Sailing Continues All Winter Long - Ice Boating on Renegades

Sailing Continues All Winter Long - Ice Boating on Renegades

Some may like ice boating with a smaller tight-knit classic boat whose numbers aren't large.  With this, the Renegade is for you.  There haven't been any new Renegades built in years, but old ones are rebuilt and look factory fresh.  A bit smaller than a Skeeter, it's design performed well and commonly can go as fast as a Skeeter.

These are commonly sailed on Green Bay and lakes around Madison.  The boat was designed by Elmer Millenbach of Detroit in 1947  at 21' long, 8' wide, and mast 16' tall.

For details on design and more stories - International Renegade Ice Yacht Association

These boats include a springboard.  What this is, is a sprit out the bow of the hull that the front runner is attached to.  When a gust occurs, the power from the sail transfers downward pressure.  For boats without a springboard, commonly the boat will heel over bringing one blade of the runner off the ice to burn off the pressure.  While you might presume this makes a boat faster, it actually slows it down.  So the springboard absorbs some of that downward pressure keeping all three blades on the ice until that new power can be transferred into forward speed and the springboard eases back up.  Just a little cool piece of technology - eh?

Most Renegades are steered by foot pedals, so both hands are free to trim the sail.  Others do have a tiller that comes from the front runner.

Ice boat sailor and Sailing Judge Chuck Kotovic of Emerald Yacht-Ship explained that many great liquid water sailors kept their edge during the winter by sailing their ice boats.   He dropped names like Harry Nye, Dick Stearns, and Buddy Melges to prove his point.

In researching this article, I found that my good friend Mike Derusha won the world's championship in 2013 (2001, 1992 and 1986 as well) and his father who we sailed against on liquid water, Roger Derusha (RIP), won it in 1995.  Congratulations to the father and son.

Romanticizing Ice Boating

As these boats are raced, "Two racing rules that are different from soft water sailing are:

  1. Upwind boats always have rights over downwind boats regardless of port/starboard.
  2. Downwind, the windward boat has rights over the leeward boat.

These come from mainly safety issues due to the maneuverability and visibility.  A full set of the Ice Boat Right of Way Rules are found on the www.iceboat.org website.

Ice Boats have rules about conditions in order to sail, they won't start races when the air temperature is 0-10 degrees or lower or when the wind speed is above 25 mph.  Think about it, what the heck is the windchill when wind is whistling by you at 70 mph without a windshield?

A quick check for pre-owned prices on the internet found boats from $1,000 - $6,500 ready to go and at the upper end $8,000 - $10,500 including lots of spare parts and a matching trailer.

For safety's sake, Ice Boaters wear warm winter clothing that can handle exposure to high wind speeds, goggles, spiked shoes to push off with, helmet (motorcycle type), an inflatable life jacket and 2 ice picks.

What are those last two items for? A few times each winter someone will sail into open holes in ice into the freezing water. You need to be able to pull yourself back up onto firm ice. While tests are performed on ice for thickness, water springs and birds can keep water moving in spots which makes ice thinner in those area. You can't test the thickness of a whole lake.

Using Ice Picks to Quickly Get Out of the Water

Where would you start? Where would you see if this is for you? Where would you find a decent Renegade to buy for yourself?

    • Simply show up on a day at the lake that they are ice boating. How? On a Friday, call this phone number 608.204.9876 and get a pre-recorded message where the Ice Boaters are meeting up that weekend to go sailing and drive there. Go out on the ice, and strike up a conversation. Explain that you would like to give sailing on an iceboat a try, many will loan your their boat on the spot. Ask how you can get some help buying your own boat.

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