While the CIBC was opening the 2022 season right on schedule on Plymouth Pond with the Linc Davis Regatta,( the rest of the DN world was in Ashby, Minnesota on Lake Christina for the Western Challenge. Billed as the best ice in Minnesota the first weekend in December and put on by that state’s iceboaters, it’s a fun, usually unscored and unranked regatta. This year there were nearly seventy boats from as far away as Florida, Canada and New England. There were seven Yankees: T Theiler, Karen Binder, John Stanton, Eric Anderson, Chris Gordon, Chad Adkins and yours truly.
There was a wet snow Thursday night, coating the lake with a thin layer of slush and adding to the damage caused by high temps the previous day. The four inches of black ice had weekend considerably. Thankfully there was no wind Friday and the three involuntary human immersions and one boat occured close to shore. Aside from that, the day was lovely and everyone wandered around chatting, catching up and checking out the other boats. In spite of the lousy ice conditions a spirit of hope and joy filled the air.
Overnight temps froze the crappy ice and after a thorough check racing was on. Wind was 4-8, ideal for those folks who enjoy the technical challenge of light air sailing. Gold and silver fleet two lap races were banged out in quick succession with long starting lines seeming to vanish over the horizon.
Racing continued until dusk, when the wind died and many happy sailors could be seen slowly pushing back to the pits, obviously in no hurry to leave the ice, which stayed hard all day. The lesson here is that even the most marginal penciled ice can recover enough to sail on, with caution.
Saturday night brought more snow, big wind, and not much cold. The snow seemed to inspire the ice to revert to pencils, and one hearty sailor quickly dropped a runner and his leg right through the junk. So everyone turned to and helped get all the boats off the ice and packed up. After many goodbyes, the desolation of northern Minnesota returned to the lake.
A big shout out to the the locals, who were friendly and interested and very welcoming. When the boat went through the slush ice, one of the on-lookers dashed off to get a boat to help with the recovery. Wherever we went for breakafast or dinner, folks would come over and ask how the sailing was. And everyone asked abut that boat in the ice, as it was right next to the road. It serves as a good reminder in these times that people are generally good and kind. Sadly, that’s not what makes the news. But a big iceboat regatta with folks from all over is one of the places you can see humanity at it’s best!