Revival of junior iceboating

Published on January 20th, 2024

by Samuel Bartel
The Western Challenge on Lake Christina, MN, became the playground for some brand-new junior ice sailors, and it’s safe to say they left an impression. With ten young sailors and their families in tow, junior iceboating is making a come- back in North America.

These ten sailors, a mix of four Ice Optmist kids (aged 9 to 13) and six DN kids (aged 13 to 18) from the Lake Minnetonka Sailing School, brought their sailing skills to the ice. Their prior soft-water sailing experience made the transition to iceboating quite smooth.

Our fleet, featuring three Ice Optis, three DNs, and a Nite from the McGary family, served as the perfect training ground. I experimented with various coaching methods, from riding the plank with the kids to providing guidance from a distance using a megaphone and whiteboard. The Nite was a huge asset, as it allowed the kids to ride along with me at high speeds, observing sailing techniques without the pressure of sailing alone.

The primary goals were simple:
• Introduce the kids to iceboating.
• Teach them safe sailing practices.
• Ignite a passion for the sport.
• Mission accomplished! Everyone left grinning ear to ear, totally hooked on the sport.

Looking ahead, I’m excited about keeping these kids engaged in iceboating for the long haul. Soon, I hope to see them side by side with you and me on the starting line. I hope to see them participating in regattas, driving the class forward, and eventually giving us all some added competition. Maybe they’ll even beat you and me on the race course—just not too often 😉

I also want to help these kids improve their soft-water sailing skills through iceboating. Iceboating is about speed and angles like E Scows, M15s, and 29ers. If these kids can learn to feel the iceboat as it powers up, make quick adjustments to the mainsheet and steering, and feel the boat as it sails in “the groove,” their overall sailing skills will improve dramatically.

Big shoutout to the amazing people who helped make this happen: Daniel Hearn, Dave Elsmo, Pat Heppert, Erin Bury, Ken WhiteHorse, Paul Krueger, Don Anderson, Chad Atkins, Deb Whitehorse, Mike Bloom, David Frost, Joe Norton, and others. They’ve been instrumental, whether donating/lending equipment, sharing valuable advice, or chipping in cash for equipment/gear. Thanks to them, I have iceboats for the juniors to sail on and a trailer to transport the boats.

Do you know a junior sailor interested in iceboating? Shoot me a message, and I’ll make sure they’re on the email list.

Are you eager to pitch in? Awesome! Whether it’s money, parts, gear, time, or advice, everything helps.

Think Ice!
Samuel Bartel US1011 –


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