WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 18, 2009
n the middle of Poland’s largest thick,” explains Grzegorz
A real ice
lake covered by ice, a hundred or Hammerszmidt, an ice boat coach
so speed demons fly across the in Poland’s northern-eastern lake
frozen surface in special sail boats resort town Mikolajki.
on blades. “A 12cm sheet of ice is enough to
Sleek and built to race, the narrow let kids go fly on it,” says
boat hulls are fixed on a base of Hammerszmidt, who coaches
three gleaming blades and sports children as young as seven in ice
sails like those used in windsurfing boating, or ice yachting, as the
to harness wind power and roar sport is also known.
across frozen water. Though reminiscent of
“It’s the speed that gives you an windsurfing or sailboarding, ice
adrenaline rush,” says Tomasz boating is not new, as it is said to
Zakrzewski, ranked number four have originated in The Netherlands
in the world in the DN class ice in the 18th century.
boat racing. Prior to World War II, pilots in the
Sailing on ice is his passion. German air force or Luftwaffe
“Among the disciplines that use practised the discipline as part of
wind and sails, it is the fastest. We their aerodynamics training on
Sailing can be an exhilarating experience, but these
sail at three times the speed of the the Mazurian lakes in what was
wind,” he said on a day when then East Prussia, and now north-
sportsmen are taking it a step further - doing it on ice
despite low winds, ice boats were east Poland.
cruising at a speed off 100 “The speed that can be reached on
kilometres per hour. the lakes allowed the pilots to
“The manoeuvres have to be made become accustomed to the wind
very quickly, much faster than on a and master its currents,” explains
conventional sail boat and its Hammerszmidt.
much more exciting,” he says. “To get a ‘black’ ice surface
Flying may be the best word to without a snow cover, pilots would
describe the high-speed sport dam the Sapina river to gather
where the unofficial record hovers water and then break it, allowing
around 140kph. the water to flood onto the frozen
“The Poles are Europe’s leaders in Lake Swiecajty.
the sport. During the last DN-class “They made a magnificent surface
championships in St Petersburg this way, as smooth as an ice rink,”
from January 16 to 23, four of the he says.
top five competitors were Polish,” In 1966, Dutchman Wim Van Acker
says Zakrzewski. His brother Lukasz acquainted Poles with the DN class
won the silver in the competition. ice boat invented in the United
Zakrzewski was one of dozens of States in 1937 and named after the
ice boaters who competed in the Detroit News, a newspaper in the
Mazurian Cup, Poland’s leading ice Michigan port city of the same
boat competition which is held in name, which ran a competition for
late January on the 114km surface a model iceboat.
of the shallow and fast freezing The DN rapidly became the most
Lake Sniardwy. popular model in Poland where
He placed sixth this month at the the sport has attracted a thousand
2009 IDNIYRA World Gold Cup or so enthusiasts.
Championships held in Traverse And with a DN boat costing
City and Torch Lake, both in the around $9,700 the sport does not
US state of Michigan. His brother come cheap.
Lukasz took fifth spot. Yet it is global warming that poses
Clad in protective goggles and perhaps the greatest danger to the
crash helmets, ice boat future of ice boating.
competitors also wear neon- Afterall, no ice, no sport.
coloured life jackets just in case “Winters are more and more
the ice cracks. unstable. But for the time being we
“It’s the rule but there’s no danger - still get more or less two months of
- the ice sheet is more than 20cm ice,” Zakrzewski says.
CHILLY: Ice boats in action (left
and above). Tomasz Zakrzewski
gets ready (below and right)
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