Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America

Racing has always been an integral part of ice yachting. Early sailors challenged one another for supremacy on the ice. In its day, ice boating was the fastest means of travel.  Challenges for bragging rights for the fastest boat have existed since these crafts were first built & sailed. Races for cash, furs, silver plates, watches, pennants and a silver tiller were noted in early news accounts. The Poughkeepsie yachts were known as the most finely crafted and the swiftest. That didn't stop challengers from other locations- notably Athens, New Hamburgh, and the New Jersey sailors from the North Shrewsbury River - from claiming that they had the fastest yacht yet seen.

Irving Grinnell, grand-nephew of Washington Irving, was a wealthy "country-gentleman" who settled in Wappingers Falls, NY, on a large estate. He was active in the New York Yacht club, serving as commodore at one point, and his passion for sailing extended to winter ice yachting. He was a keen ice yacht sailor and founded the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club in 1869, building up a large fleet of yachts. This passion for racing led to his creating the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America. It was to be the winter version of the America's Cup, signifying the fastest boat, on ice.

The original 30 foot silk pennant, last displayed at the FDR Museum in Hyde Park about 20 years ago. 
It is now in a conservatory, awaiting restoration. ( The sheer poles for FDR's lateen rigger ice yacht Hawk rest below the pennant)

Initial announcement of the Pennant in early 1875, from
Mannings Yachting Annual. 

Conditions for racing.

1875 Registry of yachts in Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht Club
 and the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club.

Early news article (Poughkeepsie Eagle March, 22, 1875)
 on the establishment of the Challenge Pennant.
From John A. Roosevelt's scrap book.  

The first challenge for the Pennant was on Feb. 28, 1879. The Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht Club, formally challenged the NHIYC. The challenge was turned down a week later with the New Hamburgh club claiming that the originator and likely skipper of a NHIYC boat, Irving Grinnell, was ill and unable to race, so there would be no race that year. 

After several winters of poor ice for sailing, the pennant was finally raced for in 1881.
From the 1881 minutes of the New Hamburgh IYC.  
A special meeting is called to accept the challenge of the 
Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht Club to race for the pennant. 
It is called on for Friday, March 4, 1881 at 11 am. 
This is the write up of that first race,  from John A. Roosevelt's collection.
Summaries of many of the Challenge Pennant races are here.

Eskimo, rounds the stake along the Poughkeepsie waterfront in the Feb 14, 1887 Pennant race. Note the hike in her windward runner.  Eskimo, built by Jacob Buckhout for  Phillips Phoenix, of Tuxedo Lake, came in seventh. She sailed for the Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht Club. Eskimo is likely the boat referenced in the NYTimes article in 1886.   Archie Rogers, sailing Jack Frosfor the HRIYC, won this race for the Challenge Pennant.
Same race, same spot. Northern Light, came in second. Note the large crowds on the ice for this race. Upwards of 2000 spectators were reported to line the banks during these Pennant races.

Same race (again); Here the 12 yachts entered are lined up off of Poughkeepsie for the start of the race.
They sailed 4 miles south, rounding a flag and headed back to Kaal Rock. 

They sailed that route twice for a total of 16 miles. 

The 'last' two races for the IYCPA of this early era took place in 1902. Participants wisely modified the rules to race to include just 2 yachts each from the challenger and defending clubs.
Jack Frost & Icicle represented HRIYC while Scud & Dreadnaught were chosen from the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat & Yacht Club - the challengers for the Pennant. Frost won both races.

Line up for the start of the 1902 IYCPA race. ( not sure which of the 2 races, Feb. 7 or Feb 13, this is)
Jack Frost, racing in 1902.

Icicle. Willie Smith who worked for John A. Roosevelt year round, was often at the helm of Icicle in big races.

To read about the last race for the Pennant (in the era of the gaff rigged stern steerers) go here.

to be continued....

(All these older, historical photos are  Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, New York.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Icicle IYCPA medals

Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America.  Medals awarded to John A. Roosevelt, for his victories aboard his ice yacht Icicle.  Icicle sailed to victory on:
March 8, 1888 
February 25, 1889
February 5, 1892
January 21, 1899

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

IYCPA of 1922

The last race for the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant was in 1922. Some years early Archie Rogers returned the pennant back to the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club. Between years with no good ice, old timers dying off, and failed efforts to get off a race, the pennant went back to where it originated. Finally a race was organized between clubs from Chelsea and New Hamburgh. One report is reprinted below:
(Read Frank Drake's letter about his memories of that race, in  a letter he wrote to Ray Ruge in 1950)
Scout is winner in iceboat race   (NYT 2/9/1922, and Poughkeepsie Eagle)

Sailing 10 miles to windward and ten to leeward over a twenty-mile course near here (Poughkeepsie)
on the Hudson River today, in the first of three races for the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennnat of America, the Scout, defender of the pennant now held by the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club, crossed the line the winner. The time was 1:03:10.

The Vixen, the lateen-rigged challenger, owned by Joseph Jova of the Chelsea Yacht Club, floundered in the wind, which was dead to windward, and finished fifth.

The masterly sailing of Scout by F.V. Drake in the windward breeze brought the defender across the finish line within three minutes of the record for this course for boats of sail expanse of 350 square feet.

Sailing conditions were ideal for today's race, the ice being hard and the wind directly north, with only an occasional squall.

The summary:
Scout, owned by J.L. Millard, sailed by Captain Frank Drake,  first
Ymir, Owned by R.W. Stuart, sailed by Frank Cleary,  second
Arrow, owned by C.W, Weeks, third;
Wizard, Owned by William J. Workman, sailed by Charlie Merrit,  fourth;
Vixen, owned by Joseph Jova, fifth.    Time - 1:03:10

A second race was scheduled for the next day. According to a Feb 10 article in the Poughkeepsie Eagle, the second race was postponed as there was not enough wind;
Vixen, sailing off of Poughkeepsie, 1889.
She has sailed in Challenge Pennant races in 1883, and 1922

Scout, now owned by the Lawrence family, sailing off Red Bank, NJ 2003.
Henry Bossett photo  

Ymir - this Hudson River boat was built by George Buckhout. It went to NJ at some point. Bob Lawrence told me a story that there was a race between Hudson River boats and Jersey boats on the Hudson (sometime in the 20s??) with winner take all - all the boats that is. Supposedly several HR ice yachts went south after that race. Ymir may have been one. (This could be one of those ice yachting "stories" for all I know...)
Ymir (Bob Lawrence said it was pronounced WHY-MIR;  I'd always figured EE-Mir) still sails with the NSIBYC in Red Bank NJ. Long time Jersey sailor and HRIYC member Greg Strand owned Ymir for a time and he replaced the backbone. She sailed on the Hudson in 2003. 
Ymir, on the Shrewsbury Feb. 12, 2000

Cockpit of the Ymir.

Arrow of the HRIYC 1888. 369 sq ft of sail; this may be the Arrow of the 1922 Pennant race.

Interestingly, according to an article in the Poughkeepsie Eagle, 3 of these same yachts raced each other  ten years earlier  - Feb 28, 1912. In this 10 mile race, off New Hamburgh, the finish order was:
Vixen, sailed by Capt. William Albertson  of the steamer Mary Powell;
Scout, sailed by Capt. Frank Drake, owner Jake Millard handling the sheets.
Wizard, sailed by Capt. Preston LeRoy, owner Wm. Workman on the sheets;

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Motorized ice yachts

I was traveling in Nova Scotia this August with the family. We stopped into the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck. It is a fine little museum that presents the multi-faceted genius of Bell quite well. He tinkered in many areas and I have always been interested in his kite and flying experiments. As I was looking through some photographic images I discovered that he also fiddled with ice boats, though his experiments were with motorized boats.

 Here is an arrow shaped ice boat that he used to test propellors for his tetrahedral aircraft, the Cygnet II.  Note the trussed runner plank &  bow-steering. So nice to have your ice course plowed for you... This is from January 1909.  Bell did help form a group that designed and built the first successful airplane in Canada.  The Silver Dart made the first controlled powered flight in Canada on Feb. 23, 1909.

 George Buckhout also enjoyed tinkering with engines and iceboats.
The 12 foot long motorized ice yacht "Go Devil" was designed by naval architect George Davis, son of Theodore Davis of the Poughkeepsie Eagle. It was built in George Buckhout's Poughkeepsie boat shop  in December 1910. It was originally intended to be tested on the Hudson River, but conditions didn't cooperate. It was shipped up to the Rochester area instead. In time trials on Irondequoit Bay near Rochester it was reported to have clocked 120 mph. It had an 40 hp Elbridge 4 cylinder 2 cycle motor and an 8 foot propeller.  Notes on the back of this picture says it travelled 8 miles in 4 minutes. While the image here is not too clear, on the original you can see the distinct ice yacht runners & runner plank for which Buckhout was known. The distance between the runners was 6 feet. A news article from January 1912 quotes that the total cost of the experiment was $2000. "She was built to demonstrate a principal and has proved to be the fastest traveling appliance the world has so far known." (Poughkeepsie Eagle Jan 26, 1912)

I acquired this photo and other items of George Buckhout's a few years back. I believe this is George Buckhout in the picture. The writing on the back is likely his as it matches other handwriting of his I have from other items.

Here is another shot of "Go Devil"

This is an image from an Irondequoit Bay history site. 

There's a brief piece on Charles Lindbergh experimenting with motorized ice boats in the 1920s  in Wisconsin on the Four Lakes iceboat site.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sailing the Hudson River, off Astor Point, through the Years

The Rokeby Ice Yacht fleet, off of Astor Point, Barrytown-on-Hudson, 1939.
Long time sailors around Rokeby will recognize the bluff in the background. 

One of our favorite sailing sites on the Hudson River is the stretch of river north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, off of a point of land on the east shore called Astor Point. Named after the Astor family whose home, called Rokeby, built in 1815, is still inhabited by descendants.  The river is quite wide here and the shipping channel is maintained by the Coast Guard to the far west side of the river.  This leaves a large expanse of ice east of the channel, when it sets in, available for sailing.  Access is often through the historic and eclectic estate known as Rokeby.  Current day descendants of the Astor family maintain the historic mansion which houses an amazing collection of antique ice yachts. 
The master of ceremonies during ice yachting season is Richard Aldrich.  Ricky has been ice boating on the river off the family home since 1947. His father, Richard Aldrich started iceboating in the early 1920s. He built a small iceboat that he sailed on a pond on the property. Soon after that he acquired several boats from neighbors in the Hudson Valley.  The barns on the property still house an aging fleet of boats, including  Reindeer & Pathfinder, boats originally from the Huntington Estate in Staatsburg.  Rip van Winkle & Spider came from the estate of Victor Livingston, Ricky's cousin from across the river in Kingston; Hawk & Rudolphe came from Kunze Todd's widow in Hyde Park.  Todd collected iceboats from  various Hyde Park owners as they aged in the early 1900s. Ricky gathered some parts from the Jack Frost through the Todd family. Lastly, Comet is a boat his dad got back in the 20s from another estate south of the Rhinecliff Bridge. 
This whole post started as I recently acquired (many thanks to Doc Shuter) a series of photos of iceboats that were taken off Astor Point in 1939. I showed them to Ricky recently. He immediately recognized them, though we couldn't find the album of photos that he has of iceboating from that era. 

Richard Aldrich, of Rokeby, acquired a small fleet of iceboats in the 1920s & 30s.
Ice Yachts (L to R) Comet, Pathfinder, Spider, Reindeer, Rip Van Winkle.

Ricky noted that his dad frequently set up the fleet when the ice was in during the 40s & 50s. There was an active farm on the property and many of the workers on the farm helped to get the fleet up and sailing. Ricky returned "home" in the late 60s after years at school and traveling in Europe. The first time that the fleet was assembled in a decade or so ( his dad passed on in the early 60s) was in 1968. Photos of the fleet in action from 68 and 1970 follow. 

Rip Van Winkle, sailing off Astor Point, circa 1970. Catskill Mountains in the distance to the West.

Large cockpit and wide plank provide plenty of room for passengers.

Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge lies about one mile to the south.

Sailing the largest yacht of the Rokeby fleet, Rip Van Winkle.
Rip was built circa 1920 by Ricky's cousin Victor Livingston who lived across the river from Barrytown.
Rip was built from Tulip wood. 

Ricky at the helm, with at least 4 kids, enjoying a breezy day on the Hudson River. 

Great shot, taken by the late Woody Klose, from the bluff at Astor Point.
(most of these shots from the 70s are courtesy of the Klose family archives)

Pathfinder, originally from Robert Huntington's estate in Staatsburgh-on-Hudson.
This was the winter of 1994 off of North Germantown. The season ended abruptly on March 21
as the sail blew out in high winds and soft ice. 

Pathfinder was the first boat I sailed, as I was caretaker of the boat for a few years.
Ricky welded up  a temporary gammon strap on a Saturday afternoon,
after setting up on the river that winter of 1994 and realizing that the strap was missing.
We had her sailing an hour later.

Boats from the fleet still sail, though continue to need TLC.

Rip Van Winkle sails off Astor Point, March 2014.
Ricky's son Ben at the helm.
(photo courtesy of Henry Bossett)

A walk through the Rokeby Ice boat barn(s) starts here

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An afternoon at the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park

John A. Roosevelt's ice yacht  Icicle won the race for the
Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America on Feb. 25, 1889

I had an opportunity to check out some of the iceboating artifacts at the FDR library this week. FDR was keen on including items in the Presidential Museum from all his interests in life. Ice yachting was one of those interests. The majority of the items came from his uncle, John A. Roosevelt.  John A. Roosevelt (JAR)  was a charter member of the Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht Club, which was established in 1861. He was an avid sportsman, a competitive sailor and a collector of ice boat items. He left several scrapbooks of news articles on ice yachting, from 1862 through 1902. His Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant medals for the 4 victories his yacht Icicle claimed are also housed at the Museum. Icicle was originally displayed at the museum until renovations in the 1990s led to its removal. It is now on display (partially) at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston. Here are a few of the items I documented on the visit.  (The next several blog posts will feature other items)

The pennant JAR flew on Icicle. This pennant signified the club commodore.
His name appears to the left of the red stripe.

The Club signal of the HRIYC. This flew from JAR's yacht Vixen.

The private signal of JAR. According to club by-laws, the private signal was flown
 from the top of ice yachts in regattas.  This flew at the top of
Icicle's mast.

The 4 medals JAR won between 1888 & 1899.
The 30 foot silk Challenge Pennant transferred from winner to winner.

Ice yacht Whiff in miniature ..

Ice Yacht Whiff; model built by Jacob Buckhout. 

FDR was an avid collector of ship models. One can spends hours checking out the tremendous collections of models (not all are on display of course)  at the Roosevelt Library. There are two ice yacht models - neither of which are on display. The Mo-Wa-The was built by J. Sterling Bird. See pictures of that model here.
The Whiff model was built by Jacob Buckhout around 1875. It is a fabulous example of the early side-railer design that Buckhout was building in the 1860s & 1870s.  Some of the history of Whiff can be found here.
The model was set up in a work room in the basement of the museum, thus the backdrop wasn't ideal. But you can see the detail fairly well.

I love the detail in the cockpit & the tiller. 

Detail of gaff and hoist rigging. The sail is the only piece showing wear  on the model.

Graceful lines of the cockpit. 

Alternating strips of spruce & red cedar form the floor of the cockpit, as on the real boat.

There is a little rot, or wear in the cockpit, starboard side against the outer edge. 

Mast step detail. Mast stepped directly over the runner plank.