What is an Ice Boat?
Featuring large sails and small hulls, ice boats have a unique design. They consist of a perpendicular cross piece, known as the runner plank, which is attached to the hull. Three skates, or runners, are then fastened onto either end of the plank, with the third one being located at the front of the hull.
The Power of Wind
Ice boats, or ice yachts as they are also known, rely on wind catching their sails in order to move. Ice boats are able to travel up to five times the speed of wind due to the sail design and the low friction levels between the ice and the runners. Ice free of snow offers the best movement. The smaller ice-boats can achieve of 50-60 mph whilst “Skeeters” which are ultra-modern designs made from high tech materials such as Kevlar and carbon fibre can achieve speeds of over 100 mph.
The skipper has to either sail directly into the wind or reduce the size of the sail in order to reduce speed. Although the ice boat is fitted with brakes these are only used for parking.
Buying an Ice Boat
If the idea of sailing across ice has captured the imagination, you may wish to consider buying an ice boat. One of the first questions to ask is whether or not the boat has been used recently. Boats in recent use tend to be in much better condition than those which have been in long term storage. Rust, dry rot and missing parts can occur if the storage is not correct.
Inspect the rigging and fittings to make sure all the wires are intact and look out for nicks and rust on the runners. It is always a good idea to check out the steering to make sure there isn’t excessive play and look for any signs of wear and tear on the sail or damage to the hull.
Ice boat clubs, which are popular in Eastern America and Canada as well as Europe, are a great place to start. They organise events and club racing always tends to be far safer than solo cruising.