2009 DN World and North American Champs report

By James “T” Thieler
DN US 5224
pic of world championshipsAs it was kind of a turbulent fall season for me I didn't have a chance (or didn't bother) to work on my gear, train or practice this year but decided to do the Worlds and NAs anyway and just have a good time sailing the course and catching up with the other ice addicts. We are a social bunch of loners!

I rode out to Traverse City, MI in the Composite Solutions Inc. van with Jeff Kent from MA and Bernd Zeiger from Germany. Greg Cornelious, Steve Madden, Jack Ericson (who was travelling with Danish citizen but honorary New Englander Bent Gjerloff), Eben Whitcomb, Bob Schumacher, Don Brush, Eric Anderson, Ben Shaevitz, Chad Atkins and I’m sure a few others I can’t think of also represented New England. The usual suspects from Jersey and Canada were there as well. We left Hingham MA only about seven hours behind schedule and one night, 1,500 miles, two countries, several wrong turns and about a hundred depressing country songs on Jeff’s iPod later we arrived and crawled out of the van onto a very wet Torch Lake. That's near the pinkie on the hand if you know MI geography.

People were out practicing and coming back soaked, didn’t look too promising. Water pools 2 1/2 inches deep on top of the ice, but Good News as the temp went way down overnight and the lake was in great shape the next day. Nice breeze, good ice and clear skies.

In one day the committee got five races in for each fleet -- I dropped out of one to help clean up the aftermath of a bad crash at the windward mark -- at least four boats were involved and Jeff had been caught in the middle of the pile-up so when I saw his boat in the pile I felt obligated to stop and help out. Besides, he had the keys to the van and I had to get back to the hotel later. Anyway three boats were totaled and one sailor was evacuated by helicopter. Quite a wake up call, glad to report that he wasn't severly injured.


pic1Joking aside, we were VERY LUCKY that things didn’t turn out worse. Boats were going fast, it was hard to see the pile up as you approached, the wreck was very close to the windward mark which forced sailors to go through a narrow gate, and there were spectators, helpers and at least one skipper on the ice out of his boat with DNs coming at him fast. I saw photos of the incident, and I’m not exaggerating when I say they sent a chill up my spine. Scary stuff indeed, I for one think we need a black flag system to call off racing while a major crash gets cleaned up. There was also some talk about introducing “darling marks” to help avoid this kind of incident in the future.

That said, the best solution is to avoid this stuff in the first place. Keep your eyes open and your head on straight- be realistic about how tight of a space you can squeeze your boat into.

The race committee wisely called racing for the remainder of the day citing major issues with glare off the ice -- the sun was getting low enough that visibility was a major issue, especially looking through the sail windows. Good call, you can't be too careful when there's bad mojo about.

Two races the following day finished the regatta. I’m sure there was a heated battle for first place but I missed it bringing up the rear. (Some regatta report, eh?) I do know that Matt Struble defended his world title. Nice guy, good sailor, he deserved the win. That said, I plan on having him clubbed in the knee next fall. Ron Sherry second, and our travel mate Bernd Zieger a strong third.

I ended up 28th out of 50 in the Gold Fleet (there were about 130 or so boats total divided up into 3 fleets.) Not much to brag about but I had a blast. One of the things I like about iceboats is that even when you are dead last and getting your ass kicked you are still bombing along at 40-60 mph so it's still a good time. Results here if you are interested: http://www.idniyra.org/results/results09_worlds.html

Temps soared into the high 50's overnight and the lake became soaked and pitted with big drain holes; totally unsail-able overnight. So we all packed up and headed for Menominee (or was it Mariette?), WI to sail the North Americans.

At this point as we were forced to leave Traverse City we must let everyone know what the GTCIY Club did as hosts, a fantasic job, of plowing the parking area, four wheelers to help in the on/off ice, and a hot chili meal after each day of sailing, and a great photo taker.

The ice was a bit rough but we had good breeze and five great races for each fleet. The highlight for me was the third race -- I'd made some tuning adjustments (More accurately, I copied Zieger's set-up...) and got a good start on the favored side. I was more surprised than anybody to be in the lead at the first mark and was able to finish the race in 3rd. That alone was enough to get me fired up for next year and I was also psyched to keep all of my finishes above 20th place. Ended up 10th overall, pretty happy with that. Ron Sherry won, another good guy and good sailor who'd better protect his knees next fall... I will stop at nothing. Results here: http://www.idniyra.org/results/results09_nas.html

Sailing was called off the next day as there was no wind, it was snowing, and a lot of the Europeans had flown into NYC (the races were supposed to have been in New England but we were snowed out) and had to get back for their flights. We packed up the van and headed home -- more miles, more country songs, more stories, and that is about all she wrote. If there was an award for "Most Fun Had" I'd have won it.

Even if racing isn’t your passion I’d highly recommend packing up and attending one of these events- There are fleets for every skill level, plenty of off-ice entertainment, and it’s a great excuse to get out of town and meet the other ice enthusiasts. It’s also fun to walk around in the pits and scope out everybody’s cool gear… Great way to learn a lot in a short time and have some fun in the process.

Finally, a big round of applause goes to all the volunteers who checked ice, registered everybody, started races, scored races, ran the crash bikes, set marks, found hotels, scored the totally cool fleece jackets with “2009 DN Worlds” logo and did everything (and that is a long list) that makes these events possible.

Jim “T” Thieler
DN US 5224

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