1949 Four-Runner Iceboat Newsreel

Screen shot from USA: ICE YACHTING ON FROZEN RIVERS IN ILLINOIS (1949) British Pathe. Harry Melges sails a 4-runner Skeeter.

Previous: Iceboat Tech That Never Caught On
Early ISA 1941 – 1942 Video
Watch the 1949 Newsreel here
Iceboat researcher Henry Bossett has unearthed yet another interesting discovery: a 1949 newsreel chronicling the International Skeeter Association regatta held on Fox Lake in Illinois. This vintage footage, accompanied by newspaper clippings, documents the presence of a four-runner iceboat helmed by Harry Melges, who happens to be Buddy’s father and a member of the Skeeter Iceboat Club. Observe that the fourth runner was positioned at the stern, deviating from the standard practice seen in other configurations where two runners were typically placed at the front. Adding her own memories to this historical account is Jane Wiswell Pegel, a high school student at the time.

Jane Pegel remembers:

I think the 4-runner boat belonged to Bob Ferris. I was in high school. My first iceboat race was at the Fox Lake ISA. I was first at the windward mark in the ladies’ division in a 20 foot Mead (skeeter.) But I did not know how to sail downwind  and ended up second in ladies overall. It snowed for the drive home.

Ben Lampert’s 4-Runner Skeeter Plan

Illustration from Wings On The Ice

Ban Lampert’s 4 Runner Skeeter from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection

Book Club

Wings On The Ice

Some of the ice sailing community may be spending more time at home this winter than on the ice – depending upon local conditions. If sailing is impossible this season, let the internet help you explore more about the sport and its history in the form of online books. This is the first in a series of posts about ice sailing books.

I stumbled across a new-to-me resource, the HathiTrust digital library. What a surprise to find a complete digital version of Frederic Gardiner’s Wings On The Ice. Published in 1938, Wings On The Ice has been one of the most sought after ice-sailing books in North America for many years. My copy was an eBay purchase that cost the equivalent of a gallon of epoxy and hardener.

 I learn something new or relearn something forgotten each time I open Wings On The Ice. For instance, Harry Melges Sr. is listed along with Walter Beauvais -Beauvais is credited with originating the Skeeter class – as a designer of the Four Runner Iceboat. (See Iceboating Tech That Never Caught On.)

Wings On The Ice is loaded with such a great wealth of information that I could devote a whole year of website posts to it. Speaking of relearning things forgotten, the book also references some of the earliest plans for ice yachts from Fredrik Henrik af Chapman’s book,  ArchitecturNavalis Mercatoria published in 1768. (See Chapman’s Iceboat Plans of 1768.)

If ice sailing building, racing, and history interest you, pull up a chair to the virtual fire, turn on the e-reader, and immerse yourself in the details of this sport.


Iceboat Tech That Never Caught On

Here’s some content for the doldrums of ice sailing, technology that never caught on. As I’ve stated before, iceboating appeals to dreamers. Some of their ideas became standard equipment but most didn’t.

In the 1930s and 40s, yachting author J. Julius Fanta must have taken a fancy to the idea of a four-runner iceboat and wrote at least two articles about them. In a thoroughly detailed article in Yachting Magazine about a four-runner Skeeter developed on Geneva Lake, he predicted  “the four-runner iceboat is the coming thing in ice yachting and not a fly-by-night experiment.” Four-runner iceboats never became popular because they were not an improvement upon a standard three-runner iceboat. Download the Yachting Magazine article in pdf.

In a 1940 Popular Science article, he presented detailed plans for a four-runner stern steerer.

A four-runner Skeeter was photographed by Carl Bernard at the 1947 Northwest on Lake Winnebago.

Ben Lampert’s 4 Runner Skeeter at the 1947 Northwest Source: Carl Bernard Files

UPDATE: July 30, 2018: Via Skeeter Iceboat Club member, Jane Pegel:

Skeeter Ice Boat Club member Bob Ferris built and raced a 4-runner Skeeter. I believe this was in the 1950’s.

This boat had a springboard at the bow and also at the stern with a runner on the end of each springboard.
My recollection is that the runners at each end were steering runners and could be turned via cables and foot pedals.
The runner plank was located approximately half way between the two ends of the boat.
The runner plank was shorter than customary. When sailing, the bow and stern runners were on the ice
and the runner on the leeward end of the runner plank was on the ice. The runner on the windward end
of the runner plank “floated” slightly above the ice surface.

The idea of the design was to be able to turn “on a dime”. The boat could make a tight turn at the
leeward mark (occasionally spun out.) Bob won some races with the boat but basically the boat was not as fast as her
competition sailing on the “straight away”. Only the Bob Ferris design would turn on a dime. Only three of his runners were touching the ice, what ever runner that was on the windward end of the runner plank was floating above the ice. The 4 runner boats that essentially were a rectangle would not be able to turn on a dime.