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The State of DN Racing

by Jane Pegel - US805 - April 1986

I'm pleased to make public the fact that I'm completing my 31st season of DN racing. My first DN was #305. This number still remains in the family and is registered to my husband Bob. I race under DN 805 and my daughter, Susie, races under DN 905. I have a record of all official class publications dating back to 1956, and I'm the only person whose name appears in the race results of that vintage who is still racing DNs. With any luck I'll be racing hard for a good many more years, in fact Bob is going to build me a new hull.

The point is I've seen a lot of sailors and boats come and go. The Class has weathered good seasons and bad and experienced some growing pains. The 1986 North Americans was not the largest ever held, but I think the level of racing was perhaps the best we've had. Seldom have we seen the Champion come away without winning a race. What does this mean? I think it indicates that a lot of sailors have learned how to set up their rigs, align and sharpen their runners, and sharpen their sailing skills to a level required by the world's most competitive iceboat racing class.

Through the ingenuity of its sailors, most of whom build their own boats, the DN has evolved into a boat that is faster, lighter, stronger, easier to sail, and more fun to sail than it was when I started in the Class. Original DNs hiked a lot, were heavy to carry, and broke down. These factors made them hard to sail. In fact, I bet that I'd be hard pressed to physically handle one of those boats and race it hard all day. I'm thankful the rules for the Class have enabled it to become such a fine boat to sail and that these rules have encouraged innovative sailors to join the class, for they're fun to race against.

Ultimately, I guess it's the people in the DN Class that have made it so much fun. Sure, we sometimes have disagreements concerning the proper approach to governing the Class, but we are unanimous that DN racing is a "high".


As with sailboat racing, one of the things that makes iceboat racing so satisfying is the "honor Code" that is required on the race course in order to make the game a fair one. The officials do not blow a whistle, stop the action, deal out a penalty, and award a bonus tack to the fouled boat. The sailors police themselves, give way to the right-of-way boat, and when an honest error in Judgement is made, Justice is served through the protest procedure.

To the credit of the racers at the North Americans, there were no serious collisions. But there were a number of fouls. A few of these were carefully resolved by the protest committee, and one sailor voluntarily acknowledged his error and withdrew from a race. In these few instances the game was fairly played. Unfortunately, these instances were outnumbered by foul situations that were not fairly resolved. In conversations following the racing, many of the sailors expressed the opinion that not everyone is fully aware of his responsibility in various close quarter racing situations. I have been asked to explain the proper application of the rules and the appropriate boat handling for a couple of the most common situations:


"When two yachts are sailing on-the-wind, the yacht on the port tack shall keep clear" of the yacht on the STARBOARD TACK. "When two yachts are sailing OFF-THE-WIND, the yacht on the PORT TACK shall keep clear of the yacht on the STARBOARD TACK." When boats to which the above rule applies are converging, it is the responsibility of the boat on the port tack to give way to the boat on the starboard tack. However, BOTH BOATS are obligated to prevent a collision, so if the starboard tack boat believes that the port tack boat is not going to give way, then the starboard tack boat is entitled, indeed is obligated, to take evasive action.

In a port-starboard situation, the proper steps to comply with the rules are as follows.

  1. The port tack boat should let the starboard tack boat know she sees her. The helmsman of the port tack boat should markedly turn his head toward the starboard tack boat, signal with his hand or perhaps by nodding his head, so the starboard tack boat is assured the port tacker sees her.
  2. The port tack boat should alter her course (tack, jibe, bear away, or freshen, as is appropriate) A COMFORTABLE DISTANCE FROM THE STARBOARD TACK BOAT.
  3. If the port tack boat does not take evasive action, then the starboard tack boat should tack, jibe, bear away, or freshen, as is appropriate. Because evasive action taken by the starboard tack boat is usually at the last possible moment, she should maneuver in a direction that will reduce the closing speeds of the two boats so if a collision does occur at least damage will be minimal. For example: Port and starboard boats sailing on-the-wind are converging. Only these two boats are in the area. The port tack boat takes no evasive action. The starboard tack skipper estimates he'll hit the port tack boat at the mast. The starboard tack boat should head up, ease sail, and even may tack. This action will slow the starboard boat and put her motion more parallel with the port tacker. If the starboard boat bears away to go behind the port tacker, the chances of a harder, and perhaps head-on collision are more likely.

NOTE, this evasive action of the starboard tack boat is not a Violation of the rule: "a right-of-way yacht shall not alter her course so as to mislead or prevent a non-right-of-way yacht from keeping clear." In the above example, the non-right-of-way yacht had not taken any "evasive action" and Fair Sailing requiring common sense, safety and good sportsmanship required the starboard tack boat to alter course. If the port tack boat had begun to lay off to go behind the starboard tack boat, and then the starboard tack boat had altered course so the port tack boat could not avoid her, the burden would be on the starboard tack boat. THIS SELDOM OCCURS.


The primary difference between sailboat rules and iceboat rules is in those that apply when sailing off-the-wind and when rounding the leeward mark. The iceboat rules are designed to make it as safe as possible to get around the leeward mark without running into another boat.

The highest speeds are attained when sailing off-the-wind. The most difficult maneuver in racing is making a good turn at the leeward mark. The convergence of multiple boats complicates the maneuver. The rules are designed so the same boat has right-of-way while rounding the mark that had the right-of-way all the way down the leg. Think about it this way:

  1. Marks are rounded to port.
  2. Boats are on the port tack as they round the mark.
  3. As the boats make their approach to the mark and are close enough to each other so that there might be a collision, the rules provide the boat that is inside of the other has right-of-way, even 100 yards from the mark. For example:

    a)  If two boats are side-by-side and on port tack sailing off-the-wind, the windward boat has right-of-way. Because the windward boat already has right-of-way, there is no transfer of responsibilities as the two boats get closer to the mark, the windward boat is inside, and must be given room to round the mark.

    b)  If two boats are approaching the leeward mark on opposite tacks, the starboard tack boat has right-of-way. The port tack boat must bear off to leeward to honor the starboard boat. In bearing off, the port tacker automatically gives the starboard boat room to jibe inside and to windward of the port tacker, which then puts them in the same relative position as the two boats in example 3a. Of course, the starboard tacker has the option of actually forcing the port tacker to jibe onto starboard tack too.

The danger of a collision, and a foul, exists when boats are side-by-side (as in 3-A) or aiming at each other (as in 3-B). A collision may also exist when a faster moving boat approaches from the rear. Whether approaching a mark, or out in the middle of the course, a boat coming up from behind cannot run into the boat ahead. If the boat ahead is moving at the same speed, the chasing boat can't catch her to hit her, so there isn't a problem. In the final approach to the mark, the faster moving boat approaching from the rear must not pull alongside on the inside if the boat that was ahead has started her rounding maneuver.

EVERYONE MUST CONSIDER THE POINT WHERE THE ROUNDING MANEUVER BEGINS IS INFLUENCED BY THE WIND AND ICE AND ALL OTHER BOATS IN THE AREA. Because the speeds of the boater involved may be very much different (one guy might be pushing, another guy in a screaming hike), common sense and safety ARE SUPREME. There is not a specified number of boat lengths, as in sailboat racing, to tell us where the rounding maneuver begins.