1973: Ain Vilde, Estonia
49 years later, 2022: Robert Graczyk, Poland
In 1937, the Detroit News newspaper asked for volunteers to attend a workshop to create an easy-to-build, easily transported, and inexpensive iceboat, which came to be known as the DN. The DN’s popularity grew, and sailors organized a class and sanctioned the first North American championship in 1953, won by Jack Moran of Michigan.
The comparatively small boat found its way to Europe. The “Johnny Appleseed” of European DN sailing, Holland’s Wim Van Aker, traveled the continent, giving DNs to aspiring ice sailors with the instruction, “do something with these.” And did they ever.
North American and European class officers, including Wim Van Aker, Bill Connell, and Art Teutsch, organized the first world DN championship for the 1973 season. They set it up so that the World Championship alternates between Europe and North America. Michigan’s Lake St. Clair was the primary site, but, as can happen in this sport, the lack of ice conditions on Lake St. Clair forced a move.
DN sailors from America, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, and Holland made their way to Gull Lake, Michigan. After dealing with less-than-ideal sticky snow conditions and several days without wind, the race committee and 41 competitors hung tough and finally completed the regatta. There are familiar names on the 1973 results list, with a few still racing. Estonian Ain Vilde won the first Worlds in a tight battle by two points over Gull Lake local Randy Johnson.
2023 also marks the 70th anniversary of the North American championship. Tim Woodhouse of Michigan won the 1973 North American Championship, held a few weeks earlier than the World championship.
The IDNIYRA will celebrate these anniversaries at the DN World and North American championships regattas in 2023. Western Region Commodore Chris Berger and the committee are in the planning stages to bring you a great regatta and commemorate 50 years of international competition. It’s time to start thinking ice!