This past season’s (2014) DN North Americans originally scheduled for Lake Senachwine near Peru, IL in the Western region ended up 1000+ miles away on Lake Champlain Plattsburg, NY. So goes the great sport of ice boating. It has been eleven years since the class put on a “big dance” (NA or Worlds) in the Eastern region. And what a dance it was, but im getting ahead of how we got there.
Before we hit the road in search of a championship regatta worthy plate, let’s take a look at what we’re looking for. A DN NAs or Worlds site requires a racing area of 1.25 -1.5 miles in all wind directions. This allows for a 1-1.25 mile course, with pits below the start line. Basically if you can fit a 1.5 mile circle on top of a good plate of ice you’re good to go.
New England primary sites include Sebago, and Moosehead Lake in Maine, Lake Winnipesaukee and Sunapee in New Hampshire and Lake Champlain as well as Memphremagog in Vermont. Of course we have plenty of other choices but size as well as local support facilities are both a factors.
Follow along with the relentless folks responsible for scouting the NA venue, Their tireless journey across seeking that perfectly frozen lake brings them 1000’s of miles. Without their efforts, it would have never taken place.
For purposes of our timeline the first day of scheduled racing will be represented as R 0 and the beginning of our story takes place two weeks prior or R -14. Days designated with an R+1,2,3… represent the days after the (1st) original regatta start.
Eben Whitcomb and myself started the preliminary scouting, with a 750 mile RT drive to Lake Memphremagog and spent the day scouting ice and access locations both in the United States in Newport Vermont, and also several locations in Canada, near Owls head, and in the town of Magog.
Meanwhile in Vermont, Bob Schumacher Bob Dill, Don Brush and Paul Gervais were keeping an eye on Lake Champlain, and David Fortier and others were keeping an eye on Jordan Bay on Sebago Lake. Chad Atkins, who is the hotline coordinator for the NEIYA did a great job of keeping in touch with scouts on all the potential race sites throughout the whole scouting period.
On January 9 Steve Madden and David Fortier drove up to and sailed Sebago Lake on Jordan Bay. Based on their scouting Eben Whitcomb decided to call on the Eastern championships for Sebago Lake on January 11. The weather was expected to be fairly lousy, but he felt it was worth a shot at holding the regatta. Saturday morning when we got there it was raining and there was already a lot of water on the ice.
On Sebago after the favorable report Eben and I spent 4 hours pushing and sailing in light wind, and heavy rain, to further examine the plate of ice. Based on the amount of water on the ice we decided it was not likely that the Eastern’s could be held there and he postponed the event. That evening the lake received 1.5 inches more of rain.
Eben Whitcomb and I drove from Sebago Lake to Memphremegog (again) which was expected to get less rain. We spent Sunday kicksleding and skating near Newport Vermont. It was blowing about 30 miles an hour and we were unable to sail.(it was kind of scary going downwind on the kicksled!) We also identified a potential host hotel and gathering venue in the area.
Meanwhile the Vermont gang was actively looking at Lake Champlain after the rain. Monday, January 13(R -6 days) the IDNIYRA conference call indicated there was very little sailable ice in the Western region, so we redoubled our efforts in New England scouting for ice.
Wednesday, January 15, Eben and I left my house at 4 AM and drove to Burlington Vermont to help the Vermont guys scout ice on Lake Champlain. Eben and I, with advice from Bob Dill scouted and sailed inner and outer mallets Bay, and Bob Schumacher and Doug Merrill scouted the area called the inland Sea. We determined outer mallets Bay had too many drain holes, so we de-rigged our boats drove to the launch area for the inland Sea, and rerigged and sailed there also as the sun was setting. At the same time as the 4 of us were on Lake Champlain, David Fortier drove from Maine and Oliver Moore drove from Rhode Island to Lake Memphremegog and sailed it and confirmed the launch area was still acceptable. Wednesday evening during the IDNIYRA conference call, we had identified two viable sailing sites in the Eastern region. At the same time Andre Baby had identified a good sailing site on the St. Lawrence seaway in Montréal. In the Western region the only salable ice was Lake Senachwine near Peru, Illinois. The decision was made to delay the location decision until Thursday evening, with a tentative primary site of Lake Senachwine and a backup site in Montréal. Bob Schumacher and his wife were kind enough to put Eben and myself up overnight. Thursday morning Eben and I drove up to Montréal and sailed at Lac St. Louis with Andre and Jasick.
Thursday night the governing committee decided to call the 2014 N. Americans on for Peru, Illinois, despite a forecast calling for 2 to 4 inches of snow on Saturday.
Eben and I left Montréal at 4 AM on Friday bound for Illinois. We got there around 10 PM on Friday and crashed out at the hotel.
Saturday we got up and left the hotel around 10 AM drove down to the race site and started rigging our boats, it was already starting to snow. By the time we were ready to sail there was at least 4 inch drifts and building. Most boats did not even bother to set up. We packed our boats up put them back in the trailer and drove back to the hotel as both of us thought we would not be able to race at that location. Now the race committee was stuck with 80 competitors in Illinois, with no sailable ice in the Western region. The decision was made to hold everybody at the host hotel, until a new location could be found.
Ice checkers were dispatched to possible locations at Pymatuning Reservoir on the Pennsylvania Ohio and Lake Clinton in Illinois.
Early Sunday morning Bob Schumacher Don Brush and Louise Racine drove eight hours straight through to Pymatuning. They were met by DN racer Ben Shavits, who already had his boat rigged and waiting. Bob and Don Brush sailed Pymatuning and concluded the snowdrifts were too high for fair racing.
That same day sailors drove one and a half hours south to evaluate Lake Clinton a small lake in IL This venture did not turn pan out.
Andre Baby had stayed behind in Montréal and had been sailing every day. He was reporting excellent snow ice. With no closer options available, Sunday night the regatta was officially moved to Montréal.
Eben and I left Sunday evening for Montréal. We drove till about midnight and stayed in a hotel just before the Canadian border at Sarnia.
The next morning we started driving around 7:30 AM and on the custom line when we got the word from Andre Baby that Montréal had received two inches of snow the night before and it had drifted making it unsailable. Eben and I crossed the border, had a great breakfast and scouted the western shore of Lake St. Clair in Canada. We were in the area anyway but found it fit only for snowmobile racing.
Meanwhile, Jim Theiler and Oliver Moore stopped and scouted Hamilton Ontario, desperately looking for a good race site.
Eben and I then spent the day at a truck stop in the boonies of Canada on the phone talking to various people across the East looking for ice. We were very fortunate that Louise Racine had stopped in Plattsburgh NY to visit with her mother, on her way back and called in early Monday morning to say that the Plattsburgh side of Lake Champlain was snow free. This was the best news we had had in a few days and experienced eyes needed to evaluate conditions.
Bob Schumacher and Don Brush had driven straight through back to Vermont the night before. Bob then drove to Plattsburgh Vermont with Bob Dill. There they met Louise, as well as Rich Crucett and friend that were driving from Long Island to Montréal. Collectively they sailed and found a suitable plate of ice on Cumberland Bay north of Plattsburgh New York.
Remarkably just ten hours after being snowed out in Montréal, we had already found an alternative site. The DN North Americans were moved to Plattsburgh and called on for Cumberland Bay, with racing to start Thursday morning, about 45 boats made the drive from Illinois.
The New England gang spent Tuesday and Wednesday sailing the site in Cumberland Bay. There was some snow on the site, and it was brutally cold. By late Wednesday the drifts were getting very stiff and Styrofoam like. With lighter winds expected for Thursday we were getting nervous about Cumberland Bay.
Bob Dill had crossed the ferry from the Vermont side and had indicated that there was a new plate of black ice in Plattsburgh Bay itself.
Thursday morning four sailors from New England (Chad, Oliver, Don Brush, Eric), plus Andre Baby scouted the new plate in Plattsburgh Bay. Racing was delayed that morning anyway due to extremely low temperatures.
Plattsburgh bay had beautiful black ice with an interesting layer of Hoar Frost on top. After pulling some strings we received permission from the City of Plattsburgh to launch at the public pier. We moved the boats from Cumberland Bay to Plattsburgh bay and racing got underway with the silver fleet qualifier just before dusk. Racing had finally started!
Friday we had a great day of racing and ended the day with four races in each fleet. By the last race it was blowing over 20 with lots of spin outs and lead changes, very exciting racing!
Saturday morning we got up, but the race committee had decided that due to wind conditions the North Americans was finished. After the award ceremony, we went down to the ice to de-rig our boats, the wind was howling through the rigging. A wise call by the race committee. It was nice to have a short five hour drive home after the regatta.
And that folks is what it takes to find ice for a big event. I was extremely proud of how hard everybody in the East worked to make this happen. A big round of applause goes to all the sailors who helped make this happen and especially to Eben Whitcomb, the IDNIYRA Eastern Rear Commodore.
Guess what? Next year we get to do it all again. The Eastern region in conjunction with the Canadian region will host the 2015 DN World championship January 25-30th. It’s going to take a herculean effort by a lot of people to pull this off. Join me, Eben and the rest of the DN, New England and Canadian ice boating community in helping to put on a world class international ice boating event. It all starts with ice. Hope to see you all there.