North Sails Still Make Iceboating Sails
Detroit and New Jersey lofts keep North at the top of iceboating fleets in North America and abroad.
When asked how many International Detroit News (DN) sails their Detroit loft sells per year, Mike Boston answered, "about 50 or 60 sails.” Although not a huge revenue generator for the loft, Boston says, “It’s for the love of the sport."
Iceboating has a large, devout following of both competitors and supporters, but there is no arguing that it takes up a small niche of the larger sailing market
Iceboat sails are built heavy and flat, like a foil. The flatness of an airfoil is the most important characteristic of a fast iceboat sail and the ability to achieve that shape and maintain it at high speeds has gotten better over time. While DN class rules specify a 6.5oz resin coated Dacron, other classes like the Skeeter use various Kevlar and Carbon materials to increase their speed by limiting stretch. Henry Bossett observed that 3Di could easily be the next step forward, "It is the perfect material to combine the wing mast and the sail into a single foil for the lowest drag and least shape change in high winds."
Iceboats can sail as close as seven degrees off the apparent wind and the fastest boats can sail up to 10 times the wind speed in good conditions. Racecourses are purposely set as windward-leewards to result in the slowest directions of travel. Recorded racing speeds for an International DN in 9 knots of wind are around 26 knots upwind and 35 knots downwind. Skeeters are the fastest class, reaching 90 knots easily with a rumored speed record of 137 knots over the black ice on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.