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Ice, Ice Boating

local father and daughter warm up to chilly sport

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THE ONLY WAY TO TRAVEL ... ON FROZEN WATER. WHEN IT’S WINDY. Eau Clairians Dale and Erin Peters are avid ice boaters. Erin is shown above – the picture was taken in Madison, as ice boating requires smooth ice and Eau Claire waters are currently covered in hard snow.
 
THE ONLY WAY TO TRAVEL ... ON FROZEN WATER. WHEN IT’S WINDY. Eau Clairians Dale and Erin Peters are avid ice boaters. Erin is shown above – the picture was taken in Madison, as ice boating requires smooth ice and Eau Claire waters are currently covered in hard snow.

The ice on the lake shimmers like glass and it’s 20 degrees outside with a brisk 15 mph wind. Is it too cold to go outside? If you’re like Eau Clairians Dale Peters and his daughter Erin, then the answer is a resounding no. When the ice and weather conditions have reached perfection, you’ll find them out on the ice, sailing in handmade boats with the wind whistling in their faces.

Ice boats are equipped with runners that skate over the ice three to four times the speed of the wind. If you’ve watched Olympic bobsledding, you’ll easily be able to imagine ice boating. In both cases the initial start comes from man-powered pushing, which results in break-neck speeds. After a short push, the sail catches the wind and the ice boat quickly takes off. Reaching speeds of 70 mph (some ice boats can top 100 mph) Dale says that the acceleration is incredible.

Ice boats are equipped with runners that skate over the ice three to four times the speed of the wind. After a short push, the sail catches the wind and the ice boat quickly takes off. Reaching speeds of 70 mph (some ice boats can top 100 mph).

The wondrous aspect of ice boating is that, as you glide across the ice, there will be absolutely no engine noise. The only sound you’ll hear is that of the runners on the ice and the rush of the wind.

Beyond a pastime, ice boating has also reached competitive levels with regattas held all winter long in the ice covered parts of the United States, Europe, and Canada. In 2008, the North American champion races for a class of boats called the “DN” were held on Lake Pepin with more than 100 boats and world-class sailors competing for first place line honors. In the United States, there are more than 25 associations or clubs dedicated to promoting and supporting ice boating enthusiasts. In the Chippewa Valley there are a handful of ice boaters who take advantage of Wisconsin winters to enjoy this exhilarating alternative sport.

It’s been said that if you try it once, you’ll be hooked! Dale can attest to that, as he has been ice boating since the 60s. Erin, Dale’s 16-year-old daughter, says, “It’s like sailing on ice. You go as fast as you can possibly go, and then you pick up another gust of wind and go even faster. You feel the ice chips hitting your helmet; you hear the wind and the runners. You feel like you have no control, even though you still have control.”

One of the unique challenges of the sport is finding good ice, the right wind, and – for Dale, the assistant city manager – the time off from work. Like most people in today’s world, ice boating enthusiasts are aided by social media, where word about perfect ice and wind conditions travels quickly through e-mail and blog channels.

If you are interested in ice boating, feel free to contact Dale Peters for more information at 839-4921 or dpeters@ci.eau-claire.wi.us.



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