Ice Boat

Ice Boats: sailing on the ice

2 mins read

They work as real sailboats but their hulls are not immersed in the water. When they do that, as we will see, it is a real problem!

We’re talking about Ice Boats, special boats that slide on the ice surface to navigate. They are the fast protagonists of our weekly video column.

Ice Boats were born at the end of the 19th century as boats designed to carry goods in winter through the large frozen lakes. Later, since they were fast and funny, they became recreational boats.

Today, ice boats are highly popular in northern European countries and in the North-American Greta Lakes regions.

These boats have many fans and an increasing number of people choose to compete in special races dedicated to the category. Just think of the recent world championship that was hold in Lake Indian Hills, Ohio, with 110 boats!

The video below, where the unlucky protagonist crashes through a melting ice sheet, has been taken during a training session. The result is an impressive accident.

The boat violently slips in the water after having completely lost its fast speed. The helmsman is tossed ahead and hits not only the boat but also the ice sheet just before him. Fortunately, he wore a safety helmet, which prevented him from having more serious consequences.


Ice boats are very very fast. The hull lies on subtle skids that enable the boat to slide on frozen surfaces with very little friction. This feature, coupled with the low weight of the boat and an abundant sailing plan, enables modern racing boats to reach a top speed of over 50 knots.

Pictures of races are, indeed, amazing. They usually take place between buoys and rules are the same as sailing competitions. So, for example, boats on port tack give way to those on starboard tack. Compared with traditional sailing competitions, the only difference is that boats must be pushed by hand at first, like a sleigh.

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