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Winning Iceboat Sails

Tom Sweitzer of Pewaukee, WI has been racing in iceboat regattas for almost 40 years and is an eleven-time Nite National Champion. In February, Sweitzer added the 2022 ISA Nite Regatta to his list of accolades after finishing 2, 1, 1 on Lake Monona. Sweitzer’s win against 26 other boats was powered by new Nite designs from Quantum Sails Zenda. Andy Burdick from Melges/Quantum Sails Zenda sat down to chat with Sweitzer about his new sails. 

AB: Congratulations on winning another Nite regatta. You have the Standard/All-Purpose sail, the Rocket and the Power sail. What wind and ice conditions factor into your sail choice?

TS: The Standard/All-Purpose sail is my go-to sail for most conditions – always has been. With two sets of battens, stiff and soft, which you can mix and match, it goes fast in a wide variety of ice, wind, and temperature ranges. When I’m not sure what the conditions may be or if things are changing, that’s the sail I put up first.

The Rocket and Power sails are more specific-use sails. The Rocket performs at its best when the ice is hard, clean, and smooth, and the wind is up. Top-end speed stuff, where finding the next puff isn’t a problem. 

The Power sail is for the other end of conditions – soft and slushy, or completely snow-covered ice. The goal here isn’t top-end speed; it’s to keep going when things get sticky.

AB: Watching your success in sailing and iceboating, it is clear that you have ultimate anticipation skills when it comes to wind and balance of your boat. Especially in the Nite iceboat. You are smooth.  What do you attribute this to?  As you ease, steer and then trim for acceleration what are the “steps”that you have made so natural in your iceboating?

TS: As simple as these boats may look, there’s a lot going on. And it’s mostly all about the wind – finding it and hanging on to it. Building speed is incremental. Using the start as an example: once you’re in the boat, the sheeting should be consistent with acceleration. As long as you’re going faster, keep trimming. Once the boat is going fast enough that it’s not going to slow down easily, start fishing slightly up or down to find the spot where the boat shifts in to a faster gear. Trim and repeat. Over and over. Now that’s a simplified version of what’s going on and how to go fast, but the concept is accurate. In big wind all those things happen much faster and there are a lot of opportunities to go faster or slower. Expecting the wind to change at any moment and concentrating on the balance between speed and pointing is the goal. It takes time in the boat to get it down and, unfortunately, lots of sheeting in and out.

AB: The new Quantum Nite Sails are fast. Winner of every race in the ISA with many boats using the new sails. Any thoughts on what you see in the new sails?

TS: The new Standard/AP sail set up very well on the boat. Smooth and fair from top to bottom. Both sets of battens held their shape well. It’s a pretty sail. And a fast one last weekend.

I looked at the new Power sail in the shop and it looks good as well. While I’m looking forward to trying it out, I’m not really hoping for those conditions just yet. Late winter sailing will come soon enough!

For more information on new iceboating sails, contact the experts at Quantum Sails Zenda!


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