Ronstan

How they do it on the ice

Published on December 31st, 2019

While you don’t need the best start to win races, you do need to eliminate bad starts to consistently have top finishes. This mantra applies to all forms of sailing, but for the hard water racers, their variables are a bit different than for the sailboat sector.

DN sailor Karen Binder, Secretary of the New England Ice Yacht Association, shares the variables that have improved her starts:


Pointy spikes make a difference. On a track, I am a very fast sprinter, but on the ice I was not able to get off the line, push my boat as I expected, or beat anyone in the sprint aspect. I thought it was just because I am beginner, but I notice how my traction wasn’t great and I was getting frustrated because I was getting beat so handily right off the line.

But when I finally looked at the bottom of my borrowed spikes and compared them to a new set, the new spikes are pointy whereas my spikes were ground little nubs with some even missing from the tread. Fortunately, a nice person switched the old nubs out and that was a whole different ball game in terms of traction and speed.

I have been so focused on “boat stuff” I didn’t think my own personal gear made that much difference. Then, for Christmas, Santa got me a set of spikes that fit my foot better and zoom zoom. Lesson learned: Good gear can help.

• I was standing too upright. When I ran my feet were getting too close to the plank. Since I am dreadfully fearful of repeating the superman scene at a start, I realized I was looking down too much at my feet rather than ahead. The solution was to crouch down at the start and lean more into your shroud and tiller with your upper body. Hard to explain, but my feet are now farther aft of my plank and I get a longer stride and don’t come to close to my plank when I run. Lesson learned: Body position matters.

• I was not getting a good push on the tiller. I realized my tiller and tiller extension were too long for my body type. Fortunately, a nice person cut a few inches off and, wow, what a difference. I can really push and the boat moves. Lesson learned: Your boat needs to become an extension of you and must be tuned to you.

With it all put together, I am now consistently really fast off the line and easing in to my boat smoothly automatically.

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