endless winter

endless winter

In his endless search for the best parts of sailboat racing,
John Casey steps into just about any high-performance fleet he can – and usually, he kicks some ass.  The DN Iceboat Worlds was maybe a bit too ambitious though, JC managed just a 12th in the 40-boat Bronze Fleet on some random lake in Illinois.  Ron Sherry won yet another one, and he’ll go for the back-to-back when the DN Iceboat NAs starts this coming weekend, place unknown. 

For a look into how these things unfold, check out JC’s report below, and read his blog as well as the event report blog to see how it all came out.  Note: The International DN Association is perhaps the healthiest high-performance sailboat class in America and maybe the world, with over 9000 members in 20 countries.  It sails under its own rules, having nothing to do with US Sailing or ISAF at all – hence the “Worlds” usage with no complaint from ISAF.

I’ve never seen the hunt for perfect weather conditions take place like today. At lunch in mildly cold Madison, Wisconsin at the Old Fashioned restaurant everyone’s smartphones created a little extra heat as the players at the table filled in the chart of available venues for the DN Iceboat World Championships. Apparently, they use satellites, planes and sailors, scurrying around the Northland in search of el Perfecto. Rumors flew about slush on some lake to the North, holes in some pond in Montana, too much snow there, rain somewhere else, New Jersey’s straight out and too many geese turds from birds that missed the southern call on an otherwise perfectly iced up lake near Sheboygan.

I took this lunchtime to pull some info on DNs from Dan Hearn and Geoff Sobering. Between massive bites from his tuna sandwich, Geoff, otherwise known as The Professor, spoke in gleaming terms of the religion known as DN sailing. We started with mast base placement, forestay length, plank placement, mainsheet block adjustment, mast rotation, rig tension then weight placement. I tried to take notes.

Daniel schooled me on the finer points of mark roundings and speed. Between every nugget of speed info, they went over the don’ts, like don’t be in the way of a boat above at the top mark because if they need to take power out of the rig they need to bear off. Also, if you’re going downwind, stay out of the way of upwind boats, no matter what tack you are on. Weight placement is also pretty important when rounding the leeward mark to keep from spinning out, which isn’t so quick.

The how to start clinic also took place at the table and I found out a few nuances like: run, push the boat and jump in. The starting positions are a neat subject. Basically, we begin by picking a number for a start position and after that start positions are determined by finishes. Half the fleet will start on port and half on starboard. When the flags are dropped (you guessed it); run, push the boat and jump in. There will be a gold, silver and bronze fleet based on rankings. Since I’ve never actually sailed one of these things, I’ll be in the bronze fleet with a chance to move up into silver if I finish in the top 15 in the first race. We’ll see how that goes.

Like every sport on the planet, there is special equipment like the extra huge scary gloves, helmet with a strap to save neck muscles and spiked shoes. Some racers wear the speed suit for an aerodynamic advantage. No, I’m not wearing one of those and I’m not wearing Shaun White skinny pants either. I like my beer tasty. I’ll be bundled up like a giant chinchilla, staying as warm as possible with more fleece than a Bronx hustler. I’ll be the guy wearing two pairs of gloves, a facemask, and drool frozen from the corner of my mouth to my ear from the 60 mph speed grin. I’ll be the guy with a jacket over my jackets and boots over my boots. I’ll be the guy proud to look like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story.

 I’d launch into some diatribe about who the top guys are or how I plan to smoke everybody, but I don’t know anything about either of those subjects at the moment. I do have a feeling I’ll hear more than one diatribe from certain racers at this event though. I’d also tell you where Lake Senachwine is, but I don’t know where Peru, Illinois is either. I’ve got lots a learnin’ to do.
A big thanks to Wes Wilcox for the hospitality and ride from the airport. Sorry you couldn’t make it south brother.

Also, small word to the wise: Don’t try to write a story while driving the ultra rippled roads from WI to IL. I hope the ice is flatter. -JC