MacGyver of Madison

MacGyver of Madison

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.


Thanks, Kenny!

The Oz of Green Lake

The Oz of Green Lake

Via 4LIYC Commodore Daniel Hearn:

I read recently that a documentary about Buddy Melges will soon be released called, “The Wizard of Zenda.” If there’s a sequel, it should be called “The Oz of Green Lake.” It would tell the story of another living legend from the sailing world, Joe Norton. What Joe lacks in height, he makes up for with personality and generosity. Joe was a fixture in DN racing for decades, and finished up his active racing career in a Nite. I was fortunate enough to purchase his Nite when he decided to hang it up. It was a nameless boat at the time, so I jumped on the opportunity to name her JoJoe. The wood components Joe made for the boat are works of art. He’s a guy who knows his way around a wood shop. He’s made a living restoring, building and maintaining some of the most beautiful Chris Craft style boats that I have ever seen. He insists the only way to varnish one of these beauties is in the nude. “You see, clothing is a magnet for dust”, he claims, “and the last thing you want is dust gathering on your wood.” I think he was pulling my chain, but I’m not really sure.


Although his racing days are over, Joe continues to give back to the sport in multiple ways. This season already, Joe has served as the PRO for the Nite Nationals and assisted Pat Heppert at the DN Worlds/North Americans. I paid a visit to Joe in Green Lake last Friday. One of my off-season projects will be building a couple Nite masts, so I figured there was no one better to consult with than the Oz of Green Lake. He sent me back to Madison with all sorts of goodies. Along with some of the carnage from his own Nite mast exploration. Sharing one’s failures can save another aspiring builder boatloads of time!


But Joe also sent me back with something else. Something that is uniquely Joe. He doesn’t even know what to call the device, so I’m going to call it a “Nortometer”. Functionally, the device measures changing wind angles. When setting a course, PROs are hawkishly watching for the mean direction, so that starting lines and marks can be set for fair racing. Artisitcally, calling this thing a “device” seems kind of insulting. Joe constructs his Nortometers out of salvaged Chris Craft decks. The contrasting wood stripes provide a beautiful indication of a square race track when the yarn is flowing in parallel. If the yarn is at an angle, then it’s time to wait for the wind to settle in, or consider moving the course. When not set up for racing duties, the Nortometer cleverly stores its uprights in pockets underneath, where a true artist, and all around great guy has inscribed his name and date on the gift. Joe has already donated Nortometers to the Green Lake Club, Skeeter Iceboat Club, Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, Nite Class, International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, Minnesota Ice Sailors and the International Skeeter Association. If any other club or judge could use a Nortometer of their own–close your eyes, click your heels, and say, “there’s no place like home.” Alternatively, you could email Joe at

Two Tales of ATVs

Two Tales of ATVs

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.

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!

Nite Recap

Nite Recap

Via Nite Treasurer Maureen Bohlehber:

Nite Holiday Regatta
December 26 – 27, 2020

With a total of 19 boats over the weekend on ice that was as Hollywood as you can get, the Nites completed 13 races on Lake Puckaway in central Wisconsin, a great early season iceboating venue. The Nites competed for a Saturday, Sunday, and overall series.
The ice was so smooth you could not even hear your runners glide over the ice. These are the perfect conditions for ice boaters, hence the name “Hollywood Ice.”


With a large fleet in attendance, the competition was close. The 2020 Nite National champion, Chad Rechygl of Pewaukee Wisconsin, and Mike Jankowski of Green Lake Wisconsin battled it out throughout the weekend for the overall top spot. Split-scoring the event by days allowed sailors to try different settings and tactics. As they say, everybody has a favorite condition. Jim McCabe was the hot sailor of the weekend, cracking the top three on both days. Another local favorite, Byron Hill, also placed consistently in the top three. Chad Rechygl took first, Mike Jankowski second, and the Vandervelde brothers in the next two spots in the overall standings.


We were happy to see a strong showing of sailors from Lake Kegonsa and the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club as well, with Lars, Henri, Brad, and Don in attendance. They sailed fast and showed a considerable step in improvement from last year’s event. We were also lucky to have Daniel Hearn join in the racing and experience the close roundings and the back and forth position changes that make Nite racing unique and fun.


It was interesting to watch from the Race Committee view, learning from Deb Whitehorse, John Hayashi, and George Gerhardt. While Saturday’s course was more straightforward, the Race Committee had to chase the wind and change the track. When the wind settled in, the Nites sailed six races before the snow started to fly.

It was a memorable weekend of Nite racing. It was ICE COLD FUN!

Crash Test Dummy

Crash Test Dummy

The Spaight Street Syndicate and Russell Aviation collaboration begin the testing phase of their new powered kick-sleds.

Previously: “Get On Your Bad Motor Kicksled and Ride

Much to the displeasure of the Director of Product Development, Jeff Russell, the marketing team showed up in the lab to take glamour photos, even before any product testing was conducted. Seizing the opportunity, Russell lured the unsuspecting Director of Marketing, Daniel Hearn, into a test dummy role. “Looks great, doesn’t she,“ crowed Russell. “Sure does,” Hearn replied, “can’t wait to give her a go.” “It’s your lucky day,” exclaimed Russell, with a twinkle in his eyes!


There being no other gas handy, the sled was filled with high octane aviation fuel. “She might go just a little faster than usual, but I’m sure a stud like you can handle it,” he assured Hearn. Moments later, Hearn was flying down the test track unable to control the speed with no throttle yet installed. Russell claimed it was on back order. And the 20-tooth front sprocket may have generated a bit too much speed. “You should audition for next Jackass movie,” Russell suggested.


Today, with a 10-tooth front sprocket installed and standard fuel in the tank, the sled designer was ready for a spin.

You’ll want one.

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