The ice sailing season moves closer as another box is ticked tomorrow with the 112th Chicago to Mackinac Island race. So far, I can only find one group of ice sailors on the competitor’s list, Rick Hennig and crew on THUNDERSTRUCK. At 60 feet, Rick’s soft water boat is a few inches longer than his winter ride, the world’s largest iceboat DEUCE. Let me know if there are any other ice sailors out there heading to the island tomorrow.
Speaking of Mackinac, here’s a photo that Wisconsin Stern Steerer Association Secretary Andy Gratton shared. It was on display at a business on the island. Andy guesses it dates from the 1880s or earlier “because the masts appear to be on top of the trussed runner planks.”
He also noted that “It looks as if the Grand Hotel is on the left side of the photo, the Fort on the right. I can’t imagine sailing these vessels and having all the sails trimmed correctly, in addition to ensuring the crew stays on the end of the runner plank where he belongs!”
Harken’s latest newsletter is an ode to iceboating with articles and videos featuring Will Perrigo, Steve Orlebeke, Peter Harken, and a name we hope to read a lot more about in the future, Samuel Bartel. Sam is a student at UW Madison on the sailing team, and iceboating instantly clicked with him. Sam placed 4th in the Silver Fleet at last week’s DN U.S. Nationals in his first regatta. Many thanks to Hannah Lee Noll for pulling together these stories, videos, and photos highlighting the special place that ice sailing has within the Harken organization.
LINK TO VIDEO
This is an amazing video found on Reddit by Tom Lothian featuring Stern Steerers and early Skeeters in front of the Legion in Oshkosh. I’m certain there are photos of this regatta in the Carl Bernard collection. I recognize the DEUCE and at the very end, the 4LIYC’s Carl Bernard on the MARY B, I think. If you recognize any boats or people in this video, take note of the screen time and let me know. I’ll look over the photos from the Carl Bernard collection to see what I can find.
A big tip of the helmet to Tom Lothian!
“Others quickly picked up the bow-steering design, and a few large bow-steerers were built…A Class B boat (250 square feet of sail) was built by Starke Meyer of Milwaukee and he ran away from everything else on the lakes”. Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.
While researching last week’s Throw Back Thursday Gar Wood regatta post, I discovered a book that wasn’t on my radar or in my library, Meade Gougeon’s “Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design” written with co-author Ty Knoy. The stern-steerer iceboat on the cover hinted this was not a typical book about soft water sailboats with an obligatory paragraph about iceboats. Meade masterfully combined the story of iceboat design, mechanics, and history as he explained why some boats are faster than others. If you collect books about iceboating, this is an essential volume and available on Amazon.
Meade’s Bigger Picture Thinking:
“Many of the refinements in sails and rigging that have been developed since World War I originated on iceboats.”
“The first bow-steerer of any importance was built in 1931 by the Joy brothers, sailmakers in Milwaukee.” …”the Joy brothers and Walter Beauvais (of Williams Bay, WI) who came up with the machine (BEAU SKEETER) that retired the big boats forever…It went on the ice in Lake Geneva in 1933 and was an instant success.”
Iceboaters were quick to take up the idea’s of Dr. Manfred Curry, a German sailor who came up with the idea of planing full length battens to curve into an airfoil. (An idea banned in most soft-water racing classes at the time of the book’s publication.) Iceboaters in the 1930s were using revolutionary ideas like rotating masts, wing masts, and full length battens while soft-water classes were outlawing advancements. The few softwater classes that allowed rotating masts (in 1976) were Midwestern scows, from the same part of the world where a good many iceboaters are also scow sailors in the summer.
The aviator, Charles Lindbergh, (who spent a semester here the university in Madison and motored around Lake Mendota on an ice sled) “is said to have had a hand in the design of a very advanced rig” that was put on the Class A stern-steerer, DEUCE II, which was owned by Lindbergh’s cousin, Joseph Lodge of Detroit.
“On DEUCE II, with the help of Lindbergh, Lodge installed a rotating wing mast, believed to be the first ever used…DEUCE II was a hard luck boat, plagued by rigging failures, as Lodge challenged for the Stuart Cup and the Hearst International trophies in the 1930s.” Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.
“Most of the troubles [from DEUCE II] were ironed out in DEUCE III, a remodeled version of DEUCE II, and in 1938, Lodge won both trophies to become champion of the world for Class A.” Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.