NOTICE: This page is offered as a series of helpful hints.  Drawings are crude, and simplified to illustrate important points.

All information is supplied with the understanding that the reader possesses some sailing experience, and is familiar with the rules of Ice Boating.

It is important that you go to these two places first and read and absorb all you can. (Shout out to our good friends at Four lakes Ice Yacht Club for providing these pages!)

#1) This chart is essential to know inside out and backward:

#2)  Read the basics of ICE SAFETY -

And finally, for extra credit you should print this out and keep a copy in your "library". Very important reading, and it should be reviewed from time to time.




By scrolling down to view the rest of this page, you understand that rules and dimensions are not necessarily accurate.  The point is to address certain issues that beginning and novice sailors have encountered. 





Don't Be THAT Guy!

A poorly drawn tutorial series for novice and beginners in ice boat racing.


Chapter 1:  The Finish

Why are we starting at the ending?  Because this is one of those places you are most likely to make a fool of yourself!

Study the below labels.  (This is NOT to Scale - what do you expect from a very bad cartoon?)

Notice in the above Illustration that the starting line has been detached from the center point.  It is cleared to about the length of the finish line to allow boats to pass through after finishing.  Cones line the "Safety Zone" through the pits which allow a safe run out after the finish.

Now take a look at the below illustration.  Don't be this guy!

Failure to avoid the finish line can result in dull runners, scoring penalties, monetary damages for cut line, endangers other people, and worst of all may result in a severely damaged ego!



In the next illustration we see the best paths to take after your finish.  You may choose any of the routes.  Awareness of other boats, people, and equipment is important when you select the best way to go.

I know... its so simple right?  But things don't always look that cut and dried when you are tired, and heading down the home stretch!  Take a good look at the Fleet Flag, the Starting Line Spools on the ends, and the cone that marks the opening in the starting line...  when all else fails - just round the mark again (if there are no competitors there to interfere with), then head around the outside of the whole pit area.


Chapter 2: Starting

Well naturally, since that we began at the end why not the beginning next?

All boats must be similarly headed at the start.  A boat cannot be headed in a direction that is inconsistent with those around him.  Boats also may not be headed directly upwind.

Your starting position is determine on the first race by a random drawing.  Then in subsequent races, your starting position is the same as your finish in the previous race.  The first place finisher always starts on the inside right position (on port tack), and the second place always starts on the inside left position (on Starboard tack).  If you look at the illustration you can see how the positions line up.  Again this is not to scale... so the starting positions will go up to 50 (and in some cases higher). 

Hint:  Most iceboaters (especially those with soft-water experience) tend to pinch off the line.  This means that they are headed at too high of an angle after they get into the boat to accelerate.  Watch how the fleet leaders tend to steer off sometimes almost perpendicular to the course in order to get their boat to reach its max speed as soon as possible.  Once the boat is fully accelerated, you can return it to a "reasonable" heading.  Of course remember...  the leeward boat has the right of way.  So if the guy below you is headed high (and slow) you have no rights to take him down to a heading that will allow you both to speed up.  Don't be that guy...  head off and go fast!

I have seen great sailors with poor starts (due to say, A recent knee replacement surgery) who still came out in the top half of the fleet because they LAY OFF and accelerate - even when it appears to be a costly and impossible thing to do.  This same guy found his way to the top 10 by the third lap.  Being a track star is NOT a requirement for a great start.  Sure it helps, but its more important to have smooth starts and a great acceleration once in the boat.













  Chapter 3: OOTA!

Maybe this rule should be first... but we already established that we are going in whatever direction this thing carries us.  Kind of like a monkey riding a cat!

The primary rule of all sailing sports is:  AVOID COLLISION!   And while both soft water and hard water sailing rules state this clearly, for some reason on soft water there is a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality when it comes to collisions between boats.  Not on the ICE!

I first learned on Radio Control Victoria sailboats that being in the right in a collision, will still put you in second-to-last most times to the guy that fouled you.

The pathetic image comes to mind of two toy boats, rigging entangled while the skippers ashore in their silly hats drop their RC transmitters to flail their arms in the air while exclaiming what rule must certainly have been violated...   You see they both loose! 

This is even more so in Ice Boating.  Health, Safety, and equipment is all at risk.   AVOID THE COLLISION, ASK QUESTIONS LATER!!  And it is important to follow up with the offending (or offended) sailor after the race.  Sometimes you will be surprised at what their version of the story might be.  Maybe they saw you coming and it wasn't that big of a deal.  Or worse yet.. they didn't see you at all??

Okay back to OOTA! 

"Oh Oh Turn Away" is a pretty simple rule!  Of course you should always follow all the right of way rules at all times...  and you should hold your course as much as possible when you have the rights (this makes it easier for the burdened sailor to avoid you!).  But eventually, you may be out of your "comfort zone"  with distances, speeds, or its just clear that the other guy doesn't see you.  "Oh Oh Turn Away!"  by turning AWAY from the other boat, you are creating the safest outcome.  Even if there is a collision, your action has created a softer impact.  Now if the other sailor sees you and reacts, if he TURNS AWAY also, his actions may lead to no collision or minimal damage.  If only one of the sailors turns TOWARD, it might make avoiding the collision impossible.

This rule almost seems too obvious.  I mean the most basic thing you can do is turn away from danger, no matter if you are driving an iceboat or a zamboni.

But sailing around the course there are times that we turn SLIGHTLY TOWARD the competitor in order to clear them and maintain good speed.  This is okay when done carefully while under control and from a distance where you can carefully monitor the process.  If unsure, out of control or if your actions are going to make the other sailor second guess your ability to control your boat - this is NOT advised.


As the Above Illustrates....   you never know what's going on in that other boat.  No collision - so I am sure all will be forgiven between the sailors.  Port tack dude still has the cat to contend with when he gets home!

  And above BOTH sailors used the OOTA rule and avoided a collision by a much larger margin.  These two are more likely to be on friendly terms by the end of the day.  Port Tack guy has all but forgotten his pissed-off cat at home.


WAVE to the other sailor!  If the other sailor fails to wave you back, this means they probably aren't paying attention to you and you need to consider using OOTA!

Soft water guys - don't confuse the "wave" with the "wave across" which means "go ahead and cross me, I will give way even though I don't have to..."

Ice Boat Racing cannot afford to rely on vocal communication or complex hand signals.  It can be noisy, tough to hear, and just how many hand signals can you make with big mittens on?  (Yes I know of one in particular that thankfully doesn't project well through a Mitt).   Signals are simply to acknowledge that you see each other.  Think of it as "Saying Hi!   Yep, I see you!"


Chapter 4: Leeward Mark

Okay lets go back to the spectator area.  If you watch the different fleets as they round the marks...  or compare the leaders to those bringing up the rear, one thing you will notice is how the fastest guys seem to make the least amount of noise coming around the leeward mark.  There are far too many reasons for this than can be explained here, but lets start with the basic and obvious.   Going into a leeward mark rounding from far to the right, allows for a smooth transition.  The most hazardous part of turning a boat is the moment the boat is on a beam reach and you are trying to transition to a beat.  A wider rounding approach sets that hazardous point further from the mark, making it easier to recover if you loose control.  It also makes it easier to find a safe spot if there is a lot of competition.  DO NOT think that getting that super close mark rounding on the inside is gonna somehow make you faster or beat the next guy.  The one who wins the mark rounding is the one who is smoothest, conserves the most speed, and gets his boat back into full speed upwind gear the soonest.

If you look at one of the professionally produced videos from the DN Worlds a few years ago...  I am THAT GUY  I used to shave the leeward mark roundings close.  I slid slightly and my windward runner clipped the safety cone.  I still to this day am not sure why they TIE THE CONE TO THE MARK!  but it ensures that the mark will come down as the cone is pulled away from its spot.  This just makes your embarrassing predicament that much more ridiculous.  For me that moment is not only burned into my memory but it can be found on Youtube somewhere.

Leave yourself some "wiggle room"  be aware of competitors around you.  If you can see them on your inside in your peripheral vision, there is a chance they are thinking of going in there, even if they are overtaking (in which case they are burdened), you still may come out ahead letting them get inside you.  If they are going that much faster they wont affect you that much any way.   

As soon as you have rounded the mark, Be ready to steer up!  As soon as the boats on the outside of you are sailing upwind and you have completed rounding the mark, they can now force you to up.  Just like at the start, it may pay off in slower conditions to lay off for a bit.  But the guy below you will dictate how far off you can go.

Look above - no this isn't accurate or to scale... but see the difference.  Notice the point where the boat is turning through beam reach is further left and further from the mark.  Its also potentially further from traffic.  The smooth arc will allow for better speed conservation and a quiet transition.

Exception - if the conditions are slow or suddenly the wind is down, sometimes this presents an opportunity to "cut inside" and get ahead.  This doesn't happen often, but when someone does it to you, your response will be "Hey!  What just happened??"


Above - avoid coming in on Starboard tack right at the leeward mark.  So yes, you have Starboard rights, BUT...  First of all think of yourself how are you going to execute an efficient turn with control?  Unless its light air and you have short runners on, probably not gonna happen.

Second, but more importantly, what situation are you creating with oncoming traffic?   You are attempting to cut in with traffic that has to give way to you.  But realize that they are focused on the mark rounding and the boats next to them, and wont see you coming until the last seconds!  Also they will be NEAR BEAM REACH when you are forcing them to give way.  This creates a very dangerous situation where multiple boats can loose control and bring the action precariously close the the Starting line and spectators.

Coming in to the leeward mark on starboard tack can be done safely and efficiently.

Above, you will see our starboard tack approach...  if there is a race committee or scorers present (notice they don't have a flag up which means its NOT time to finish the race yet!)  You can use them as a reference.  DO NOT go dangerously close to them!  They are our precious volunteers!  But they make a great reference as to where to head toward.  If there are boats ahead of you coming on Port Tack,  (like above) you can use their tracks as a guide for how you will make your turn. 

Above:  Heavier air and/or fast conditions.   Notice the sailors tracks here.  Before initiating the turn, he actually heads dead-downwind (or almost dead downwind).  Done properly, this can smoothly decelerate the boat to speeds reasonable for rounding, while also keeping the turn nice and wide of the mark.

Above:  The "S" Turn. (or "Ronnie-Jibe") sometimes the wind lightens up, or you just mis-judge your line and you have found yourself understood (too far to the left) and not able to make a good approach to the mark.   This series of 2 jibes takes a lot of feel and timing, but if executed properly can keep you where you want to be.

The "Ronnie-Jibe" is a variation where during the short jibe onto starboard, you actually have your head on the wrong side of the boom.  This allows you to minimize your movement in the boat that can result in runners breaking free, and lets you keep a closer eye on the race committee.  This can also be used as a finishing technique.  Remember that these "S-turn" maneuvers are a little more advanced and require a keen eye on traffic, and a bit of practice.  The Illustration above may be exaggerated slightly as the short jibe is often very close to dead down wind.  This is something you want to study carefully if you are watching a Gold Fleet Race.


Perhaps I went in a little too deep here??  Well showing you the standard moves to get your boat into a good and safe rounding position are key.

Get out on the ice, set up a few cones, or whatever for marks and PRACTICE!!

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