Screen shot from USA: ICE YACHTING ON FROZEN RIVERS IN ILLINOIS (1949) British Pathe. Harry Melges sails a 4-runner Skeeter.
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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
PIKE an early Skeeter iceboat owned by the Goes Family
From the Skeeter Iceboat Club on Geneva Lake, Jane Pegel sends this photo with a note:
Here is a photo of Chris Goes sailing January 12, 2018, on Delavan Lake in the Beau Skeeter “Pike”. This boat has been owned and given loving care by the Goes family since 1935. With Harry Melges, Sr. at the helm, “Pike” won the Northwest in 1935, the first year that Class E Skeeters raced in the regatta as a separate fleet. This is what the boats looked like when the Beau Skeeter Ice Boat Club (now the Skeeter Ice Boat Club) was organized in 1933.
Jane’s information puts the Skeeters in the Northwest one year earlier than records had indicated, a date confirmed by this Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper article from 2-28-1935. That’s not the end of the story because it appears the Skeeters first sailed the Northwest in 1933 at Oshkosh but that regatta was cancelled for reasons likely related to weather. The Northwest regatta officials must have embraced the new Skeeter class the same year it was organized at Lake Geneva. Related: Northwest Regatta Winners
Wisconsin State Journal, Feb 23, 1933. The “mosquito class” is now known as the Skeeter class.
Today’s vintage postcards come from the Geneva Lake area with commentary from Skeeter Iceboat Club member, Jane Pegel. Thank you, Jane, for sharing your memories and providing historical context for these cards.
Chris Goes has confirmed the history of the boat.
The boat with the “P” on the sail is Pike. This is an open-back Walter Beauvais built “Beau” Skeeter that won the Northwest regatta, season 1934-35, with Harry Melges, Sr., as skipper. That regatta was at Gull Lake, MI. and was the first time that the Skeeters had their own division at the Northwest. In subsequent years, the Beau Skeeters had closed backs.
This photo, in front of Lake Lawn resort on Delavan Lake, was taken when the boat was owned by Cuppy Goes. Cuppy also raced a conventional cockpit A division Skeeter and was a Life Member of the Skeeter Ice Boat Club (an honorary status given to members who actively contributed to the Club for a number of years).
Cuppy was also a champion C scow sailor and former Commodore of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club. Cuppy’s oldest son, Chris, now owns Pike and sails it on Delavan Lake when conditions permit. Chris is a current member of the Skeeter Ice Boat Club, as are his three sons, Charlie, Eric, and Nels. Eric Goes sails a Nite. Chris also has a gaff rigged stern steerer to sail on Delavan. They all sail at the Delavan Lake YC in the summer and Eric sails Cuppy’s former C scow, also named Pike. The significance of the name Pike is that it was the nickname of Cuppy’s father. Generations of the Goes family power boats, sail boats, and ice boats have been named Pike. The next generation of Goes sailors is just beginning at the Delavan Lake Sailing School.
I-44 was John Clifford. A number of members of the Clifford family were members of the Club in the thirties and forties. each owning a boat. In Club minutes, I learned that the club was organized in March, 1933, as the Beau Skeeter Iceboat Club of Southern Wisconsin. A couple of years later, and for several meetings, changing the name was a topic discussed, with many motions that did not pass. Finally in December, 1938, the name of the club was changed to Skeeter Ice Boat Club.
Click here to see 3 more postcards.
Of particular interest is I-110, owned by Bill Parks. a former Commodore of the Skeeter IBC. Bill’s boat was a 20 ft. Mead that was modified. Bob Pegel was introduced to iceboating by Bill Parks, and everyone knows the rest of that saga. Gloria Wenzel was crewing for Bill in a Star class regatta in Chicago. This was Buddy Melges’ first Star regatta. That is how Bud and Gloria met, and everyone knows the rest of that saga. Bill Parks passed away a few years ago. He was an Olympic bronze medalist in the 1960 Rome Olympics, sailing in the Star Class. Bill was Commodore of Chicago Yacht Club and chairman of the Governing Committee of the International Star Class Yacht Racing Assn, and held a number of offices of distinction in the United States Yacht Racing Union and US Sailing.
In the photo with Bill Parks, I-7 is Harry Melges, Sr., Mickey Finn. I-51 is Don Krause’s boat. Don lived in Williams Bay and had a succesful excavating business. Don raced successfully and Buddy Melges also won some titles while sailing Don’s boat.
The Calamity Jane was a 20 ft. Mead that was upgraded with springboard, 21 ft, mast, and 17 ft. runner plank. in 1948 my father bought that boat for me from Don Campbell. The name of the boat was Holy Smoke and originally had
a 13.5 ft. plank and 19 ft. mast. I was a high school student at the time. While competing in the 1956 ISA in Hamilton, the upgraded hull broke just aft of the springboard. The hull was scraped and the parts sold. The following season (1956-57) I began racing a DN. Sailed my last DN race on March 14, 2014.
These gaff riggers were before Jane’s time but are a reminder of when wealthy Chicagoans like the Wrigleys (of chewing gum fame) had ice yachts on Geneva Lake. A few years ago, a Stern Steerer from the Wrigley estate was purchased and restored by three men who sail her on White Bear Lake in Minnesota. Another old Wrigley Stern Steerer sails on the Hudson River. Read more about that on White Wings and Black Ice, truly the best website devoted to historic North American ice yachts around.
Harry Melges at the 1952 Northwest on Lake Monona.
A Surprise in the Mail: Part 3
Renegader Jerry Simon had a look through the scrapbook that I recently received and spent a few enjoyable hours identifying boats and putting the photos in context. We’ve concluded that the scrapbook did indeed belong to Herb Krogman who sailed Renegades and Skeeters with the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in the 1950s. There are quite a few pictures from the 1952 Northwest which was sailed on Lake Monona. History records that Bill “Curley” Perrigo won the Skeeter title that year in THUNDERJET. The 1950s were a time of rapid technological development in the Skeeter class and a transition from Skeeter to what would become the Renegade class.
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.