Starting in the Netherlands as a commercial winter transport in the 18th century Ice Sailing has developed into a fast, exhilarating and potentially dangerous winter sport practised in over 20 countries worldwide. These include Argentina, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (Scotland - Loch Morlich and Loch Insh) and the United States.
The original Ice Yachts were stern steerers with large sail areas and the steering runner at the back of the yacht. The front steering yacht with its smaller sail area, higher speed and greater stability evolved in the first half of the 20th century. There are now several classes of ice yacht which vary in size, sail area and performance. The largest and most popular class is the "one design" DN. Designed in 1936 in a competition run by the Detroit News paper (hence the DN ) this home buildable, car portable, and affordable yacht is sailed and raced in all the ice yachting countries. In Europe there are over 2500 active DN members and over 1000 in North America. Both continents have an active racing season, which usually runs from mid November through to early April. The World Championships ( Gold Cup) has alternated yearly between Europe and North America since 1973. In February 2002 it will be in Poland (Masurian Lake area). Speeds of up to 60 mph (100 km) are not unusual and a race can have a maximum of 60 yachts with a standing start
The essential conditions for Ice Sailing are:
- Access to a lake (or sea bay)
- Expanse of safe Ice - minimum thickness 6 inches (15cm)
- Minimal snow
The sailing area needed depends on the number of competitors. For 50 approx 25 square miles (40 sq kms)
The sailing technique is similar to that of Catamaran or Sand Sailing and the 2 race course marks are set directly up and down wind approx 1 mile ( 1.6km) apart. The course to be raced is three times round both marks leaving everything to Port (Left).
For the Junior sailors an Ice Sailing version of the Optimist has been developed and is raced regularly in Poland, Estonia and Latvia. Start up costs for Ice Sailing will depend upon what you start with. Home building is probably the lowest cost but second hand (used) DNs are available in Europe and North America. Building Plans can be obtained for a charge.
The International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association (IDNIYRA) has a good web site www.icesailing.org
which contains web pages for several of the participating countries, the Constitution, the Yacht Specifications, the Racing Rules,the Administrative Structure, Insurance arrangements and points of contact.