Ice boats – miniature sailboats with three metal blades called runners – have been around since the 19th Century, and modern enthusiasts of the winter sport (officially called “ice yachting”) gather at various frozen lakes around the U.S. every year when “hard water” sites are available. After weeks of delays due to snow and extreme cold followed by unseasonable warmth, we gathered with approximately 50 racers at Michigan’s Lake Charlevoix for the stunning annual event.
Ice inspectors drill into the frozen lake to ensure it’s safe to race on; optimal race conditions are very specific, and wind is one of the most important factors. Bob Foeller uses flags to mark the ice for tech inspection.
Chad Atkins of Jamestown, Rhode Island attaches metal runners to his ice boat.
Each racer customizes their ice boat that makes theirs stand out from the rest.
The IDNIYRA (International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association) race took place on Lake Charlevoix, in Northern, Michigan on Friday, January 26, 2018. Ice Boat racers from around the world met for their North American races.
Optimal race conditions are very specific, and wind is one of the most important factors.
Wind measuring equipment at the starting line.
A fleet of up to 40 racers line up at the starting line. “My theory is to err on the side of speed. If I am going to make a mistake, make a mistake that is going to make me go fast,” racing veteran Ron Sherry explains.
Ready to brave the elements, Martin Schneider from Hamburg Germany takes off at the start of the ice yacht race.
Paul Schemanski from Petoskey, Michican observes the thrilling ice race.
Ice Boats hit speeds of 60 mph as they make their way around the two markers for three laps.
After each race, the top 5 racers enter the “winner’s circle” where their boat is inspected to make sure they are up to spec.
“I don’t pay attention to anything but the boat, the boat speaks its own language,” Griffin Sherry explains. “It’s your own personal rollercoaster. You can go for as long as you want and don’t stop.”
The exhausting, thrilling regatta was the perfect ending for this adrenaline-fueled journey.