6 DNs were out on Valois Bay today, launching off from the Venture Sailing Base. The wind went from nothing to wispy but the ice was magnificent. So smooth and clear, that even the lightly moving air was enough to move the boats along at about 8 to 15 miles per hour from time to time.
I met André Baby who has had many of these boats. I also saw Hans Huber, who sails his Flying Dutchman and Laser out of Venture Sailing Base. Hans built his own Flying Dutchman, and has built a number of these DNs as well. I expected to see a very simple craft. The DN however, is a very competitive one-design racing boat, so I should have realized that they have evolved over the years. Several different iterations were represented amongst the fleet sailing. The most significant differences I picked up on were the runners and masts. The runners (skates for us not initiated) have become longer, and thus faster. The older shorter, but taller ones cut through snow a little easier. The masts have evolved from stiffer aluminium to super "whippy" carbon and fibreglass composites.
Hans offered his DN so I could have a go. I figured I couldn't hurt it in the light air so gratefully accepted. It took a while of pushing out from shore to find a bit of moving air, but once I turned upwind, I was surprised to find the boat pick up on its own, and into the hull I slid. You lie on your back, just inches off the ice, so you instantly feel the speed, and how sensitive the boat is. I managed to get up to about 8-10 miles per hour, much faster than the speed of the wind. Then, I got nervous about how far out I could go from shore. Farther out was open water As soon as I jibed, I stopped dead. Then I had difficulty getting moving again downwind. Apparently, you need to push the iceboat along to build up some speed before powering up enough to get underway. I didn't have the spiked shoes they were wearing, so had trouble getting moving on the slippery ice. I'm told that the DN will bend the apparent wind enough that at speed they can sail as close as 20 degrees off the wind. You instantly realize the tremendous power these ice boats have with virtually no resistance when the ice is smooth and clear.