Northwest Free For All Trophy History

Northwest Free For All Trophy History

Read: Oshkosh Ice Boat Club History & 1939 Northwest History by Harry Lund
All-around iceboater Andy Gratton let me borrow a rich archive of iceboat ephemera, photos, and records from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As anyone who researches history can tell you, the information in libraries like this is filled with rabbit holes that lead you to unforeseen places, always different than what you originally intended.

1930 Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club Letterhead Logo

A report written in 1939 by Harry Lund about the history of the Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club led me to the 1940 Northwest regatta. The regatta was sailed on Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI. It was the first time a Class A Skeeter, Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q, won the ten-lap Northwest “Free For All” race, where the winner is awarded one of the most beautiful trophies in our sport.

1940 Oshkosh Newspaper Northwest Report

The Northwest began in 1913, and the Free For All was the last race of the regatta to compare the speeds of the different classes of stern-steerers. The top two finishers in Class A, B, C, and D stern-steerers were eligible to race for the trophy. 1933 marked the first time the Skeeter class competed in the Northwest, and it only took them seven years to take the Free For All trophy from the stern-steerer class. The Skeeter class has continued their dominance of that race to the present day; Minnesota’s John Dennis is the current titleholder. Thinking about that day in 1940 when Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q became the first bow-steering boat to take home the big cup reminded me of National Sailing Hall of Fame member Jan Gougeon.

Back on Lake Geneva in 1981, Jan gamely lined up his DN with the Class A Skeeters of Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club’s Paul Krueger and Bill Mattison for the ten-lap finale. “It was a scary situation for Bill and me,” Paul recalled. “Jan didn’t realize how fast Bill and I were making the mark. To avoid him, I had to hit the mark, and Bill went to the outside.” From then on, DN sailors who qualified and wanted to compete in the race were allowed to borrow a Class A Skeeter. Jan’s good friend, Ron Sherry, won the 1997 race in a Class A Skeeter he borrowed from 4LIYC’s Bob Kau. (Interesting how Lake Geneva is where Northwest Free-For-All History has been made in 1940, 1981, and 1997!) Ron’s account of that race is a classic story, worthy of another good future post.

The trophies of the Northwest Regatta in 1913. Note the biggest of them all, the Free-For-All trophy

What Made Milwaukee Famous

Can there be any better way to introduce the new Nite YouTube channel than by starting off with this Schlitz commercial that ran in 1979? Not only that, Nite Treasurer Maureen Bohleber collected the back story on the making of the commercial. Be sure to go over to the Nite YouTube page to read it all.

Starring: Dick Slates, Will Perrigo, Tom Sweitzer and Mike Sangor

In 1979 the Schiltz Brewing Co. decided to make a series of commercials for the upcoming 1980 Winter Olympics featuring several sports that were winter related but definitely not in the mainstream of the official events. Iceboating turned out to be one of them. I’m not sure how they ended up with Nites and Pewaukee Lake but I’m guessing it had something to do with their corporate HQs being in Milwaukee at the time and Pewaukee Lake sailors’ reputation for enjoying their product. Kind of a win-win situation. Continue reading.

“My Road to Nite National Champ” by Chad Rechcygl

“My Road to Nite National Champ” by Chad Rechcygl

“When you’re bored and you have iceboating on your mind, you build crazy trimming contraptions in your basement. Lo and behold, Tom Sweitzer sends me a picture of the one he had already made except it was on his porch overlooking the British Virgin Islands! #iceboatLife”

2020 Nite Nats champion Chad Rechcygl explains how he went from “seeing how long he could stay in a hike” to winning the Nite Nationals. He set goals, took to heart what his fellow Nite sailors and mentors told him, tracked his progress, and committed to an off season physical regiment.¬† Chad’s article is a glimpse into the mindset of serious iceboat racers.

I appreciate those who reached out to me and asked me to write an article on my path to winning the 2020 Nite National Championship. To be able to do this means a lot to me and it is still so surreal. It is nice to look back and see the progression. Over the years I made note of my mistakes and implemented solutions. I watched footage to see where I could improve performance. I also tracked my races using the Ski Tracks App on my phone to study laylines, boat speed and buoy roundings.

To simplify I followed 3 simple rules:
1) Learn Something from Every Race
2) Never Quit a Race
3) Apply new knowledge

Continue reading.

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