1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ice-Yachting

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ICE-YACHTING, the sport of sailing and racing ice-boats. It is practised in Great Britain, Norway and Sweden, to some extent, and is very popular in Holland and on the Gulf of Finland, but its highest development is in the United States and Canada. The Dutch ice-yacht is a flat-bottomed boat resting crossways upon a planking about three feet wide and sixteen long, to which are affixed four steel runners, one each at bow, stern and each end of the planking. The rudder is a fifth runner fixed to a tiller. Heavy mainsails and jibs are generally used and the boat is built more for safety than for speed. The ice-boat of the Gulf of Finland is a V-shaped frame with a heavy plank running from bow to stern, in which the mast is stepped. The stern or steering runner is worked by a tiller or wheel. The sail is a large lug and the boom and gaff are attached to the mast by travellers. The passengers sit upon planks or rope netting. The Russian boats are faster than the Dutch.

In 1790 ice-yachting was in vogue on the Hudson river, its headquarters being at Poughkeepsie, New York. The type was a square box on three runners, the two forward ones being nailed to the box and the third acting as a rudder operated by a tiller. The sail was a flatheaded sprit. This primitive style generally obtained until 1853, when triangular frames with “boxes” for the crew aft and jib and mainsail rig were introduced. A heavy, hard-riding type soon developed, with short gaffs, low sails, large jibs and booms extending far over the stern. It was over-canvassed and the mast was stepped directly over the runner-plank, bringing the centre of sail-balance so far aft that the boats were apt to run away, and the over-canvassing frequently caused the windward runner to swing up into the air to a dangerous height. The largest and fastest example of this type, which prevailed until 1879, was Commodore J. A. Roosevelt’s first “Icicle,” which measured 69 ft. over all and carried 1070 sq. ft. of canvas. In 1879 Mr H. Relyea built the “Robert Scott,” which had a single backbone and wire guy-ropes, and it became the model for all Hudson river ice-yachts. Masts were now stepped farther forward, jibs were shortened, booms cut down, and the centre of sail-balance was brought more inboard and higher up, causing the centres of effort and resistance to come more in harmony. The shallow steering-box became elliptical. In 1881 occurred the first race for the American Challenge Pennant, which represents the championship of the Hudson river, the clubs competing including the Hudson river, North Shrewsbury, Orange lake, Newburgh and Carthage Ice-Yacht Clubs. The races are usually sailed five times round a triangle of which each leg measures one mile, at least two of the legs being to windward. Ice-yachts are divided into four classes, carrying respectively 600 sq. ft. of canvas or more, between 450 and 600, between 300 and 450, and less than 300 sq. ft. Ice-yachting is very popular on the Great Lakes, both in the United States and Canada, the Kingston (Ontario) Club having a fleet of over 25 sail. Other important centres of the sport are Lakes Minnetonka and White Bear in Minnesota, Lakes Winnebago and Pepin in Wisconsin, Bar Harbor lake in Maine, the St Lawrence river, Quinte Bay and Lake Champlain.

A modern ice-yacht is made of a single-piece backbone the entire length of the boat, and a runner-plank upon which it rests at right angles, the two forming a kite-shaped frame. The best woods for these pieces are basswood, butternut and pine. They are cut from the log in such a way that the heart of the timber expands, giving the planks a permanent curve, which, in the finished boat, is turned upward. The two forward runners, usually made of soft cast iron and about 2 ft. 7 in. long and 2½ in. high, are set into oak frames a little over 5 ft. long and 5 in. high. The runners have a cutting edge of 90%, though a V-shaped edge is often preferred for racing. The rudder is a runner about 3 ft. 7 in. long, worked by a tiller, sometimes made very long, 7½ ft. not being uncommon. This enables the helmsman to lie in the box at full length and steer with his feet, leaving his hands free to tend the sheet. Masts and spars are generally made hollow for racing-yachts and the rigging is pliable steel wire. The sails are of 10-oz. duck for a boat carrying 400 sq. ft. of canvas. They have very high peaks, short hoists and long booms. The mainsail and jib rig is general, but a double-masted lateen rig has been found advantageous. The foremost ice-yacht builder of America is G. E. Buckhout of Poughkeepsie.

An ice-yacht about 40 ft. in length will carry 6 or 7 passengers or crew, who are distributed in such a manner as to preserve the balance of the boat. In a good breeze the crew lie out on the windward side of the runner-plank to balance the boat and reduce the pressure on the leeward runner. A course of 20 m. with many turns has been sailed on the Hudson in less than 48 minutes, the record for a measured mile with flying start being at the rate of about 72 m. an hour. In a high wind, however, ice-yachts often move at the rate of 85 and even 90 m. an hour.

Several of the laws of ice navigation seem marvellous to the uninitiated. Commodore Irving Grinnell, who has made a scientific study of the sport, says: “The two marked peculiarities of ice-yachting which cause it to differ materially from yachting on the sea are: (1) Sailing faster than the wind. (2) Sheets flat aft under all circumstances.” Mr H. A. Buck, in the “Badminton Library,” Skating, Curling, Tobogganing, &c., thus explains these paradoxes. An ice-boat sails faster than the wind because she invariably sails at some angle to it. The momentum is increased by every puff of wind striking the sails obliquely, until it is finally equalled by the increase of friction engendered. Thus the continued bursts of wind against the sails cause a greater accumulation of speed in the ice-yacht than is possessed by the wind itself. When the boat sails directly before the wind she is, like a balloon, at its mercy, and thus does not sail faster than the wind. The ice-yacht always sails with its sheets flat aft, because the greater speed of the boat changes the angle at which the wind strikes the sail from that at which it would strike if the yacht were stationary to such a degree that, in whatever direction the yacht is sailing, the result is always the same as if the yacht were close-hauled to the wind. It follows that the yacht is actually overhauling the wind, and her canvas shivers as if in the wind’s eye. When eased off her momentum becomes less and less until it drops to the velocity of the wind, when she can readily be stopped by being spun round and brought head to the wind. The latter method is one way of “coming to,” instead of luffing up in the usual way from a beam wind. In beating to windward an ice-boat is handled like a water yacht, though she points more closely.

On the bays near New York a peculiar kind of ice-boat has developed, called scooter, which may be described as a toboggan with a sail. A typical scooter is about 15 ft. long with an extreme beam of 5 ft., perfectly oval in form and flat. It has mainsail and jib carried on a mast 9 or 10 ft. long and set well aft, and is provided with two long parallel metal runners. There is no rudder, the scooter being steered entirely by trimming the sails, particularly the jib. As the craft is flat and buoyant it sails well in water, and can thus be used on very thin ice without danger. A speed of 50 m. an hour has been attained by a scooter (see Outing for March 1905).

See Ice Sports, in the “Isthmian Library”; Skating, Curling, Tobogganing, &c. in the “Badminton Library.”