Because Michigan winters are sufficiently cold to allow for a thorough freezing of inland lakes, ice boating is popular in the state during the winter months. In fact, one of the more popular iceboat classes is the DN class (pictured left), designed and named in response to a contest sponsored by the Detroit News in 1937. This boat is essentially a small ice rocket (12 feet long, only 21 inches wide) with a maximum speed of 60 m.p.h. Michigan is home to the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, which boasts about 2000 members.
There are some peculiarities to ice boating (ice yachting) which are not seen with “soft water” sailing. First, most iceboats carry a single individual (so the need for crew is removed), however two or more person boats do exist. Second, because of the speeds involved (iceboats in general can travel 5-10x wind speed), ice sailors wear protective gear, including helmets. Third, iceboats do not require standard ramps for launching. And lastly, an intimate knowledge of ice conditions and lake topography is essential for a safer experience (although iceboating cannot be made 100% "safe").
The iceboating season can’t start until snow-free hard ice is established on the lakes, usually after Christmas. Ice-sailing events in general are very condition dependent and may arise or be canceled with short notice for safety reasons. Those interested in iceboating should contact the organizations below for expert advice on sailing conditions, tactics and safety.
Bottom line with a lot of hand-waiving and uncertainty - Due to El Nino and a tigher polar vortex, this winter is predicted to be above average for temperature and below average for precipitation. This could mean later ice, a shorter season, but less snow interference.
Skeeter Class Nite Class Renegade Class J14 Class
Some popular Ice Yacht clubs & launch locations
Elk Lake Iceboating Club - Elk Lake (Antrim County)
Grand Traverse Ice Yacht Club - Grand Traverse Bay (Grand Travese County)
Other Michigan-based Ice Yachting Resources
Supplies & Materials
- Sarns Hardware, Inc - Ferndale, MI - 248-763-8869
- Composite Concepts, Inc. - Clinton Township, MI - 586.790.5557
Have more useful information for this page? - Please contact and tell us
Photos on this page courtesy of Mike Acebo (J14 Iceboat), International Nite Class Association (Nite Iceboat).