Ken Whitehorse on Lake Kegonsa in March 2023. Photo: Ethan Brodksy
The awards season kicks off today with this virtual presentation for the Wisconsin Skeeter Association. The in-person 4LIYC banquet is this Saturday, April 22 at Springer’s on Lake Kegonsa. There’s still room for you to join the party! Please get in touch with Deb today.
Submitted by WSA Trophy Chair Ken Whitehorse:
Eleven years ago, Paul Krueger, Bill Dale, Tom Hyslop, and Ken Whitehorse formed the Wisconsin Skeeter Racing Association while sailing on Green Bay in mid-April 2012. We sailed six competitive races, yet “how would you know (copyright Bill Mattison.).” During lunch breaks, the racers discussed how poor ice conditions made club races a rarity. We determined that wherever good ice should appear in Wisconsin, we would hold sanctioned iceboat races as the Wisconsin Skeeter Racing Association. Wisconsin iceboat clubs carry letters on their sails: M for Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in Madison, I for Skeeter Iceboat Club in Lake Geneva, V for Pewaukee, and U for Windjammers in Green Bay.
The 2023 champions are:
C Skeeter: Pat Heppert
B Skeeter: Jim Smith
A Skeeter: Ken Wahoo Whitehorse
This time of year, when both the weather and the Fat Lady are warming up, it’s only the faithful who show up for possible ice sailing. What looked to be a questionable weekend turned out to be loads of fun. On Saturday morning, the ice had firmed up nicely, but there didn’t appear to be a lot of wind, as our launch area was on the protected shore. Undeterred, as the rest of the faithful had what we’ll call a casual setup pace, I pushed off to check things out. Once clear of the point, Chaos, my Renegade, hooked up immediately. For about the next hour, I explored the entire lake, never seeing any ice to be concerned about. By about 11:00 or so, the rest of the fleet made their way out to the .9 mile course set up by our esteemed Treasurer and Saturday PRO, Jerry Simon, assisted by the Goddess of All Things Ice Sailing, Deb Whitehorse. It became apparent that racing might be a challenge at this point. And since we were now conveniently located on the Springer’s side of the lake, we decided the wise call would be to head to lunch. We summoned our Ice Uber, a red Bombardier with license DX 4967, driven by Jerry, who promptly delivered us to our destination. Delicious lunches were had by all. And one beer, but not by an iceboat pilot.
Shortly after 1:00, we decided it was time to give it a go. By the time the first flag dropped, the ice had softened up quite a lot with the increasing temperatures. The Renegades went off on port and the DNs went off on starboard. The first lap was great for everybody, but then the combination of slushier surface and lighter wind turned the remainder of the race into a pushing contest. The former runner and the former triathlete, both with bad knees, continued their battle until realizing the RC had taken down the bottom mark. The sailor who prefers a supplemental push at the start and the one who had some work done on his ticker, were much smarter than the over-the-hill athletes. They retired after the first lap chuckling to themselves watching two knuckleheads try to sail in slush without enough wind. Chris Berger in his DN was able to keep her going for three laps, so he was our one race overall winner.
Hoping the forecasted afternoon wind would arrive, we made our way back to the pits, some with motorized assistance. After an hour or so of visiting in the pits, the breeze did indeed fill in. The surface was slushy in spots, but we now had enough velocity to blast right through. The DNs ventured back out, along with Greg McCormick and me in our Renegades. We had a wonderful afternoon just sailing around. Once it started to drizzle, we decided it was time to call it a day.
When I pulled up to the ice Sunday, it was already a great day. It warmed my heart to see my friend, Tim McCormick, on the ice setting up his Renegade. Tim has been fighting a more important battle, so I was thrilled to see him. And joining the optimism for the day, were Kenny and Pk setting up their A-Class Skeeters, with the newly MacGyvered DN Western Region ATV stationed nearby. As the morning progressed, many guests arrived with Nites and DNs. It was wonderful to meet so many new people who share our passion. Also joining was a couple who came all the way from the Twin Cities just to check out ice sailing. They’ve been following the action on our website, so with an open weekend available, Greta and Handan (sorry, doc, if I just sent your name to the ER) to see if they could get a ride. After a tour of the various boats and a spin on the motorized kick sled, they took turns driving my Renegade assisted with the new boat-pusher Kenny made for the WR-ATV. With the coach just astern, “left-right-sheet in-sheet out” were the only instructions needed. They both did great and also took turns in Tim Mower’s DN. Hope they’ll join us again!
By mid-afternoon, the breeze had filled in nicely. With the, now, pretty slushy conditions and wise age of our A-Skeeter pilots, they elected to do flying starts for their races. We’d wind them up with the WR-ATV; they’d get themselves in close formation and pass through the line together to start each race. It worked great and PK and Kenny had a ball. At least until PK’s mast dropped near the top mark. You’ll have to get those “dets” from him on that. The Renegades ripped off four races, each won by a McCormick. And the DNs also notched four, with Matt Meyer setting the pace.
Back in the pits, it was a group effort to get everything off the ice using the aluminum ramps to protect the ice. Andy McCormick showed up at that time. It was either a meeting of the Irish Republican Army–Madison Chapter, or a discussion about the Northwest. Maybe both. Daniel Hearn
Even as we wait to get back on the lake, ice sailing shops have been keeping busy. The DN Western Region ATV gets a complete make over thanks to 4LIYC Skeeter sailor, Ken Whitehorse.
Via 4LIYC Commodore Daniel Hearn:
Not sure what it is about ice sailing that attracts people with little use for idle time and a penchant for ingenuity, but the sport is flush with such individuals. In Madison, Ken Whitehorse matches the profile perfectly. I always call him Kenny. Probably because it feels to me more fitting for his youthful spirit. He’s one of those guys who is older than he looks, with the same mischievous sparkle in his eyes that I see in my grandson. And a head of hair worthy of a rock star. Honestly, I don’t know Kenny well, but I know he’s got a huge heart. If it were not for Kenny, we wouldn’t get to see PK (Paul Krueger) on the ice ripping it up anytime 4LIYC is in action.
If you’ve ever been to Kenny’s shop, you’ll learn instantly that he is also Madison’s MacGyver. The “Past Champions Iceboat Shop” is housed in a building that used to be a Whitehorse Body Shop. Back in the day, I’m told it was stuffed with race cars, when the bill-paying cars were pushed out of the way. Now it’s stuffed with decades of ice sailing gear, each with a unique story Kenny would be happy to tell. And various motorized vehicles seemingly close to successful ignition, but just not quite there yet. Kenny has a very impressive “To Do” List.
I am certain his personal list would be shorter, if he weren’t doing stuff for others all the time. Over the last couple weeks he’s created the DN Western Region ATV Version 2.0. Thanks to Kenny, this machine will now be the envy of the ice sailing world. V2.0 is sporting a shiny new muffler, even though a local dealer told us it couldn’t be replaced. And that 4WD that wasn’t working? A new switch assembly made the orange 4WD indicator light shine like a Christmas tree. With the remaining maintenance items addressed, it was now time to macgyver. First up was the hitch. It’s always been kinda janky, so Kenny welded up a heavy duty reinforcement bracket. Even for “that-hurts-my-back” tongue weight, the hitch is now good-to-go. And for the “don’t-kid-yourself” tongue weight trailers, the Kenny Tongue Jack Sled, which he created last season, now has a rock-solid place for attachment.
Not satisfied with just rear-end upgrades, Kenny MacGyver decided V2.0 needed a combination boat pusher and fold up scoring table on the front end. This machine is now MONEY! If you’re a DNr, buy Kenny a PBR the next time you see him. If you’re not a DNr, buy him a PBR anyway. You’ll be particularly grateful when V2.0 shows up to push you back to the pits when the wind dies.
The Wisconsin Skeeter Association President, Ken Whitehorse, has been doing everything to find ice for the Skeeters. He thought he had a site lined up on Lake Petenwell in central Wisconsin with the prerequisite bar and restaurant at the landing, but “nothing fickler” came into play. Looks like Madison area lakes received another dose of snow yesterday meaning we wait for the big Zamboni to roll through again. I’m in Stockholm, soon heading to Latvia for the DN European Championship. The weather over here isn’t making it any easier either.
The Wisconsin Skeeter Racing Championship Race is called off. The Director of Competition, Tom Hyslop advised me to evaluate the smoothness of the racing surface. The surface is race worthy provided there is light wind velocity. However the racing surface is more than 1 1/2 miles out. We would need a safety committee and vehicles. This is a mammoth lake and there are very few sports people on it. Today people drove their trucks all the way across. 12″ to 14″ of ice is the report. If the ice surface were closer to the shore and the Lure Restaurant launch site you can bet M-197 and M-165 would be rippin’ it up this weekend. Let see what happens during this week. Fair winds to all!
Ken WhiteHorse problem solving the DN Western Region ATV
Via Ken WhiteHorse:
We had the Western Region DN ATV at the Past Champs ICEBOAT shop for repairs. I was just about to cut out the flux capacitator with the blow torch when 4LIYC Renegader and DN racer Chris Gordon walked in with battery boosters and various electrical analysis gadgetry. He says, “Hold your horses there WhiteHorse!” He started at the battery and worked his way forward, testing for open circuits, fried wires, and relays. Within an hour, he found the problems! We turned on the key, and yes, the lights came on! Pushed the green button ✅ yes, the starter engaged! The powerful Ka-ma-sa-ki! rice burner fired to life on the second revaluation! Even so, I still recommend replacing the flux capacitator in the very near future. Ken WhiteHorse, PAST CHAMPIONS ICEBOAT SHOP
Via Daniel Hearn:
I didn’t know our talented DN World & North American Championship photographer, Cathy Firmbach, could also wax poetic about something as utilitarian as our racing marks. Oh, what an interesting group we are!
But, man, are we rough and tumble. Talk about taking a beating! In spite of Pat Heppert’s efforts to protect the stoic fixtures, they took on more damage than a fraternity house during rush week. Delta, Delta, Delta pledges, no doubt, as they were clearly the recipients of excessive hazing. Good thing we have a bunch of handy types here in the Western Region. We’ll get them patched back together before our next rodeo.
Chris fluxing the capacitators.
You may have also heard that the Western Region ATV decided to check out during the events, as well. Thanks to Kenny Whitehorse, with help from Chris Gordon, our chariot is back in business, and better than ever. A faulty winch switch fried a couple of fuses. Our machine was dead on the ice in the middle of the lake. A super cool ice fisherman loaned us his ATV to tow our wounded sled back to the pits. We thanked him with a case of beer the next day. He said, “Mama enjoys a cold Lite by a warm fire!”
K. Whitehorse Enterprises insisted that I come over to inspect the work in progress. Fortunately, the fuses saved the wiring from further damage. With most of the plastic off, we agreed it was the perfect time to put on a new muffler. Current muffler has a sizeable hole, and a local shop wouldn’t fix it last year when their mechanic couldn’t just slap on a direct replacement. (Ever wonder what happened to problem solving? They don’t seem to make Kenny Whitehorses and Paul Kruegers these days!) We’re also going to drill a hole through the plastic into the air intake, so we can easily squirt some starting fluid, if our machine is ever grouchy on a particularly cold morning.
Many thanks to Ken and Chris for donating their talents and expertise. I’m going to meet up with Kenny on Friday at the “Past Champions Iceboat Shop” to help with reassembly and to sweep the shop floor. It’s always good to align tasks appropriately with skills!