Ice sailing in America actually goes back further than one would think. In 1869, one of the largest ice yachts was built for racing on the frozen Hudson River, called Icicle. It still holds the record for the largest ice yacht ever built. The sport itself is mostly comprised of individuals who are enthusiastic about sailing, and don’t particularly want to wait for the lakes to melt.
Originally born out of practicality and safety in the late 19th century, ice yachts or boats, had no rudders. This allowed them to travel through icy bays and not worry about breaking their steering mechanism and being left adrift in the middle of a large body of water - very important as they moved cargo across large bays in the winter. Of course, the modification of added skis and runners to the bottom of the boats to allow travel over frozen bodies of water was a natural next step.
Today, ice sailing enthusiasts can exceed speeds of 55 miles per hour, sometimes even reaching speeds of 150 miles per hour in the right conditions, providing an adrenaline rush a bit more intense than an outing on a traditional sail boat. Since most ice yachts are built for single person use, it’s not too difficult to break into the sport. Experienced ice sailors suggest that rookies buy a standard model to see if they like the sport. If they don’t, the boat can be sold, which generally is easy as the standard boats regularly change hands. Participating with other ice sailors can help temper the learning curve if you are trying to minimize the time between starting off and upgrading to something that is faster.
There are quite a few ice yachting clubs in the Great Lakes area including The Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in Madison, WI, Minnesota Ice Sailing Association, Toledo Ice Yacht Club, and West Michigan Ice Yacht Club. So get out there and try something new, because if this sport has been around for over 200 years, they have got to be doing something right, right?