commissioned a top-notch Class A stern steerer. The DEBUTANTE was built by Jacob Buckhout of Poughkeepsie, New York, the most renowned ice yacht builder of the Hudson River style during that time. An first class racing ice yacht needed a corresponding helmsman and the Van Camps called on Oshkosh’s John Buckstaff to take the tiller. The DEBUTANTE won the Stuart trophy in 1920 and 1939 with “Bucky” in the driver’s seat. (The “DEB” also won the 1960 Northwest Class A trophy with Bud Stroshine.)
In 1963, Roger Derusha of Menominee, MI bought the DEBUTANTE in from the Van Camps. Roger was an influential Renegade sailor and passed on in 1999. The “DEB” is still in Menominee, MI with Roger’s son, Renegader and DNer Mike Derusha.
This video combines two interviews from the 1980s. The first interview is Greg Siebold with Roger and Mike. The second interview takes us to a workshop at Marinette Marine where Mike Peters and Steve Buch interviewed Roger at length about the DEBUTANTE. Apologies for the quality and poor aspect ratio of the videos but we are lucky to have them.
The DEBUTANTE with Carl Bernard, Camp Van Dyke, John Buckstaff, and Andy Flom.