Richard Jenkins of the United Kingdom set the world land sailing speed record in March 2009 when he drove his vehicle, the Greenbird, at 202 kilometres per hour (approximately 126 miles per hour) on a dry lake bed near the California-Nevada border. Jenkins now intends to set a new speed record on ice! On the other hand, ice sailing is not a new sport in the world of extreme competitive sports; it’s been there since the 17th century.
Dutch sailors are thought to have been the first to try ice sailing but to transport goods across frozen lakes, rivers, and bays rather than break speed records. They added blades or runners to the hulls of their traditional watercraft. Even during the long winter months, their shipping enterprises remained operational and profitable due to this. When the “soft water” reappeared in the spring, they removed the runners and continued sailing as usual.
It wasn’t long before ice sailing piqued the imagination of adventurers and athletes alike. By the nineteenth century, thrill-seekers throughout Europe were building vessels specifically for “hard-water sailing,” as the sport was known. People were drawn to the sport because of its speed, and it was not uncommon to see ice boats overtake the quickest trains of the day. American sailors on the other side of the Atlantic yearned for a piece of the action. In the mid-nineteenth century, large ice yachts developed on the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. Iceboat clubs have also sprung up. The North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club, situated in New Jersey, was founded in 1880 and is still active today.
Ice sailing was at its pinnacle in the 1930s and 1940s. Then, as time went on, interest in the sport began to fade. The rise of the vehicle, which offered speed to a wider audience, is said to have aided the fall. The main issue, however, was shifting weather patterns. Rivers and lakes, particularly in the Northeast, failed to freeze deeply enough to allow safe ice sailing as winters become warmer and shorter.
Despite global warming, ice sailing is regaining popularity among a new generation of sailors, including those who can only devote one or two weekends a year to the sport. In this essay, we’ll look at why that is. Let’s start with the ice boat itself, which resembles a hybrid between a sleigh and a soft-water vehicle.