Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Prep and transport.
Pete Johns and I were supposed to be traveling together. I met Pete probably in 1985 or 1986. That is the first time I went to the Lake Geneva swap meet, the fall after I got my first DN. He was a wild sailor then, and I believe he had made his first trips to Poland before that time frame. That was after he’d had close encounters on the race course, sailed a North American Championship on the Chesapeake Bay, started many friends in the boat at Lake Decatur, and done more stuff in an iceboat than all but a very few. Pete’s traveled hundreds of thousands of miles and sailed ice wherever good ice and a few iceboaters have gathered. He was the DN secretary for a time, made the class happen and be strong, contributed to its growth.

Pete’s done a lot since, but still would argue about being called a sailor. He is an iceboater, not a sailor. A sailor knows his boat and equipment (his “program” as its called). A sailor knows how to adjust and tweek his boat to wring the most performance out of it. A sailor knows how to select choose which sail, hardware, what settings to have on the boat and who can provide the hardware and equipment that can make his boat the best. A sailor knows how to trim his sails and point his boat to best advantage, and Pete can do all that. A sailor knows his medium: the wind, the water, the influence of trees and bluffs, all the things that he (or she) has to use to propel his craft around the course faster than his competitors. Pete is an iceboater and says he can make the boat go around a diamond course, but not find wind shifts.

An ice boater’s medium is hard water. Not hard water like water with too many minerals, but frozen water. (That subject is a whole other chapter.) An iceboat like the DN class iceboat loves smooth, glassy black ice. I can be sailed in fairly rough ice and through fresh snow up to the depth that the plank and hull start dragging, if there is enough wind. When ice is on the surface, the water beneath is dangerously cold and is to be avoided. Holes and thin ice are bad.

Finding and having sailable ice for a major regatta is the big challenge. A big regatta requires at least a square mile, better several square miles, without heaves, holes, cracks or obstructions. Snow cover has to be very slight without drifts. Weather forecasts have to be good enough that an optimist can see the chance of completing a regatta. The uncertainty of the venue is part of the sport, why this will never be an Olympic sport, and why finding a site for a regatta when a continent is covered in snow is uncertain at best. This year, with a week to go, there was NO suitable venue in Europe known.

That uncertainty is why Pete is not traveling this trip, that and his loving wife Ann. At least one of the North American, European and World Championship regattas usually fall in mid-February. That is when Ann’s birthday falls. Also Valentine’s Day. Pete (as well of the rest of the DN ice fanatics) is almost always absent from home and family at this time. While I know he’ll have occasional regrets, he’ll have Ann and lots of great ice at home.

I packed a bag of four sails, a bag of ice clothes with three runners, a box of runners, a carry-on with clothes for a week and a briefcase of computer and work. At the last minute I was asked to carry back the silver fleet perpetual trophy as well. That’s a lot of stuff! (see picture. I was wearing my backpack at the time) I knew there would be a charge for the sails, but the charge was half what I expected. I expected a bag-charge for the trophy and it turns out that charge would be $180. Fortunately the nice lady at LOT Polish Airlines read the note about the contents wisely applied by Jim McDonough, last years winner. “Fragile, contains IDNIYRA Silver Fleet Gold Cup Trophy. She had me carry it to the gate as carry-on and gate check it for free. No, Jim, I am keeping the fee.

Departed Chicago at 10 PM and arrived at Warsaw at 2 PM the next day, Thursday. We pack the trailer and head for Lake Balaton, Hungary tomorrow morning. Perfect weather forecast and right now clear ice about six inches thick. A little precip when temps are predicted to be right at freezing, temperatures hover between a few degrees below freezing to a degree above through Wednesday next week. That good as this is the only suitable ice not buried in snow in all of Europe, we believe.

Look for pictures tomorrow of the packed gear for three racers, two in Gold and one in Silver or Bronze fleets. About 210 are pre registered. Also look for an update on the other American competitors.

1 comment:

  1. iceboat driver,wind shifts are in the mind unless you are behind,so my friend either follow to find or lead driving with your behind. Driver