Memories From The 1977 DN World’s St. Michaels MD

Bill Converse Behind the camera 2012 Mallets Bay VT

Yes, Maryland. To begin, the weather in the northeast in that year had been one of those loony years with much snow, and cold weather. The Eastern Region Hosts were trying to find a suitable site for a DN N.A. and World Championship. A retired New Jersey iceboat sailor, Homer Sieder (who had retired to Maryland) in desperation called the regatta committee suggesting this site. It was a huge bay of brackish water. They had some cold, warm rain, and then very cold, builcli up about a foot of salt water ice with hard ice on top.

Few of the active N.E. group had ventured to something like a world championship. A few N.E. Sailors had been to the Easterns in N.J. Most of our racing was scrub racing on local ponds like Norton eservoir, Quanipowitt, Nipinickett, Winnicunett, Webster Lake, etc. W did have our two regattas. I0-15 short races a day was not uncommon, on both Saturday. You got tuned up!

Iceboat design had evolved with go fast changes to the Sarns DN design. The following are my recollection of changes.

  1. Seat Back over or slightly in back of the runner plank.
  2. Lowering the mast hound to where it is now. Running the mast with no side slop, and straighter to get more mast bend. Adjustment of boom-mast pressure was critical.
  3. Mast step moved back, keeping the center of effort over the runner plank center.
  4. Flatter bull nose runners, with more edge on the ice, and Alignment of the boat, as well as the runners.
  5. Sail Battens were wood, and had to be sanded to the right flex to control sail shape.

Some of our local sailors had become very friendly with the top New Jersey sailors. They had been helping getting a few guys going fast. Henry Bassett was making fast DN sails, as was Hard Sails. Most of us in southern New England used Kenyon Sails.

In the spring of 1976 some of us went to Lake Wallenpaupak in Pennsylvania for the Sweepstakes, and sailed well, encouraging us to go further. Thus we decided to try the Worlds and N.A. Championships the next year. I completely rebuilt the boat I had been sailing including the go fast features listed above. We were shocked when to learn we were going south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

St. Michael has a beautiful yacht club which was the racing headquarters. The N.J. group ran the races. In those days they ran qualification races to determine the 39 races for the final, and consolation race(s) weather and time permitting. The final was 45 boats with the 6 region champions as automatic qualifiers. There were three qualification races for this regatta. I qualified on the second race but was disqualified because my mast measured 1/8″ over length. I had to race in the consolation race.

We arrived at the ice on Friday mid-morning. We set our boats up and did some shoreline tuning. Wind was good, ice hard, everyone looked forward to the next day. Friday night a front went through, with some light snow. Saturday morning it blew like stink. 30-40 MPH. The course was huge. We didn’t sail to the race course; we stood in the cockpit and let the wind blow us down the ice to the start line. It was estimated the course was 1.25 miles or more. The wind never abated throughout the day. A few guys tried to scrub race but were out of control. There were many broken boats, mast, planks. Gougeon Goo was becoming popular but a lot of people didn’t know how to build with it. The wind never subsided enough to race that day. We sailed back to the HQ, hanging on.

The next day the wind was still strong, but raceable. They ran the qualifiers. The racing was fun, if you liked high wind racing, and were in shape. The day brought very tiring conditions and lots of broken equipment.

The next day 5 N.A. championship races were run, and a consolation race. They ran the consolation race after the third championship race. Another consolation race was run at the finish of the championship races. The N.A. Championships were over.

The next day was the World Championship. It was completely different (warm). A lot of people left. Bright sunny skies, 50-70 degree temps. Everyone raced. The ice softened after three races, and they cancelled the rest of the racing. Henry Bossett won his first World Championship. By the next day all the Ice was gone.

There was a bit of comedy to the event. The locals had never seen anything like iceboats before. They were trying to buy various boats, and offering cash for them. A fellow offered me $1000.00 for my boat. It was tempting. A N.J. sailor showed up Saturday with a pickup truck loaded with Skimmer 45S. He sold them all, in a short order. A few new MD iceboaters did venture north for some of the later regattas. I met them in Ohio, and Vermont. They sailed with the NJ group I believe.

We loaded up our gear that night and went to the motel. That night I was very sick from the tension of it all. But it was a very memorable affair. I am sure others have their recollections, but this is how I remember the regatta(s) south of the Mason Dixon Line.


Bill Converse

P.S. Just in case you don’t believe there ever was a DN championship in MD there is an article from the Washington Post . Seems they didn’t have any pictures either.

Bill has belonged to the NEIYA from the very beginnings and a key contributor for all that time. He served as Race Committee Chairman for seventeen years from 1983 to 1999. Since handing over Race Committee duties to the next generation, Bill has focused on sailing and taking pictures. His pictures and picture galleries have been featured online as well as in print. Bill’s Pictures Many of us can thank Bill for that great shot rounding a mark or screaming across the finish line. We look forward to seeing Bill out on the ice again this year.

One response

  1. Chris Price

    I remember that well. In fact, I got a speeding ticket on the way to watch in Queenstown, MD with my future wife. I had been ice boating in MD since I was 10 years old in 1966 and finally bought my own DN when I was transferred to Rochester NY. Now live in Harrisburg PA and planning to head to Budd Lake, NJ on Sat. I remember that beautiful ice very well.

    12/28/2017 at 9:25 pm