Mon, Feb 03, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Racing is on ice, champagne in a cup

SPRINTING ON RUNNERS Once upon a time sailboats that skated on ice were the fastest vessels on earth. Nowadays, ice-yachts run an occasional race in the US

By Robert Worth  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , RED BANK, NEW JERSEY

The New Jersey boats quickly took the lead, reaching the red upwind marker first.

They're off

"It's a light wind -- that's good for the Jersey boats, because they're lighter," Vargo said.

As the boats slalomed back around the starting line, several of them rose up on one runner in the wind, like motorcycles leaning inward on a turn.

Ice boaters call this hiking, and it can be dangerous.

If the rear runner rises off the ice, the entire boat can turn into the wind and begin spinning wildly, sending the driver flying across the ice. Among ice boaters, this wipeout is called a flicker.

New Jersey took the first race, and then the second. The heavier Hudson boats were lovely, but they seemed unable to match their competitors.

Bob Wills, the commodore of the Hudson River club, winced as his teammate, Reid Bielenberg, fell far behind the rest of the pack in his lovely 1885 rig, the Vixen.

"Reid looks like he's stopping for shellfish," he moaned.

The wind picked up as the third race began and for a moment it looked as though Rick Lawrence, the lead Hudson boat, might win. But the New Jersey boats overtook him.

It was over: New Jersey had maintained its hold on the cup. On the sidelines, shouts and cheers erupted, and big men dressed in snowsuits began bearhugging each other.

Despite their loss, the Hudson Valley team members did not seem unhappy.

"The main thing is, we got the race run," Lawrence said. "It was a long time coming."

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