“That Will Buff Right Out”

Via 4LIYC Commodore Daniel Hearn:

Wow, what a time we had on Lake Pepin over the weekend! Such a beautiful place to ice sail, with the surrounding bluffs and bald eagles flying everywhere. Thanks to Pat Heppert, who scouted ice on Friday, we knew we were in for a special weekend, if the wind cooperated. We had a massive sheet of nice ice. Not perfect, but plenty smooth even for the little boats. And no heaves to deal with. The light wind forecast for Saturday kept many interested sailors away, but the C-Skeeters were able to sail all morning. And then the breeze filled in nicely in the afternoon. Pat and I ripped around for hours working on tuning, joined by three DNs (Bob Cummins, Matt Meyer and Erin Bury) and one Mini Skeeter (Tom C).

Also got a chance to sail my wing boat for just the second time. Great fun, and I was particularly amazed at the upwind performance. Couple local kids hovered around the pits all afternoon, asking lots of questions and helping out. When I asked if they wanted to give the wing boat a go, at first they thought I was kidding. Patrick and Philip both made her go nicely, and returned to the pits impressively with smiles as wide as the lake.

Breeze was up considerably on Sunday. Pat and I put up our small sails, loaded up with lead and slacked our stays. It was game on, for sure! Looking to catch Fast Pat in our first official race, I was striving to minimize my end plate effect. I definitely closed the gap between my boom and hull, but it exposed my weak spine. (Yeah, I know, not the first time).

With the help of my sailing mates, we removed the boom and sail, and then “de-penetrated” the mast. No damage other than a spine that needs to be rebuilt. Ahhh, but a scratch! So I pushed in to retrieve my wing boat that was already set up and ready to go. And GO it did! Even with next to no wing driving skills, the boat was fast and smooth. In particular, I was blown away with the upwind performance. A hard wing climbs the upwind ladder like nobody’s business.

To complete our amazing weekend, Pat and I sailed all the way down to the infamous Pickle Factory for a delicious lunch. (Picture taken through the window of the bar). It’s 6 miles one-way, and we never had to even negotiate a heave. There, we met up with local Ed Newcomb, who is the owner of two Madison-built A-Skeeters–a Mattison and a Whitehorse–both of which were on the ice, having just completed a sporty session.

About a dozen DNs sailed numerous scrub races while Pat and I were on our adventure. Lots of good tuning took place, with great times reported by all.

Hopefully the fun can continue at the Northwest next weekend!

Winging It

UPDATE: The incorrect photo (now below) was used in the original post. The post has been edited with the correct photo.

Previous: Introducing WING
Iceboat shop news from Daniel Hearn:

Winging It


It’s always good to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. With the C-Skeeter, I buddied up to Pat Heppert, and so far, he’s still taking my calls and responding to my texts and emails. When I got intrigued with fixed wing boats, inspired by Dan Clapp’s W28, I reached out to Wing Wizard, John Eisenlohr, who lives in Montana. I had the pleasure of meeting John and some of the other Montana Ice/Dirt Cowboys on our last trip to Fort Peck. Before I knew it, my W28 wanna-be with DN parts had morphed into a 18 ft. tapered wing and flap, with 30″ removable top sections. Plus, a largely enclosed 13 foot hull, 6 foot springboard, and a 12 foot wide plank. I think they call this phenomenon, “project creep.” What is it with iceboaters, anyway? In the immortal words of Dan Clapp himself, “it’s not like we’re racing!”


Here’s a shot of my main wing as it sits now. I’ve just installed the leading edge pieces, but have yet to shape. My hinge boxes are also ready to be installed on the appropriate ribs. After that, I’ve got some additional internal reinforcing to do, and it’s on to skinning. John normally installs the leading edge blocks after the skinning, using ropes with tourniquet-type devices. I decided to mount leading edge blocks first, so I could just use clamps. Guess I’ll find out if this makes the skinning more difficult.

Introducing WING

New Jersey Dan Clapp is best known for his innovative A-Class front-seater Skeeter designs and dominating the Skeeter class championships for two decades. He won nine International Skeeter Association regattas and seven Northwest titles. In the past years, he realized that the magnitude of effort to campaign the Skeeter became too much and too time-consuming. The lack of travel partners also contributed to his decision to sell his INSANITY, one of the most stunning Skeeters ever seen.

Jim Gervolino nudged Dan into helping him put together a wing mast that could work with various hulls. Here’s his story on the WING.

Several years ago, when Tom Nichols moved from New Jersey to Maine, he had to get rid of the wing he built in the ’80s for his front-seat C-Class Skeeter. I convinced Jim Gervolino to take it.

Jim Gervolino’s C Class Skeeter w Wing


Jim spent that summer rebuilding that wing from its three-element, low aspect ratio shape to a more modern two-element (wing & flap), high aspect ratio shape, similar to those of John Eisenlohr’s wing land sailing boats.


Jim put his wing on a new conventional cockpit C-Class Skeeter boat he built and sailed it three times in 2020.


An Icebird

It worked so well that Jim came to me in the spring and tried to convince me to build a wing so he’d have someone to “play” with. We were standing in my shop beside a wall of photos. I told him I wasn’t interested in building another iceboat, but if we could put a wing on a boat I already had, like, say, “that” one (as I pointed to a picture of an Icebird), then maybe I’d be interested. Jim laughed and said, “You’re not serious, are you?”


We collaborated on the shape of the wing until we agreed on an airfoil. I wanted a taller wing for light wind, but Jim wanted a shorter wing so he wouldn’t be overpowered in heavy air. So, we agreed on making the top three feet (six sq.ft.) removable. It turned out to be the perfect compromise, and it has already proven itself with wind gusting over 25 on our maiden voyage.


Jim proposed that he’d build the wings, and I’d build the hulls. Jim is retired. All summer, he’d keep sending me progress photos and asking, “when are you going to start building the hulls?” By September 2020, I could no longer procrastinate. I used a medical table mold from work to shape the hulls. The design is simple because it doesn’t need to provide for “sheeting” loads like most iceboats since the wings have none.


I may have been a little bit hoodwinked into this whole WING project, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be involved at first. These boats are like toys, and I was used to building A-Class Skeeters. It wasn’t until my first ride that I saw the light and couldn’t be happier now. The wing works better than I ever imagined. And, the entire boat, including the wing, fits inside my Yukon XL. No 36-foot long box trailer necessary. My back doesn’t hurt from lugging heavy Skeeter hulls and stepping 28′ masts. My neck doesn’t hurt from laying down and trying to hold my head up like in DN. In fact, except for a bathroom break, there was no reason to stop sailing. It’s like iceboating in your lazy-boy recliner. I sailed for hours, and the next day, miraculously, I got out of bed without an aching body.

Chauncy Griggs Skeeter with wing mast

But, Jim deserves most of the credit. He rebuilt the first wing proving the concept. He researched everything and studied John Eisenlohr’s wing-building videos, of which we used much of the same ideas. And, he kept the project progressing over the summer when most of us were out on the water having fun. Not too many people have the motivation to work on iceboats when it’s 90 degrees outside, even most iceboaters.


We look forward to others using their DN parts and building themselves a wing, and we’d be happy to answer any questions they might have. We talked about a name for this new class (Ice Wings, Hot Wings, Grasshoppers). Probably just calling them “Wings” and adding a number next to the “W” for sail area, like W28 for our 28 square foot wings, is best. If someone makes a bigger wing as Chauncey Griggs did, it’ll be called W75. I wish Chauncey had lived long enough to have seen these. He would’ve been proud, even if it took 30 years for someone to join him. I did get the “handlebar” idea for controlling the wing rotation from one of his boats.

1968 USSR Championship

Via WSSA Secretary/Treasurer Andy Gratton alerts us to this really interesting Youtube video: “Matt Critchley found this video. Wing-sails on stern steerers, all they need is a bubble canopy. I don’t even see any wires on these boats. Everyone should see these boats.”