Iceboating: An entirely new game
Published on March 23rd, 2022
The shift to spring in North America has iceboaters now looking forward to next season, which includes newcomer Eric Doyle, a North Sails sailmaker of 30 years who relocated from San Diego to Minneapolis two years ago and bought into the DN class last summer.
For the Star World Champion, it is an entirely new game.
“It is, as they say, the sport of gypsies,” says Doyle. “They’re ready to go, ready to wait, or ready to change venues and drive six hours [in the other direction]. DN sailors will do anything for good ice conditions because, when it’s right, it is by far the most fun sailing I’ve ever done. It’s just so fast, so effortless and so cool to take this little 12-foot boat and fly 25 to 30 miles per hour upwind. Then to go 40 [mph] downwind is really incredible.
“I’m still learning how to get around the bottom mark. At the start, first you have to sprint—and I haven’t done any all-out sprinting since high school—and then you have to figure out how and when to jump into the boat smoothly. There’s a lot of technique involved. The bottom mark is really challenging because the boat starts to slide.”
Deb Whitehorse, longtime DN Class secretary and treasurer, shared how there’s an art to going around the leeward mark. “He spun out a few times. You kind of have to let out the sheet when you come around, and once he was told that, he got it immediately.”
“I just have to learn how to control it at the bottom, to have that smooth turn,” noted Doyle. “There’s just this moment in time where, if you judge it wrong and you’re in that power zone… oh, man, it’s all on and you’re just sliding out of control. Plus, everyone who is waiting to start in the next fleet is there to watch you spin out.”
Thus far, Doyle’s experience cemented his new fascination with DN sailing.
“Everything about it is much bigger… It’s the big ninety-degree course changes to keep the boat going. It’s the excitement of stopping, where if you stop, you have to get out and push, and while you’re doing that, there are guys still going 25 miles per hour.
“You’re thinking ‘oh man, I’m really losing a lot right now. And then there’s the whole thing with the regatta’s location. You’re in one place and then you gotta go somewhere else, but don’t worry, it’s only six hours. Just like the sailing, it all happens so fast. It’s just so cool.”