sailboat racing




March 1996 Lake Champlain's Newspaper Volume 5 Number 2

Sports Features News Editorial

Iceboats Race on Malletts Bay

Hi-Tech iceboats race in Malletts Bay

by Mark Gardner

wenty five Skeeters visited Vermont the first weekend in February. The Malletts Bay fishing access on Lakeshore drive in Colchester served as the home for the week ends racing. Boats traveled from around New England, and the Midwest to race on Malletts Bay.

The fleet raced on the outer bay and came into the fishing access for lunch... a "warm lunch".

Iceboat racing is a novel sport. Like soft water sailors, iceboaters rely on wind to power their boats, but the similarities end there. Few soft water boaters take to the lake when the outside temperature is lower than 60 degrees, where iceboaters require cold nights to make the ice, and sunny days to keep the snow away. In the early winter with just a few inches of ice you will see iceboats on the lakes and ponds in Vermont. Snow being their biggest nemesis with as little as two inches ruining their plans.

This photo shows a rear cockpit Skeeter

Iceboat races are held on a course marked by two buoys place about 1 mile apart in line with the wind. The boats begin from a standstill at the downwind end of the course. They mist pass both buoys counterclockwise, usually for three laps. (note diagram) Even in moderate winds the boats can exceed 60mph, and speeds of 80mph are not uncommon. Close maneuvering at high speeds at mark rounding is always exciting. During Saturday's race, both marks were struck and demolished. In-between the races Bob Dill, a local iceboat sailor, repaired the marks. Duct tape fixes most anything.

This is an example of an older Skeeter. Smaller and slower.... but still plenty fast!

The first iceboats probably were used in the Netherlands during the 1600's. They were sailboats fitted with runners and used to carry cargo. Early iceboats used in the US used stern-steering and would carry 6 to 8 people. In the early 1930's, a small, light weight front-steering iceboat, called the Skeeter, was introduced. It attracted many people to iceboating because of it's high speed, low cost and small size.

This photo shows a Skeeter with the cockpit in front of the mast. This boAt also sported a Kevlar sail. Hi-Tech and very expensive.

The Skeeter class is an open, experimental class. Rules regulating length, width, and sail area are the limiting factors. Boats differ radically. Some have the cockpits ahead of the mast, others behind. Boats are made out of fiberglass, wood, carbon fiber and whatever exotic material might make them faster. Mast are thin, hollow and the shape of a small wing. This give added sail area, without penalty. The class has two divisions, one for the modern hi-tech boats, and one for the older boats.

DN iceboat

Locally the DN iceboat is very popular. It is smaller than the skeeter and easir to transport as it fits nicely on your ski racks.

Fastiggi to Compete in Lightning Southern Circuit

The Lightning Southern Circuit will be held March 9 through 17, 1996. This consists of the Deep South Regatta at the Savannah Yacht Club, Savannah, Georgia, March 9 & 10, the Miami Midwinter Regatta at Coral Reef Yacht Club, Coral Gables, FL, March 12 & 13, and the Winter Championship at St. Petersburg Yacht Club, St. Petersburg, FL, March 15 thru 17.

Bill Fastiggi, a member of the Malletts Bay Boat Club, will compete in this year's circuit. Sailing with Bill are Jo Ann Jones and Jack Huntsman. Jo Ann lives in Burlington and attends SUNY in Plattsburgh. Jo Ann grew up sailing Lightnings and is an experienced crew. Jack lives in New Jersey and has owned several Lightnings over the years.

New Lightnings being delivered by the builder for the southern circuit.

1996 is the first year of a new format in the series. In previous years the southern circuit was held over several weeks. This year it is being held over nine days. This should permit a greater number of participants to compete in all the races. For the first time, no substitute skippers are permitted.

The Lightning Class requires all boats to meet strict measurements. Items such as sails, masts and booms, angle of centerboard and weight of the hull are all subject to strict guidelines. This helps keep older Lightnings competitive with newer boats.

St.Petersburg FL 1994

For example, the Lightning Class is studying the feasibility of using jibs constructed of mylar sail material. The class is permitting several sailmakers to use mylar jibs during the series. Mylar jibs and genoas have been a common, if not mandatory item on any PHRF boat for the last ten years. In the Lightning Class only a woven material has been permitted.

Savannah is the venue for the 1996 Olympics. The actual sailing area is out in the mouth of the river. In 1995 the Lightning fleet sailed one of the days in this area. The Olympic area is several hours away from the Savanna Y.C. making it impractical for this regatta.

The fleet will sail at the junction of two rivers. The area is very narrow, (less than a mile) with shifty winds and considerable current. The triangle course runs up and back the two rivers, depending on the wind direction, the courses can be marks to port or starboard. According to Bill "It's very different from most regattas, short tacking and a lot of current.... a whole lot of current". "Sailing on the inside is very squirrely, you can pass or be passed by 10 boats very quickly."

" Bill drove out to Michigan the weekend of Feb. 10 to pick up his new Lightning. Built by Nickels Boat Works, his Lightning has a foam-core fiberglass hull. This boat is the first Nickels lightning to be built with a vacuum bag process. As the name implies, the boat is built inside a plastic bag attached to a large vacuum. The vacuum helps saturate the fiberglass and foam with resin. This enables the boat to be built stronger with less resin.

Bill's goals are to finish in the top 5 for the series. "Last year we had about 40 boats in Savanna, 30 in Miami and 60 in St. Pete." Bill expects that with the changes made this year that even more boats will compete. Bill is planning on attending a variety of Lightning regattas this year, including the District Championship and the North Americans.

He will keep us informed during the week he is gone. Harbor watch will publish all the results as soon as they are available.

Tips on Ice fishing

ich Greenough appeared at the Lake Champlain Basin Science Center at the foot of College St. in Burlington on Saturday and Sunday the 17, & 18 of February. Sponsored by the Science Center, Rich spoke to over 30 people on Sunday, giving an overview of icefishing. Speaking mostly from personal experiences, Rich approaches fishing with a no nonsense, get right to the point, manner. His mixture of Vermont wit combined with his genuine love of fishing provides for an entertaining and informative look at icefishing

Ice creepers and a floating cushion, good for sitting and "just in case".

Rich demonstrated a portable fish finder that he uses on the ice. Recently fishermen in Burlington Harbor were complaining that they weren't catching their usual number of perch and smelt. When Rich took a look through the ice with his fish finder he discovered why. The harbor was full of large fish, probably lake trout and salmon. "of course fish aren't stupid, when the big fish come in, the little fish leave".

Traditionally ice fisherman caught perch the smelt. Thousand of pounds of perch and smelt are taken each year. With better equipment, and improved methods, more and more fisherman are catching Salmon, Brown, Rainbow, and Lake Trout. One of the traditional Lake Champlain fish, the Walleye are few in number and Rich advises everyone to give them a change to recover their number.

He showed several types of fishing poles, including a traditional, inexpensive pole made of wood, commonly used in shallow water to catch perch and smelt. The other end of the spectrum included a pole and reel that will set you back over $100. It is suitable for fising all species at most depths. Rich also demonstrated several tip-up devices. Tip-ups are used when fishing for large fish. A number of holes are drilled in the ice and the tip-up's are bated and set so that a flag will raise as soon as a fish has taken the bait.

Variety of fishing poles, from a few dollars to over $100.

Rich discussed a variety of baits, from jigs to live minnows. One of his favorites is using dead bate when fishing for big Northern Pike. Fishing directly on the bottom in shallow water close to a weed bed, the bate lays on the bottom waiting for a big northern to come along and scoop it up. Using a stainless leader and a strong line, the northern can be quite fun to catch. He warned a reaching into the mouth of a Northern. With over 100 sharp teeth, the can do a job on a hand. He recommended using a jaw spreader, or if the fish is really big use a gaff in the lower jaw. Bottom fishing has fewer results, but often the catch is usually worth the wait.

Rich showed a hand powered 6" ice auger that folded up for easy storage. the hand powered auger is suitable for the casual fisherman. it will cut through a foot of ice in about 15 seconds. the gasoline versions are easier to use, especially when you are cutting a number of holes when using tip-ups.

" Fish Trap II. Portable fishing shanty, includes seats, sled, wind protection. and enough room to store your fishing gear. Rich Reminded everyone that it was a state law that your name and phone number had to be permanently displayed, on a fish shanty, even a portable one.

Rich's colorful and entertaining manner keeps both kids and adults riveted to the discussion. Offering humerous narratives like, "believe nothin' ya hear, and only half of what ya see" add that personal touch that is unique to Rich Greenough.



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