Iceboating, the legends and the challenge

Ice yachts use a sail and travel across the surface of the ice on three blades called runners. Land yachts use wheels. The basic skeeter design places a steering runner at the bow of the boat and a pair of runners attached to a cross-beam plank near the stern. Anyone who has watched an ice-boat skim across the ice realizes that the boat is travelling faster than the wind. Iceboats, typically, will compound the speed of the wind, as much as five times. Smaller boats have often reached speeds of 60-75 mph in winds between 10 and 15 mph. The challenge in building a boat that will withstand the force of heavier winds has been monumental.

The goal of Miss Wisconsin is to exceed an average speed of 143 mph while traversing a windward and return course. Back in 1938 John D. Buckstaff had sailed his class A, stern-steerer Debutante to a recorded 143 mph. In the 1950's, during a regatta on Winnebago, Chuck Nevitt in an A class stern-steerer was unofficially clocked doing 150 mph by a couple of spectators with stopwatches.

In order to work, to establish a record for a windward and return course, the boat must be designed to sail in a Fresh Gale (Beaufort Wind Scale), i.e. winds between 39 and 46 mph. A Fresh Gale, by definition, will break limbs off of trees and is difficult to stand up against. Therefore the Boat and its rigging must be built strong enough to withstand the force of the wind and perform the task it was designed to do without destroying itself.

Miss Wisconsin has been designed with only one purpose in mind, to achieve speeds upwards of 200 mph. The boat is purely a wind-powered vehicle. There is no stored energy in this machine. What makes her go is a combination of airfoils. The mast is, in effect, an airfoil creating positive and negative pressures. This difference in pressure creates the wind that drives the boat forward. Daryl Lenz, A&P, airplane builder and director of aircraft maintenance for EAA, refers to the boat as, "that low-flying aircraft we are building".

Back in the late 1980's a group of ice-boaters from the Lake Winnebago area of Wisconsin were speculating on what it would take to break an ice-boating speed record set by Buckstaff in 1939. Daniel Kampo envisioned an unlimited class skeeter with a winged mast. It was to be based on the footprint of a Renegade design iceboat, but twice the size. Dan surrounded himself with a team of experts. Sailors like David Obermeier, Geof Catlin, Chuck Nevitt, Reinhardt and Mike Sabee, Olaf Harken and iceboating pioneer Bill Mattison from Mendota shaped the direction the project would take. Charlie Miller Pewaukee sailmaker helped to define the perfect engine. Darrel Lenz and Ted Mosman, of EAA, provided the aircraft structural expertise and Dan Schmidt, master welder, put the plan together. Pegusus was born.