Fancy Machines

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.

1938 Northwest

1938 Northwest: Oshkosh to Madison

The photo above is the starting point and inspiration for this week’s edition of Northwest Regatta Throw-Back-Thursday. That’s Skeeter Ice Boat Club’s Harry Melges (you may have heard of his son, Buddy) in front of H.V. Fitzcharles of Chicago on Lake Mendota. The Northwest was supposed to have started on Saturday, January 15 at Oshkosh but a heavy snow storm forced a postponment. The local newspaper wrote in a way all too familiar for those who enjoy this sport, “Oshkosh lost another regatta through an uncompromising Weather Man who has played a ‘dirty trick’ on the city and and particularly its iceboaters.”
Two weeks later, the regatta relocated to Lake Mendota. Harry Melges did win a trophy that year, but not in the E Skeeter. He sailed the Lake Geneva A stern steerer, KOL-MASTER, to victory. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that there was a controversy about “ships sailing out of their class”. You can that article here.