There’s something strangely addictive to frostbite dinghy sailing, if not downright masochistic. For me, this is especially true in the dead of the winter, when the mercury drops below freezing, and better still, when the racecourse environment includes some wind, snow, and ice as it did this past weekend at the InterClub Midwinters in Annapolis – video here. I love it, and so do many other people. Adding to the sense of adventure is the element of risk, which is mainly perceived but always lurking in the back of one’s mind while sailing in breeze. In a dinghy like the venerable InteClub – our beloved traditional frostbite dinghy designed specifically for winter sailing by none other than Olin Stephens himself – the luxury feature of being self-rescuing was never a design requirement, nor could it have reasonably been in 1945. This is only a slight inconvenience in reality, but the knowledge that one might end up swamped or swimming among ice flows adds some excitement.
Taken in proper doses (i.e. just enough sailing to peek the senses without losing blood flow in the extremities), frostbite dinghy sailing is just the right combination of competitive sailing and masochism. If you secretly derive some sick pleasure from dental work (I admit that I love a good cleaning below the gum line), you might just like frostbiting too. If you like top-shelf dinghy competition, I encourage you to sail a major IC regatta. I’m not quite sure how my kids view it at the moment, but I’m pretty certain that they will ultimately look back at time spent in the “tub” with their old man with fondness. It is my hope that one day they too will carry on this great tradition, soon to celebrate its 80th birthday.
And it is with this sense of tradition and even sense of duty, that many of us saddle up each winter, despite dwindling numbers in many IC fleets (Larchmont Yacht Club remains the benchmark for IC fleets). Frostbiting, however, has prospered in many other dinghies and keel boats. I can’t say as I feel that it’s “proper” frostbiting, but people love it regardless, whether it’s in Laser or a keel boat. I imagine the reasons are the same – we like to tempt fate and come out on top, and we like to compete without the dire necessity to win (at least for most of us). Above all else, I truly relish the camaraderie of the frostbite, including the light banter I’ve had with many fun-loving crews through the years, and the always inspiring smack talk and verbal jousting among friends.
While Larchmont Yacht Club may be host to the largest IC fleet, it’s not the oldest. That distinction lies with the Frostbite Yacht Club at Manhasset Bay – a club that proudly announces that it has “no dues, no assets, no nothing.” How great is that? What they do have is a great tradition dating back to 1932, and that’s reason enough for me to want to keep frostbiting ICs. – Jesse Falsone.