Ice yachting is the sport of sailing and racing iceboats, also called ice yachts.
Ice Yachting was born in Europe, but by 1790 the sport was in vogue on the Hudson River, its headquarters being in Poughkeepsie, New York. The boat was a square box on three runners, the two forward runners being nailed to the box and the third acting as a rudder operated by a tiller. This type of boat was first built in 1790 by Oliver Booth of Poughkeepsie. At this time, during the early days of the sport, it was an activity for the masses and not only for the wealthy.
In 1879, H. Relyea built the Robert Scott, which had a single backbone and guy wires, and it became the model for all Hudson River ice yachts. Masts were now stepped farther forward, jibs were shortened, booms were cut down, and the center of sail-balance was brought more inboard and higher up, causing the centers of effort and resistance to come more in harmony. The shallow steering-box became elliptical.
In 1911 modern ice yachts were made of a single-piece backbone the entire length of the boat, and a runner-plank upon which it rests at right angles, the two forming a kite-shaped frame. The best woods for these pieces are basswood, butternut, and pine. They are cut from the log in such a way that the heart of the timber expands, giving the planks a permanent curve, which, in the finished boat, is turned upward. The two forward runners, usually made of soft cast iron and about 2.7 ft (1 m). long and 24 inches (61 cm) high, are set into oak frames a little over 5 feet long and 5 inches high. The runners have a cutting edge of 90%, though a V-shaped edge is often preferred for racing. The rudder is a runner about 3.7 ft (1 m). long, worked by a tiller, sometimes made very long, 7(1/2) feet not being uncommon. This enables the helmsman to lie in the box at full length and steer with his feet, leaving his hands free to tend the sheet. Masts and spars are generally made hollow for racing-yachts and the rigging is pliable steel wire. The sails are of 10-ounce duck for a boat carrying 400 sq ft (40 m2) of canvas. They have very high peaks, short hoists and long booms. The mainsail and jib rig is general, but a double-masted lateen rig has been found advantageous. The foremost ice-yacht builder of America was G. E. Buckhout of Poughkeepsie.
On the bays near New York, a peculiar kind of iceboat has developed, called scooter, which may be described as a toboggan with a sail. A typical scooter is about 15 ft (5 m) long with an extreme beam of 5 ft (2 m), perfectly oval in form and flat. It has mainsail and jib carried on a mast 9 or 10 feet long and set well aft, and is provided with two long parallel metal runners. There is no rudder, the scooter being steered entirely by trimming the sails, particularly the jib. As the craft is flat and buoyant, it sails well in water, and can thus be used on very thin ice without danger. A speed of 50 km/h (31 mph) has been attained by a scooter.
In the early 20th century ice yachts were divided into four classes, carrying respectively 600 sq ft (60 m2) of canvas or more, between 450 and 600, between 300 and 450, and less than 300 sq ft (30 m2). In the 1930s the Detroit News held a competition to design an inexpensive iceboat for ordinary (not wealthy) citizens. A new type of boat, known at the DN, resulted. The prevalent yachts used today are known as "stern-steerers" because of the skate in the back which is used to steer them. They have a long central beam, often hollow, clamped to large runner planks close to the mast that carry the forward skates. The sailors ride in an oval pod at the stern, which often has elegant varnished rails and turned stiles. One sailor steers and the other works the sheets, or control lines for the sails.