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The DN Iceboat

by Don Daller - DN 46

Iceboating is without question the fastest way to sail and iceboat racing is a very exciting way to race. If you live where the lakes or ocean near you freezes, you can sail all year round. For many of us winter becomes the season we look forward to most.

There are a few common misconceptions about the sport. Many people think sailable ice only occurs once in a while. When the lake you see every day still has ducks on it or is under a foot or snow, you can often find another pond, lake or bay in your area that has sailable ice. In many areas you can sail on half to three quarters of the winter weekends. Portability of the boat is important.

People often wonder if it is possible to be warm on a windy, 20 degree day. We sail in temperatures down to about zero degrees Fahrenheit. Being warm at these temperatures in apparent winds as high as 60 mph is just a matter of dressing for it.

The sport is safe if you know what you are doing and are careful. There are lots of ways to get hurt in any craft that is capable of 60+ mph. When people get in trouble, it is usually because they don't follow the safety rules.

Ice comes in many forms, some if which are very safe and some very dangerous. Iceboating safely requires understanding of ice conditions, sailing skill and good judgment. Sailing with experienced sailors is usually the best way to learn.

There are a few commercially produced boats and several types you can build yourself. For most people, the best answer is to build or buy a DN. It is by far the most popular and widely raced boat world wide.

Some people think they need a two man boat. If you are primarily interested in taking friends for rides, a two man boat may be a good choice. If you are more interested in sailing, build a side car for your DN for those times you want to give someone a ride.

If you are thinking of sharing a two man boat, consider building two DNs instead. It will cost about the same. In anything other than heavy wind, a two man boat is faster with only one person in it and will tend to get sailed solo.

The DN was designed in 1936 to be easy to build, light enough to be easily transported, iceworthy and inexpensive. The modern DN still meets these tenants although it has evolved considerably over the last 50 years. The cost to build one has evolved to, from about $25 in 1937 to about $1800 now. It takes most home builders a month of part time work to build a DN. (See supplier list)

The DN gets its name from the Detroit News newspaper. In 1937 the newspaper donated their wood shop to build the first fleet of 15 DNs. Some of them are still sailing today.

The DN is light (portable) and quick to set up. It is a high performance boat but isn't so fast that it needs a huge piece of ice. You do not need to be a 20 year old Olympic athlete to be competitive. Many of the fastest sailors are in their 50's and 60's. The DN is a reasonably strict one design boat so this years winner will not be next years barge.

Most sailors find racing offers the most challenging and exciting aspect of the sport. The International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association (IDNIYRA) was formed in 1953 to promote DN racing. The IDNIYRA sponsors the DN North American and World Championship regattas. The class has approximately 1000 members in North American and another 1000 members in Europe. Annual dues are US$25.00.

The Association publishes several newsletters and a yearbook each year. The IDNIYRA Yearbook contains the Official Specifications, membership lists and a local club listing among other things. The current newsletter and yearbook will be sent with membership.

If there is a club in your area, contact them. They can offer ice condition information, racing programs and building advice. If you do not have a club near by, call iceboaters that are in your area. You can find their phone numbers in the yearbook.

IDNIYRA offers a great iceboating publication. "Think Ice Millenium Edition" is a 100 page book on all aspects of DN sailing and iceboating in general.

Sail numbers are issued through IDNIYRA for US$10.00. Sail numbers are not required unless you plan to race. Many people get their own sail number when they buy their first new sail.

DN building plans are available through the IDNIYRA treasurer's office in either metric or US measurements. The cost is US$15.00.


Editor: updated August 1, 2002 to reflect current prices for IDNIYRA services