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The DN Ice Boat

The hull is essentially a long wooden box and supports the sailor, holds the steering and mainsheet hardware, and carries the load from the mast back to the plank and forward to the steering runner.

The runner plank is a three-layer lamination of wood. The runners and sidestays attach to the ends of the plank with the hull attaching in the middle. The width of the plank keeps the boat from instantly tipping over, but also serves as a shock absorber. When a puff hits the rig, the mast pushes down on the hull, which in turn pushes down on the plank. The plank flexes and the extra energy is absorbed. As the puff passes, the plank springs back.

The mast is a major contributor to the high performance characteristics of today’s DN. Made of fiberglass or a combination of fiberglass and carbon fiber, it has amazing flexibility which changes the shape of the sail as it bends.

The carbon fiber mast is the state of the art, but a fiberglass mast is a good choice for entry level sailors because of the price point and durability. One can always upgrade at a carbon mast at a later point.

The day of the aluminum mast has past. Aluminum does not bend like composite masts, and therefore its performance is noticeably off the pace. But aluminum has its place – cruising. It’s cheap and tough.

Runners have evolved in the last two decades. They’re made in a wide variety of materials, lengths and sizes, and the choices can be daunting. But here’s the good news: ninety percent of the boats race with one style of runners -- a 3/16” thick, 36” long, stainless steel insert runner. The steering runner is often shorter at 30”. Stainless steel is nice because it stays sharper for a longer time. If you were to own one set of runners, this is it.

If the cost of these runners is of concern, and it can be, there is another option called a plate runner. Its shorter length creates less drag while turning, and its smaller body creates less drag when sailing in snow. Because this runner was “the runner of choice” not too long ago, they are fairly available in a ¼” thickness. In many conditions, they can be just as fast as the 36” insert.

Periodically runners need to be sharpened. And sharpening can be complicated. The basic profile is a 90°V with a slight rocker from front-to-back. (link). Some guys sharpen their own runners, but it’s so much easier to find someone with the right equipment and pay them to do it.

Chocks are attached to the end of the plank and hold the runners with a single bolt.

The sail is a fairly easy decision to make for a newbie. A softwater sailor is most likely familiar with choosing between a light-air sail and a heavy-air sail. Not so in iceboating. Sail choice is determined by the surface of the ice, not the wind velocity. When the ice is smooth, clear of snow and very hard, the friction on the runners is minimal. In this condition, a speed sail is used. The camber is incredibly flat to minimize drag at high speeds. But sometimes the ice is described as “sticky.” This happens in warm temperatures or when snow has fallen days in advance and has frozen onto the ice like Styrofoam. In this condition, a power sail is used because of its fuller shape. More shape = more power.

Surprisingly, the difference in the draft of these two sails is minuscule. While having two sails is nice, a new comer will do fine with just one or the other since the rig can be adjusted to compensate. (We’ll show you how later.)

Battens are made of wood or fiberglass. Most sailors have just one set and don’t worry about it.

The boom is made of extruded aluminum or wood. Aluminum has the advantage of durability. Both work just fine for an entry level program, although nearly all competitors are using aluminum.

The tiller is usually made of wood and comes in two general styles. A fixed tiller has a set length and attaches directly to the steering shaft. An adjustable tiller slides in and out around a 1” square aluminum tube. Both are acceptable.

There are six pulleys on the boat. A common set up is a xx” (such as a Harken XX) on top of the tiller shaft and a XX” at the front of the boom. The remaining four are attached at the rear of the boom and the back deck. Good pulleys are worth the money as it makes trimming easier.

The mainsheet is XX’ long. Select any cordage designed for smallboat mainsheets, such as XXXXXX. The thicker the better but it MUST run freely through all the blocks.

Not to confuse the point, but one can make a braided sheet with a thick, textured end for your hands and a 3/16th cord to run through the pulleys. Here’s a link __________.

A bobstay attaches underneath the boat from the front tang to just in front of the runner plank. This is needed to counter the downward forces from the mast. (On older boats, the bobstay runs all the way to the rear.)

As for clothing, here’s a list – helmet, facemask or balaclava, goggles, mittens (not gloves), windproof jacket and pants, and boots. NO SCARF as it jams in the pulleys.

A ski jacket works just fine. The helmet is needed because even on the best of days, the boom will bang your head a few times. Motorcycle or snowmobile helmets are not so good. Too heavy. Downhill ski helmets work great. Goggles work better than glasses especially at high speeds. Leather mittens like choppers are far warmer than gloves. Rub the leather in SnoSeal to keep the wind from blowing through.

For your feet, wear normal winter boots with some sort of traction attachment like STABILicers or Yaktrax. Racers prefer track spikes with the heal spikes removed. They buy them up to 2 sizes larger than normal to allow room for extra socks.

Last thought about clothing – sometimes during a day of iceboating you stand around a lot and get cold. And sometimes you physically work so hard you get hot. The solution? A great zipper.