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Sailing on Pelican Lake [UPDATED]

Published 10:55am Tuesday, December 4, 2012 Updated 10:55am Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An early winter sport blew through Ashby this weekend. Over 70 ice boats were seen gliding across Pelican Lake.

“We plan to come here the first weekend after Thanksgiving,” said Bob Cave, who drove here from St. Charles, Illinois. “It depends on the ice.”

An ice boat is a boat is similar in functional design to a sail boat but fitted with skis or runners and designed to run over ice instead of through water. Ice yachting is the sport of sailing and racing iceboats. Sailable ice is known in the sport as “hard water” versus sailing on liquid or “soft” water.

“People are here from five or six states and foreign countries like Germany and Poland,” said Cave. “There are Internet sites like where we chat and get information about where the ice is good.”

Cave said early ice is good because it is hard, and it hasn’t had a lot of snowfall on it yet. Lakes like Pelican and Christina are ideal because they are relatively shallow, and form hard, black ice early.

But the ice enthusiasts were not just here to glide across the lake. There is also friendly competition. They are here to race.

Because of the very high potential boat speeds, iceboat race courses are established around fixed marks which are to be rounded in a one-way route. The courses are deliberately set in a straight line upwind and downwind, though the boats have to tack back and forth to advance through the course. This course configuration provides a measure of traffic safety between competitors. Racing speeds can reach 30 mph upwind and 40 mph down wind.

“Most of the boats here are DN class, though a few are ice options for junior racers 16 and under,” said Eric Lind, who traveled here from Michigan with four other racers.

The International DN class is the most popular class in both North America and Europe. It is a one-person wood boat twelve feet long with a cross “plank” eight feet long and carries a mast 16 feet high.

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