A Life That Dreams Are Made Of

A Life That Dreams Are Made Of

20′ banner made by Tim Stanton.

“He would have hated this.” Billy Mattison reminded the packed room at Gunderson’s Funeral Home about the humble nature of his father, Bill. The memories of Bill shared by those who had preceded Billy were unique and moving. It was a privilege to witness a group of highly accomplished individuals speak in awe of their friend. Here are a few highlights from the people invited by emcee Don Sanford to share their best stories.

Bill organized the building of a new hull for the world’s largest iceboat, Rick Hennig’s DEUCE. Rick recounted that experience with great affection and humor. When Bill saw the semi-truck full of Sitka Spruce roll into the shop parking lot, he turned to Rick and said, “That’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

Bill’s neighbor said that when Bill came over to watch him tinker in his garage, it was “like God himself coming to watch a mere mortal.”

“Yeah, I know a little about that.” America’s Cup veteran, Larry Malik, recalled Bill’s typically understated reply when asked if he could fix a photo processing machine during an AC Australian campaign. Larry shared the famous story of the day Bill took the film of the AC boat to the one-hour photo store, where he learned that the store’s processing machine was on the fritz. Bill fixed the machine and came back with the pictures.

Lon Schoor, Bill’s long-time Mendota Yacht Club A Scow partner, marveled at no matter how complicated the project; Bill was so organized in his thoughts that he didn’t have to write anything down and always made the deadline. He left us laughing with a story about how Bill schemed how they would sell the idea of buying an A Scow to their wives, Donna and Mauretta. Bill told Mauretta that Lon had purchased the boat, while Lon was to tell Donna that it was Bill’s boat.

Dr. Kyle Metzloff, a sailor, ice sailor, and UW Professor of Industrial Metal studies, spoke about Bill’s genius and ability to pick up new and complicated ideas. Having never dealt with computers, he learned to operate a mini CNC mill for creating scale model Mattison Circus parts. At an older age, Bill figured out computers.

Peter Harken shared his amazement at Bill and Paul Krueger’s work ethic. They never wasted a minute, not even in the bathroom where Peter assumed “they had a drill press installed.” Peter acknowledged those who traveled from afar, including New Jersey Skeeter sailor Dan Clapp and America’s Cup alumni from San Diego.

Sailing legend Buddy Melges came to the podium, fixing his steely blue eyes on Mauretta and the family for a full minute, not saying a word, holding the audience in his hand while he made us wait. Buddy spoke about their America’s Cup days and how remarkable it was for a guy who came from the Scow world; Bill could make a 12-meter sail faster. “He did not sail on it, but he made it faster when he worked on it.” (Later, I heard stories in the bar about how at least one of Bill’s modifications caused a stir with some AC engineers, but they calmed down when the boat speed increased.)

“He would have hated this.” Billy Mattison reminded the packed room about the humble nature of his father, Bill. The last to speak at Bill’s Celebration of Life, Billy had to follow some esteemed acts, giants of the sailing world, who had shared stories from the podium of the man’s genius. Billy’s poignant closing remarks emphasized the private family side of Bill and his devotion to his wife of 65 years, Mauretta, their children, Lynn and Billy, and their grandchildren.

“I think it is time for a dipper.”

On our way to Gundersons, Don Anderson and I delivered cakes to the Breakwater for the post-memorial reception sponsored by the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club and Mendota Yacht Club. The manager surprised us with the news that Mauretta had called with instructions that she would be picking up the bar tab. On Monday, unsure of the damage, the two yacht clubs offered to pitch in with the bill. Mauretta said no, adamant that Bill would have insisted on it. Thanks, Bill.
Debra Rosten Whitehorse

PREVIOUSLY
Home of the Volleyball(?) Champs
Nothing Fickler
Bill’s Circus Life
The Icing On The Lake”
“Fast Forward Since Birth”
“The Hard-Water Gang” with Bill Mattison at the 2001 ISA
Shooting the Breeze with Bill Mattison
Bill Mattison Inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame
Iceboaters Fingerprints
Willy St. Iceboat Shop Archives

Iceboat in National Sailing Hall of Fame Museum

Iceboat in National Sailing Hall of Fame Museum

Visit the musem.

Ever since Buddy Melges’ induction in the first class of 2011, ice boaters have numbered among the elite sailors honored by the National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF). Other hard water inductees include Peter Barrett, Olaf & Peter Harken, Jan & Meade Gougeon, Bill Bensten, Herbert Lawrence Stone (who authored books and articles), Bill Mattison, and Jane Pegel.

The sailing community’s full recognition of the sport of ice yachting has culminated with the inclusion of an iceboat in the new NSHOF museum in Newport, Rhode Island.

When visitors enter the impressive interactive exhibition hall, they will notice six boats hanging overhead from the exposed wooden rafters of the historic former  armory. One of those six is an iceboat representing our community and those who live to “Think Ice.”

The NSHOF asked Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club Nite sailor Don Sanford (the driving force behind Bill Mattison’s induction), myself, and others for an iceboat. The museum had hoped to hang a Class A Skeeter, but the wide plank would have taken up too much space. They chose one that would fit – the most popular iceboat globally, a DN.

Peter Harken asked that the boat not be a “fixer-upper” but a fully fitted racing boat. The NSHOF accepted Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club member Doug Kolner’s offer to donate his complete modern DN.

The DNs natural wood hull and plank, built in a small garage in Monona, Wisconsin, are true to the roots of the DN’s humble beginnings at the Detroit News hobby shop in the 1930s. Doug built the boat using standard DN plans, and it symbolizes all the iceboat builders who enjoy kicking up some dust and mixing epoxy in their garage shops.

Current members of the NSHOF’s influence is evident in the fact that the boat was built using Gougeon brothers epoxy and Harken brothers fittings technology. Doug recognized NSHOF member Bill Mattison and Green Lake Ice Yacht Club’s Joe Norton as the builders who had influenced his iceboat building know-how.

Jane Pegel Honored at LGYC

Jane Pegel Honored at LGYC

National Sailing Hall of Fame members and ice sailors- from Left: Peter Harken, Jane Pegel, and Buddy Melges “All kings and queens are not born of royal bloodlines. Some become royal because of what they do once they realize who they are.” Pharrell Williams

Previous: Jane Pegel To Be Inducted into the NSHOF
A celebration to commemorate Jane Pegel’s induction into the National Sailing Hall of Fame was held at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club on Sunday, August 27th.
Susie Pegel reports:

Those in attendance at Jane’s party August 29th at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club included folks from Lake Geneva, Delavan, Madison, Pewaukee and Green Lake. And there was a surprise guest appearance from former DN world champion Mike O’Brien who flew in from New Jersey to say “hi.” Flowers had previously been sent to Jane from former DN world champion Henry Bossett. Mauretta Mattison sent regrets that she and Bill would be unable to attend the party. Many thanks to all the iceboaters who sent messages to Jane wishing her well and congratulations.

Excerpt from email sent to Jane from Dan Heaney:
“I am honored to be invited to the celebration of Jane’s selection to the Sailing Hall of Fame. I will miss the opportunity to hear the wisdom expressed by Jane regarding sailing, both hard water and soft water. Jane’s comments, especially those directed to my attention were always welcome and a positive contribution to my efforts as a race manager for the IDNIYRA. I look forward to the opportunity to see Jane in the future and will make it a priority to contact her and yourself on the occasion I have to be in Lake Geneva….we raise a toast to Jane in congratulations for being recognized for all the contributions made to the sport of sailing and the influence she has had on the sailors who have been lucky enough to meet her.”
Dan Heaney, Neenah, WI

“Mary B, Madison’s Legendary Iceboat” Film Released

“Mary B, Madison’s Legendary Iceboat” Film Released

Screen shots from the documentary film.

Is there a better way to cool off on a sweltering summer day than by streaming a film about iceboating? Strap on your virtual helmet and creepers and watch Mary B, Madison’s Legendary Iceboat on demand, or order the DVD. Details here.

The 43-minute documentary film, produced by Donald P. Sanford, Gretta Wing Miller and Aarick Beher for the Ice Boat Foundation, Inc., tells the story of this Madison icon, the men who built and raced her and the efforts of the Foundation to restore and preserve her. It uses recently restored archival footage and interviews with sailors and Foundation members.

The DVD and the download include these special features:

  • The Stuart Cup
  • The Hearst Cup
  • On the Ice with Mr. Wright
Harken Iceboats

Harken Iceboats


At The Front Newsletter February 2021

Harken’s latest newsletter is an ode to iceboating with articles and videos featuring Will Perrigo, Steve Orlebeke, Peter Harken, and a name we hope to read a lot more about in the future, Samuel Bartel. Sam is a student at UW Madison on the sailing team, and iceboating instantly clicked with him. Sam placed 4th in the Silver Fleet at last week’s DN U.S. Nationals in his first regatta. Many thanks to Hannah Lee Noll for pulling together these stories, videos, and photos highlighting the special place that ice sailing has within the Harken organization.

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