Sailing Hard Waters

February 14, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I moved to the North Country about 20 years ago and rediscovered true winter weather. Over the years I have figured out how you dress when it’s 10 degrees out, and what else to put on when it is 20 below zero and windy. I’ve found that keeping active and hiking, running, cross country skiing, or simply walking throughout the winter really helps to stave off cabin fever.

About eleven years ago I saw something out on Lake Champlain that I had never seen before. A new way some people deal with, even embrace harsh winters. There was a DN class ice yacht race held here and, bundled and ready, we walked far out on the frozen lake and watched them fly over the ice around us! DN ice boats are small, single-person vessels with a 12 foot platform on three large runners supporting a sail measuring 60 square feet (about 16 feet long) that can achieve speeds from 40 up to maybe 60 miles an hour if the wind is right! The whole boat weighs only 100-150 pounds (without the human on board). This smaller class of ice boat is the most popular class in both Europe and North America for obvious reasons… They are relatively simple to build, and easy for one person to handle, transport, rig and race!

After that winter a few friends of ours even decided to build their own ice yachts. Although I thought it looked like a fun sport it held little allure for me. I have never learned to sail and have other interests to keep me busy. Once those racers all left, I did not see ice boats on the lake again until just a few days ago. With the bitter cold temperatures we’ve had this winter it is no surprise that the North American Championship Regatta is back in our neighborhood this year. After scouting North America for the best “plate” they get the word out through various networks and sailers converge on the chosen “hard water” for a few days of racing. Apparently the weather has not cooperated this year and the site has been moved a number of times due to changing ice conditions and drifting snow. Happily for us, the racers wound up here on Lake Champlain!

So, we again bundled up (6 degrees with a strong wind all day) and headed out on the frozen lake to watch them run races throughout the day. We met a few other brave souls who ventured out to experience the world of ice boat racing – many of them on ice skates. It was fun to watch, and very cool to be out in the middle of Lake Champlain in winter… Very cool.


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