Reserve your virtual seat and join us for a Zoom session with Henry Bossett, Dan Clapp, and Pat Heppert on the journey of the Skeeter class — how it morphed into the speed demon we know today as the fastest iceboat class in the world. We’ll also explore how the Skeeter class is evolving. Join the conversation and bring your questions.
So, please register for the presentation, mark your calendar, grab a cold one, and let’s get ready to talk iceboats, Skeeters, and the need for speed. It’s like a virtual hangout at the iceboat shop. See you there!
What To Know
Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Time: 6:30 PM CT / 7:30 PM ET
We will send out the link to the Zoom presentation on December 13. Please register to receive the link.
A fascinating thread connects renowned figures, iconic boats, and the ice yachts of the glory years. Here’s a look at the interconnected legacies of Lord Admiral Nelson, Ratsey Sailmakers, Sparkman and Stephens, and iceboaters Drake Sparkman and George Ratsey.
INTREPID, DORADE, COLUMBIA, and SHIVER? Soft water sailors will recognize the first three boats designed by America’s most successful yacht designer, Olin Stephens. Dozens of classes and championship yachts emerged from his partnership with Drake Sparkman and their business, Sparkman and Stephens. In 1929, Drake Sparkman was a yacht broker who gave Olin Stephens his first break and hired the novice Stephens to design boats. Drake Sparkman was an iceboater.
Henry Bossett shared a 1950 news clipping about the Alcort (Sunfish) Skeeter on Peach Lake in New York. What caught my attention was a mention that Drake Sparkman had donated his stern-steerer SHIVER to the Larchmont Iceboat Club. Of course, Henry’s extensive archives have a file dedicated to Drake Sparkman, and I couldn’t resist taking a closer look.
The rabbit hole revealed an unexpected link between ice sailing, a famous naval battle, and the America’s Cup. A 1935 article reported that sailmaker George Ratsey “with his FROSTBITE, passed everything in sight” while sailing with Drake Sparkman on Peach Lake in New York. Ratsey’s ancestors were the sail makers of HMS VICTORY, and a piece of sail from the Battle of Trafalgar is on display at the Naval Museum in Portsmouth, England. In 1905, Ratsey & Lapthorn established a loft in New York. Ratsey sails were famous among America’s Cup boats and the majestic stern-steerers of the east coast.
The December 24 edition of Red Bank Register in New Jersey reported about a yacht with “a new Ratsey Rig. The mainsail will be cut on a more advanced plane, reducing the size of the jib in order to hold the combined sail area size within the limit of 350 square feet of canvas.”
Sparkman & Stephens and Ratsey & Lapthorn had a long connection with the America’s Cup. Ratsey & Lapthorn supplied the sails for the 1958 America’s Cup winning boat, COLUMBIA, designed by Olin Stephens.
Drake Sparkman and George Ratsey’s connection went beyond the design table in their shared passion for ice yachting.
Tip of the Helmet: Henry Bossett
This week, I received a package filled with iceboating memorabilia, which included what seemed to be magazine advertising proofs for Mead iceboats of Chicago, Illinois.
Since the beginning of this website in 1998, the Buy & Sell page has been filled with vintage Mead iceboats for sale, all of which came out of Ted Mead’s Chicago factory.
Who was Ted Mead? According to a 1937 newspaper article, his father owned bicycle factories in Chicago and England. His mother was noted for her exceptional woodworking skills. After graduating from Princeton in 1925, he built houses for a few years; he eventually grew tired of this profession and founded the Mead Glider Company. When the airplane business became unprofitable, Mead moved on to building kayaks, ice motor sleds, and iceboats, and the factory employed 24 people.
Below are links to some of the Mead iceboat memorabilia that’s come my way in the last 20+ years.
Ted Mead Biography Newspaper Article
Announcing Mead’s New Class E Skeeter Racer
Mead Batwing Iceboat Brochure
Mead Iceboat Brochure 3
Mead Iceboat Brochure 5
Early ISA Video
Big Tip of the Helmet to Henry Bossett for finding this historic footage of the 1952 Northwest regatta on Lake Monona. If you recognize some of these boats, drop a line to me and I’ll add to the post. Video link