The Basics = Sailing Smart
by Jane Pegel - US 803
The experienced sailor has developed skills that enable him to have a great day of
sailing and racing in a variety of conditions. This sailor (I am avoiding using
"he") has the ability to select an appropriate ice site, appropriate ice site,
properly rig the boat for the conditions of the day, and then properly handle the boat
under sail. Past newsletter articles have addressed ice conditions, others have addressed
tuning, but few have addressed the basic principles involved in becoming a good iceboater.
Good iceboaters sail smart. My goal here is to discuss some of the factors to be
considered if you want to sail smart.
One would think that just plain common sense would cause a sailor to sail his boat in a
manner appropriate for the conditions. But my mother was correct when she used to say,
"People can find more ways to try to kill themselves."
In Parking Areas
Hardly a day on the ice goes by that I do not see someone looking for trouble. First of
all, don't bring your pre-school age child down to the ice without a crash helmet on his
head. A toddler has difficulty walking on bare ground, don't put him on slippery ice.
Likewise with your family dog. A child old enough to use ice skates should be brain washed
about being around iceboats. He should understand that the iceboat cannot stop quickly.
Designate a safe area for skating and stress the importance of his staying in that area.
And I'm not pleased when an ice-skate creases the side of my boat when its wearer crashes
Whenever your boat is left unattended, be sure she is parked into the wind and the
parking brake is on. It is also a good idea to pull the mainsheet line out of the aft
blocks in case the wind shifts. DN rules require use of the parking brake.
Care must be taken when maneuvering in a crowded parking area. Whatever you do, DO IT
SLOWLY. Pushing or pulling the boat should only be done in a direction straight into the
wind. If you must head across or down wind, GET INTO THE BOAT so you have maximum control
and visibility. Don't ride on the runner plank, sitting or standing. If a pedestrian,
skater, or boat unexpectedly crosses your path, your maneuverability is limited when
you're tiding on the runner plank. Don't park your boat in a high traffic area. As
provided in the racing rules, a good race committee will establish a safety zone down wind
of the finish line. This provides for a clear "sail out" zone after boats cross
the finish line. Boats and gear parked in the safety zone may be disqualified.
Finally, when there is a good breeze blowing, hoist your sail after you have pushed the
boat clear of a crowded parking area, and lower it prior to returning.
Turning and Stopping
Rocketing down the ice is the ultimate iceboating thrill. But how do you stop the darn
thing? Or how do you turn the race mark when you're approaching it at warp speed? Let's
take a look at the boat handling skills involved:
Stopping: Almost everyone knows you have to arm into the wind to stop.
But not everyone knows the steps in the transition from rocketing to stop. The ultimate
stopping challenge is on hard ice with a strong wind. If you're sailing on-the-wind,
merely head into the wind and allow enough space for your speed to, "bleed out".
If you're sailing off-the-wind at top speed, head straight down wind with your sail
trimmed hard, this will allow you to slow down as the wind passes by your sail. The next
step will be to turn across the wind (onto a reach) and then into the wind. As you start
to turn onto the reach, ease the sail well out so you won't be thrown into a hike. Keep
your weight forward in the boat so there is adequate pressure on the steering runner.
Quickly turn toward the wind. If you're having trouble getting the boat to turn toward the
wind, trimming the main slightly will help pivot the boat into the wind. Then as you get
into the wind, trim the sail to reduce the flogging of the sail, battens and boom. As you
coast to a stop, resist the temptation to drag your feet on the ice. In a DN it's easy to
swing your feet out of the boat, but if your spikes catch a flaw on the ice, you may break
Turning the Leeward Mark: You can apply some of the' techniques
described for stopping, but as you get headed on-the-wind after rounding the mark, just
trim in and keep going. Because you're likely to be rounding with other boats, it is very
important to remember the two key things of trimming the sail is to pivot the boat in the
turn and keeping your weight forward to hold the front runner on the ice. The Gold Fleet
sailor approaches the leeward mark at high speed, heads for a pivot point about 50 feet
from the mark toward the side where the race committee stands. He (this is a generic term)
momentarily heads down wind to bleed off some speed, then turns for the mark into a,
"transition zone", with the sail eased enough so that the boat does not hike. In
this final approach he is headed toward a point about 15 feet down wind of the mark. When
he gets about 20 feet from this point, he starts the turn, and as he comes close to the
mark he is already headed on-the-wind with the sail trimmed hard. This is the perfect
turn. The exact ice and wind conditions and the presence of other boats always require
instantaneous adjustments. As the Bronze Fleet sailor comes down to the leeward mark, his
initial heading is usually too close to the mark, he has not provided for a
"transition zone" and instead of being headed on-the-wind as he passes close to
the mark, his boat may be in an uncontrolled hike, careening off to starboard, a hazard to
himseft and to others.
Port tack layline? Not likely! Sail smart - think
Photo by Lou Loenneke
Rounding the Windward Mark: This can be hazardous when it's windy and
a number of boats are approaching the mark together. The goal is to round the mark and
head off-the-wind at top speed without colliding with other boats. As you make the
approach to the mark lean way back with the mainsheet in your right hand and your hand
close to your chest. If the boat starts to hike, you can extend your arm and this will
case the sail some. Try to keep your body aft to hold the boat down. Peel off around the
mark, heading off-the-wind until the boat comes out of the hike. If you're strong enough,
you can trim the mainsheet as the boat comes out of the hike. Keep a firm grip on the
tiller. Stay in sync with other boats making the turn. When all runners are on the ice and
the boat is tracking a straight line, then you might be able to put the tiller between
your knees and trim with both hands, but please don't try this when you're sailing close
The Right of Way Rules
We race under the rules of the National Iceboat Authority. These rules were developed
in 1963 by representatives of each of the iceboat class associations. Prior to that time
we encountered different rules in different regattas. You can imagine the confusion. The
basic philosophy of the rules:
- gives the boat sailing on-the-wind right of way over a boat sailing off-the-wind;
- gives starboard tack right of way over the port tack when boats are sailing on-the-wind
or both are sailing off-the-wind;
- gives each boat the right to slow down or maneuver out of a hike (leeward boat when
sailing on-the-wind, windward boat when sailing off-the-wind);
- gives the inside boat the right of way when approaching and turning a mark (leeward boat
when approaching the windward mark on starboard tack, windward boat when sailing
off-the-wind, inside boat at the marks, the starboard tack boats at the leeward mark);
- requires a boat altering course to stay clear (tacking, jibing).
The "inside" exception is the port tack boat approaching the windward mark,
who must give way to the starboard tack boat. A sailor who keeps in mind the basic
premises will find it easy to make safe and smart moves on the race course.
|The 1992-1993 season will be Jane's 46th season of iceboating and her
37th season in DN's. A quick scan through results of past years show Jane winning the
North Americans twice has been runner up seven times. She has also won the Northwest
Annual Regatta 10 times. As you might have guessed, Jane is just as fast on soft water. In
fact, she has been awarded the Yachts Womcm of the Year Award three time& Jane has
served the DN Class as Commodore and is currently the Chairperson of the Technical
This article was originally printed in the December 1992 newsletter