Congratulations to Four Lakes Ice Yacht members for taking on the dirt at last week’s 2023 Blokart land sailing North American championship at Ivanpah, Nevada.
Land sailing has become a popular way to wrap up (or extend!) the ice sailing season. In recent years, the list of ice sailors making the pilgrimage to Ivanpah for the NALSA or Blokart regattas has been increasing.
In the Performance Superweight division, Jim Nordhaus took first place, Geoff Sobering placed third, and Brad Wagner placed 5th. Jim also took first place overall. Lars Barber took 4th in Performance Middle Weight, and Wayne Schmeidlin took 4th in Performance Heavy Weight. Wayne’s grandson, the veteran junior sailor Aiden Schmeidlin, won the Performance Light Weight division.
The surprise of the regatta was Wayne’s grandson and Aiden’s younger brother, Alex, racing for the first time, winning the Production Lightweight division against some seasoned sailors. Alex was a natural and was at ease even in some big wind. We hope to get Aiden and Alex to learn how their land sailing skills transfer to the ice next season.
Nina Fleming and I were co-PROs. It was our second regatta of the season after working the 2023 DN World Championship on Lake Kegonsa. The cold weather made this event feel more like ice sailing, though we generally don’t have to worry about 75 mph wind gusts on Lake Kegonsa as we did for the day racing was postponed at the Blokart regatta.
The expanding cross-pollination between land and ice sailing benefits both communities and helps to grow both sports.
Congratulations to several of our 4LIYC members for their podium finishes at the 2022 Blokart North American Championship sailed at Ivanpah, Nevada.
From left, Wayne Schmiedlin 2nd Performance Heavy, Aiden Schmiedlin 1st Performance Light (6 overall), Gary Nordhaus 2nd Production Light, Jim Nordhaus 2nd Performance Super (2nd overall), Geoff Sobering 1st Performance Super (1st overall), Lars Barber 2nd Performance Middle, and Brad Wagner 3rd Performance Super (5th overall.)
Even after several years working Race Committee for the North American Blokart Association at the cathedral of land sailing in Ivanpah, Nevada, I find more similarities than differences between ice sailing and land sailing.
I assumed that, unlike ice sailors, dirt sailors had an unlimited supply of venues for sailing. It turns out that land sailors have to monitor surface conditions almost as closely as ice checkers. Dirt just aint dirt, and not all playas are sailable. Just like we search for black ice, they hunt for smooth playas.
Ice sailors dread shell ice while dirt sailors pay attention to rain showers, leaving a bumpy, rutted surface. If a playa dries too quickly, the surface can “cup,” resulting in a rough track. The week before the Blokart NAs, a substantial rain had fallen at Ivanpah, changing the dry lake into an actual wet lake. The surface dried out at the optimal rate, and the rain Zambonied the lumps and bumps, leaving an excellent racing track.
During sturgeon spearing season, fishing clubs plot Lake Winnebago with wooden stakes for vehicle control, but these go away. On some playas, wooden claim stakes are popping up placed by speculators hoping to strike it big in lithium mining.
Ivanpah is unique because the Bureau of Land Management has specifically designated it as an area for “wind sailing.” If you ever get the chance to attend a land sailing regatta at Ivanpah, you won’t regret the experience.
4LIYC Renegader Jim Nordhaus, Bill Petsch of New Zealand, and Hobie Alter competing at the 2018 Blokart North Americans at Ivanpah. Photo: Gary Terrell
4LIYC Skeeter sailor Gary Whitehorse sails his converted iceboat on the Ivanpah dry lake near Las Vegas in 1984.
Ice sailors have been making the spring pilgrimage to the “cathedral of land sailing”, the playa at Ivanpah, for several decades. Pewaukee Skeeter skipper Bill Dale has been at it the longest, sailing in NALSA events for 40 years. 4LIYC members Jim Nordhaus, Geoff Sobering, Scott Geotz, Kyle Metzloff, and Wayne Schmeidlin have been competing in Blokart regattas there for the past several years.
At this year’s Blokart North Americans, Jim Nordhaus’ iceboating skills helped to take him to second place overall in Performance (think Gold fleet) and first in his fiercely competitive division. A Blokart speed record of 77.7 mph was set by Scott Young and Dave Lussier on the last day of competition. Read more about that on Scuttlebutt.
Gary Whitehorse recently shared photos and memories on Facebook of the time he sailed his iceboat ENTERPRISE at Ivanpah.
Gary Whitehorse posted the following on Facebook: “1984, we thought we would try our skills at land sailing. Ivanpah Dry Lake was not far from where we lived in Lake Havasu, AZ. I finished 4th in Class 2 (the fastest class at the time) at the World Land Sailing Competition. There are many good stories on how this all came together.
The race course was announced on the starting line. A yellow paper taped on the hull were filled with maps of the various courses. Being a novice at this sport, I had not memorized them. I never lead a race, although got up to 2nd a few times. The boat was very fast, but the big, sticky tires scrubbed off to much speed when changing direction.”
Gary’s brother, Greg added to the story: “I remember you called me from Arizona and asked if Bob Kau and I could convert the Enterprise into a land sailor. Paul Krueger had all the stuff, it would be easy you said. Well, Bob and I worked late into the night for a few nights to get it ready. (Some of the late nights may have been more to do with a well stocked fridge at Bob’s shop now that I think of it). Ron Rosten was going to tow it out there for you. A few weeks prior to sending it out West, I had tipped it over on Lake Kegonsa. Although damage was minor, I neglected to fix the steering pedals and all that you had to push on were the pipe ends. You weren’t thrilled about that.”