Local News

January 23, 2014

Ice yachts find sailable ice on Lake Champlain




The event itself is not unlike sailing, only the kite-shaped frames of the vessels are long and narrow, with steel outriggers that steady the boat’s speedy passage.

“Instead of soft water, we sail on hard water,” Racine explained. “We sail them much like a sailboat, only you lay down flat and hold your head up and go about 60 to 70 miles per hour. It is a wonderful adrenaline rush.”

The sailors manage their sails while lying prone on their backs, maneuvering a tiller set between their knees.

Called “yachts,” ice boats weigh about 50 pounds.

The yacht is not unlike a luge sled, Racine said, only longer and guided by a sail.


The “DN” defining this particular type of ice boat dates back to boats designed in a competition organized by the Detroit News at the turn of the 20th century, Racine related.

Ice boats generally don’t compete in sub-zero temperatures, which is why changing weather will determine whether the competition goes on Thursday or Friday.

People can watch from the Lake Champlain shoreline along Lake Shore Road in at Gilbert Brook Marina, Racine said.

“You can also come out and stand on the ice and watch. But you have to bundle up.”

Folks from Long Island, Maine, Quebec and Nova Scotia, among other places, are arriving in the North Country for the race. Altogether, about 50 to 60 ice yachts are expected to compete.


James “T” Thieler, from Newport, R.I., is a commodore with the New England Ice Yacht Association. He has tracked the progress of the race as it moved east in search of good ice.

He is ranked fourth among ice-yachting competitors, Racine said.

In updates online, Thieler said they tested Monty’s Bay in 0-degree Fahrenheit weather and found it “do-able.”

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