After squeezing all we could from Lake Kegonsa two weekends ago, Four Lakes members tucked away their boats and winter gear because surely the season was over. Kegonsa’s shoreline disappeared, and Monona was never an option because of the many holes, or as Greg McCormick stated, holes so big they deserved their own lake name. We knew Mendota was solid but figured there might be holes and a weakened spring shoreline.
On Wednesday, March 15, Don Sanford helpfully checked ice from 10,000 feet as he flew back from Newport, RI. Kegonsa was a mess, but Mendota looked good from that altitude.
What if: Mendota survived the warm temperatures? Thursday’s rain polished the surface? Friday night’s 10f hardened things up? The shore was tight on the east end?
DN and Renegaders Chad Atkins (RI) and Chris Gordon (MA) flew into Madison this weekend to pick up their DN trailer and head east. On the way to pick up Chad Thursday morning, I took a five-minute detour to look at Mendota’s Warner landing and was surprised to see the miracle of a tight shoreline. A few minutes later, fresh off the plane, Chad saw the flat expanse of Lake Mendota’s ice. We alerted Renegader Don Anderson, who is game for any iceboating adventure. We agreed to keep an eye on things, hoping for the What Ifs to fall in place.
Thursday night’s rain gave us little confidence for Mendota. Chad and I stopped at the lake on Friday morning before picking up Chris, again surprised to see the tight shoreline. Later that morning, Donny arrived to see for himself. After walking out in the raging wind to scout Warner Bay, Donny, and Chad pronounced it sailable but urged caution because of drain holes and cracks—spring ice changes by the hour. Boats might leave a perfectly fine shoreline only to return to 20 feet of open water. They would have to carry their Renegades to the ice because rolling on trailers would weaken the shoreline.
The hook was set; they couldn’t leave if there were a chance to sail their Renegades on Warner Bay. Chad and Chris bought Renegades last season but need more seat time because they focused on the DN World & North American Championship this season.
The promised cold arrived Saturday morning to tighten the ice, but the winds were gusting to 40 mph, which meant another day of waiting. Chad, Chris, and Damien Luyet tried a few laps at 4 PM but quickly realized the wind was still too strong. A puff made toothpicks out of Damien’s Renegade mast. Thankfully, Donny has spares.
Their patience paid off. Chad and Chris were rigged at sunrise Sunday morning, set up marks, and sailed a short course for 5 hours. Donny and Damien joined them at a reasonable hour for some scrub racing before Chad and Chris had to load up and drive back to Jamestown, RI, and Nantucket, MA. Everything fell into place. Chad and Chris look forward to competing in the next Renegade Championship.
Even in cold temperatures, spring ice changes quickly. A large heave popped up towards the middle of Mendota, foiling Donny’s plan to scout ice for a sail to the University of Wisconsin Union. Donny, Damien, and Brett Hulsley took advantage of what was there and sailed for the rest of the day.
Make a plan to show up at the Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota this weekend (February 5, 2022) for this year’s edition of the Clean Lakes Alliance Frozen Assets festival.
In addition to all of the activities, displays and exhibits, you’ll have a rare opportunity to see the MARY B where she belongs—on the ice! Volunteers from the Ice Boat Foundation will be there to show her off and tell you everything you want to know (and more) about this legendary icon of Madison’s long and storied history of iceboating. MARY B was designed and built right here in 1948 by Carl Bernard and Frank Tetzlaff for O. T. Havey. Skippered by Carl Bernard and Jimmy Payton, she was the fastest thing on the ice.
This photo is another “rabbit hole” find, and hey, it happens to be Throw Back Thursday. I came across this marvelous photo of 4LIYC club members enjoying some spring weather (no gloves!) while searching for something else. It originally appeared in the ISA News and Views in either the late 1950s or early 1960s. The gang is relaxing in PIRATE, my father, Dave Rosten’s, Class A Skeeter.
With the Fat Lady past her sell-by date, the focus is again back in the shop and reviewing iceboating history. Don Sanford sent this photo of an unidentified UW Madison student who was the 1927 Prom Queen posing on an iceboat on Lake Mendota. LIBERTY was a Madison-style iceboat built by 4LIYC member, William Bernard. She won the 1925 Northwest Regatta Class B title and made the local newspapers quite a bit in the late 1920s and early 30s because of her winning record. See the full image here.
Class E Skeeters line up to race at the 1976 Northwest Regatta on Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo: Greg Whitehorse
Greg Whitehorse posted this on the 4LIYC Facebook page.
Mid-70’s Northwest Regatta on Lake Mendota.
You are looking at just one side of the starting line, so I’ll guess there are probably 28, maybe more, Class E* Skeeters in this race. M-54 is Gary Sternberg’s “So What,” but I think Vic Whitehorse is at the helm for this race. That would be Dave Nelson’s M-150, “Tuff Ship” lined up next. Racing in the Skeeter class with 30-40 boats on the line was a blast back in the day.
Between the late ’60s and early ’70s, I believe club members helped build ten or more Class E Skeeters in Dave Rosten’s basement. It wasn’t unusual to see Dave, Paul Krueger, Bill Mattison, Jack Ripp, the guy who the boat was being built for, and a host of others all helping out. It was an incredible time.
Skeeter Ice Boat Club’s Sparky Lundberg aced out Paul Krueger for the Class A Skeeter win that year. It may have been the first year for PK’s rear seater.
January 21, 1976, Wisconsin State Journal: Paul Krueger’s first rear-seat Class A Skeeter.
1976 NIYA Regatta Winners:
Class A: No entry
Class B: WINTER BELL, B. Herman
Class C: TWIN BEDS, Bill McCormick
Class D: RED WITCH, Dick Slates
Class E Skeeter: Sparky Lundberg
DN Class: Jane Pegel
DN Class Junior:Mike O’Brien
Renegade Class: Elmer Millenbach RENEGADE III
*The Reason Class A Skeeters are called Class E Skeeters in the Northwest Regatta
The International Skeeter Association designates bow-steering Skeeters Class A as “Single place yachts, or two-place tandem Whose mast, when measured along the mast, does not exceed 28’-6″ from the deck to top of mast, including all mast and deck hardware.” Class A Skeeters carry a maximum of 75 square feet of sail. However, when Class A Skeeters sail in the Northwest regatta, they are listed as “Class E.” (When I was a kid, I thought the E stood for “Experimental.”)
Class A Skeeters turn into Class E because there was already a Class A, B, C, and D in the Northwest, and those designations applied to Stern-Steerers. Skeeters got the left-over E. It reminds us that the Northwest regatta is a Stern-Steerer regatta, organized in 1913 by ice yacht clubs, which only sailed Stern-Steerers at the time. 1936 marks the year that the Northwest recognized Skeeters as an ice yacht class.