The Skeeter Iceboat Club Celebrates 90 Years On Ice

The Skeeter Iceboat Club Celebrates 90 Years On Ice

The Skeeter Iceboat Club Beauvais Fleet. Date unknown.

Our friends to the south on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin will soon celebrate a milestone, the 90th anniversary of the founding of their club. March 4th, 2023, is the 90th anniversary of the Beau-Skeeter Iceboat Club, now known as the Skeeter Iceboat Club.

The Women of Iceboating
Four-Runner Iceboat Built by SIBC Commodore Robert Ferris
Wish You Were Here – Skeeter Iceboat Postcards & History

Via Jane & Susie Pegel of the Skeeter Iceboat Club

Williams Bay is known as the “Ice Boat Center of the World.” Iceboating was formalized as a sport on the lake with the formation of the Beau-Skeeter Ice Boat Club of Southern Wisconsin on March 4, 1933. The first meeting was held at the home of Arthur Anderson in Williams Bay to organize the club and elect officers. (Art Anderson was an important part of the village of Williams Bay. He owned Bay Oil Company which was directly behind today’s sailboat rigging area on Geneva Street) Elected as officers of the new club were: Commodore Art Anderson, Vice Commodore Don Waterbury, Rear Commodore Chester Granath.

Skeeter Iceboat Club on Geneva Lake, c. 1930s

It was decided dues would be $3 per year, payable at 50 cents a month or in a lump sum. It was decided a burgee be adopted –a triangle 10″ X 16″ with a red background and a white figure, sample to be submitted by Mr. Beauvais. Suggestions were made and discussed as to the time of races and ladies’ races. The club By-Laws stated the object of the club “shall be to encourage ice yachting, to promote the social interest and good fellowship of all persons interested in ice yachting and to stimulate and promote races under reasonable and uniform rules.” Also, “The Northwest Ice Yachting Association sailing rules shall apply to this club.”

There were motions to change the club name at a special meeting held on December 10, 1938. Some suggestions were: Geneva Lake Ice Boat Club, Geneva-Delavan Ice Yacht Club, Big Foot Ice Yacht Club, Arctic Ice Yacht Club, Williams Bay Ice Boat Club, Lake Geneva Ice Boat Club, and Skeeter Ice Boat Club. After considerable lobbying and voting, the Skeeter Ice Boat Club was approved. On March 9, 1940, the club

A 30 mile gale added thrills to the Northwestern Ice Yachting Association regatta on Lake Mendota at Madison, Wisc. January 30, 1938. Here two machines are “hiking”, which is like “heeling” in a sailboat as H.V. Fitzcharles of Chicago, left, sailing High Voltage, and Harry Melges of Williams Bay, Wisc. at the helm of Fancy Flight put up a heated fight to head each other.”
I came across this photo on ebay from a company that specializes in original press photos and snapped it up. NIYA records show Harry Nye as the winner of the 1938 Northwest Skeeter class. Skeeters first competed in the NIYA in 1936. Skeeters didn’t have springboards at that time which must have made for quite an exciting ride in a 30 mph gale.accepted the letter ” I ” to put on sails to represent Delavan and Geneva lakes in the International Skeeter Association.

At the regular spring meeting on March 8, 1947, Fleet Captain Art Anderson suggested that a starting procedure for the races be written. The commodore suggested Art appoint a committee to present such a procedure at the November meeting.

At the regular spring meeting on March 13, 1948, club label pins were discussed, and the subject was dropped after Norm Hansen voted “no” twice. It was moved, seconded, and passed that the official racing season shall not extend beyond March 15, thus constituting an amendment to the By-Laws.

At the regular fall meeting on November 13, 1948, a shotgun presented by the Fox Lake Ice Yacht Club to the Skeeter Ice Boat Club was shown to those present. An engraved plate furnished with the gun gave the presentation date as April 3, 1948.

At the November 12, 1949 meeting, it was decided a bulletin board would be posted at Henri’s tavern and the Bay Oil Station by noon on Saturdays as to where and when the club would sail the next day. Also, Norm Hansen brought up the subject of a new class of ice boat called the DN-60. A committee was appointed to look into the possibility of such a boat.After the November 8, 1952, meeting was adjourned, Bill Stenus showed the Fox Movietone roll on iceboating.

The minutes of the March 14, 1953 spring meeting indicate Mel Jones suggested that the trophy dinner be an OLD TIMERS PARTY and reunion of former members and friends in as much as this year was the 20th anniversary of the club’s founding.

The Skeeter Ice Boat Club still exists today and runs races on Lake Como, Delavan Lake, and Geneva Lake and hosts many regattas.

1933-36 Art Anderson
1936-39 Donald Waterbury
1939-41 Chester Granath
1941-42 Robert Ferris
1942-45 World War II
1945-49 Robert Ferris
1949-50 John Clifford
1950-52 Mel Spence

1934 season champion Don Waterbury
ladies champion Lucille Fitzcharles
1935 season champion Don Waterbury
ladies champion Vera Granath

1. GALE, Bettye Nye
2. RANDOM SHOTS, Ethel Koehler
3. HI VOLTAGE, Lucille Fitzcharles
4. SU JAC, Ariel Clayton
5. ARIEL C, Sue Vilas
6. VEE GEE, Vera Granath
7. HOLY SMOKE, Helen Campbell
8. HEL MEL, Ariel Clayton
9. WARHORSE, Rose Anderson
10. SANDY, Medora Adams

1. GALE, Harry Nye
2. SKIP IT, Chester Granath
3. HI VOLTAGE, H. Fitzcharles
4. BLUE BILL IV, Don Waterbury
5. HOLY SMOKE, Don Campbell
6. WARHORSE, Art Anderson
7. SU JAC, Jack Vilas
8, SANDY, Charles Sawyer
9. RANDOM SHOTS, Franz Koehler
10. ZEPHYR, Bill Mereness
11. SU JACK, Jack Vilas, Sr.
12. FANCY FLIGHT, Henry Ferris
13. X, Mike Ambrose
14. MICKEY FINN, Eph Banning
15. TORMENTOR, Robert Ferris
16. ARIEL C., H. MacMurtrie
17. GONE WITH THE WIND, William Brown
18. JACKIE B, Dr. Sanders
19. RIFF, Tucker
20. GREEN GHOST, Mel Jones
21. HEL MEL, Mel Spence
22. RAFF, Barton

Jane Pegel Honored at LGYC

Jane Pegel Honored at LGYC

National Sailing Hall of Fame members and ice sailors- from Left: Peter Harken, Jane Pegel, and Buddy Melges “All kings and queens are not born of royal bloodlines. Some become royal because of what they do once they realize who they are.” Pharrell Williams

Previous: Jane Pegel To Be Inducted into the NSHOF
A celebration to commemorate Jane Pegel’s induction into the National Sailing Hall of Fame was held at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club on Sunday, August 27th.
Susie Pegel reports:

Those in attendance at Jane’s party August 29th at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club included folks from Lake Geneva, Delavan, Madison, Pewaukee and Green Lake. And there was a surprise guest appearance from former DN world champion Mike O’Brien who flew in from New Jersey to say “hi.” Flowers had previously been sent to Jane from former DN world champion Henry Bossett. Mauretta Mattison sent regrets that she and Bill would be unable to attend the party. Many thanks to all the iceboaters who sent messages to Jane wishing her well and congratulations.

Excerpt from email sent to Jane from Dan Heaney:
“I am honored to be invited to the celebration of Jane’s selection to the Sailing Hall of Fame. I will miss the opportunity to hear the wisdom expressed by Jane regarding sailing, both hard water and soft water. Jane’s comments, especially those directed to my attention were always welcome and a positive contribution to my efforts as a race manager for the IDNIYRA. I look forward to the opportunity to see Jane in the future and will make it a priority to contact her and yourself on the occasion I have to be in Lake Geneva….we raise a toast to Jane in congratulations for being recognized for all the contributions made to the sport of sailing and the influence she has had on the sailors who have been lucky enough to meet her.”
Dan Heaney, Neenah, WI

Northwest Free For All Trophy History

Northwest Free For All Trophy History

Read: Oshkosh Ice Boat Club History & 1939 Northwest History by Harry Lund
All-around iceboater Andy Gratton let me borrow a rich archive of iceboat ephemera, photos, and records from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As anyone who researches history can tell you, the information in libraries like this is filled with rabbit holes that lead you to unforeseen places, always different than what you originally intended.

1930 Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club Letterhead Logo

A report written in 1939 by Harry Lund about the history of the Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club led me to the 1940 Northwest regatta. The regatta was sailed on Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI. It was the first time a Class A Skeeter, Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q, won the ten-lap Northwest “Free For All” race, where the winner is awarded one of the most beautiful trophies in our sport.

1940 Oshkosh Newspaper Northwest Report

The Northwest began in 1913, and the Free For All was the last race of the regatta to compare the speeds of the different classes of stern-steerers. The top two finishers in Class A, B, C, and D stern-steerers were eligible to race for the trophy. 1933 marked the first time the Skeeter class competed in the Northwest, and it only took them seven years to take the Free For All trophy from the stern-steerer class. The Skeeter class has continued their dominance of that race to the present day; Minnesota’s John Dennis is the current titleholder. Thinking about that day in 1940 when Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q became the first bow-steering boat to take home the big cup reminded me of National Sailing Hall of Fame member Jan Gougeon.

Back on Lake Geneva in 1981, Jan gamely lined up his DN with the Class A Skeeters of Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club’s Paul Krueger and Bill Mattison for the ten-lap finale. “It was a scary situation for Bill and me,” Paul recalled. “Jan didn’t realize how fast Bill and I were making the mark. To avoid him, I had to hit the mark, and Bill went to the outside.” From then on, DN sailors who qualified and wanted to compete in the race were allowed to borrow a Class A Skeeter. Jan’s good friend, Ron Sherry, won the 1997 race in a Class A Skeeter he borrowed from 4LIYC’s Bob Kau. (Interesting how Lake Geneva is where Northwest Free-For-All History has been made in 1940, 1981, and 1997!) Ron’s account of that race is a classic story, worthy of another good future post.

The trophies of the Northwest Regatta in 1913. Note the biggest of them all, the Free-For-All trophy

Melges: The Wizard of Zenda, a Documentary

Melges: The Wizard of Zenda, a Documentary


Buddy Melges Archives

An ice sailor who lives just down the road from Four Lakes and has sailed Geneva Lake on every iceboat imaginable is the subject of a documentary still in production. You may have heard of him, Buddy Melges, the Wizard of Zenda, Olympic Gold medalist, America’s Cup Winner, not to mention the iceboating titles he’s won. Watch for this film in 2022.
Documentary website and trailer here.

Legends of American Sailing
Harry “Buddy” Clemens Melges II
By Gary Jobson Former America’s Cup champion & ESPN sailing analyst
There are many great sailors around America, and some of them have extraordinary skills and achieved great performances on the water over many years. When I made the list of legendary sailors for this book there was one name that stood out above the others, Buddy Melges. Ask any top sailor who is America’s best, and Buddy will always be mentioned. His Gold Medal championship in the 1972 Olympics Games and winning the 1992 America’s Cup as a helmsman is just part of the long story of this gifted, gracious, helpful and productive American sailing hero. Buddy started out working for his father building Scows in Zenda, Wisconsin. He always joked, “Zenda is not the end of the world, but you could see it from there.” Zenda is an unincorporated village in the Town of Linn and the home of Melges Boat Works. Buddy and his wife, Gloria live a few miles north in Fontana on a hill overlooking Lake Geneva. One has to wonder, how does someone become as skilled in their sport as Buddy Melges?
Continue reading.

Buddy Melges extended his lead to first place at the 2007 Northwest Ice Yachting Association Regatta sailed on Lake Michigan at Menominee, Michigan.  Photo: Chris John





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