Thanks to the foresight of the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club and the Eastern Ice Yachting Association, the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant remains relevant 135 years later. The rules were adjusted to affirm the speed evolution in American ice yacht racing spanning the majestic Stern-Steerers of the 19th century to today's high-tech carbon fiber Skeeter class iceboats.
1881-1922: The Gilded Age of Hudson River Ice Yachting
The Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant is deeply entwined in American history. Conceived in 1881 by New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club (NHIYC) Commodore Irving Grinnell (grandnephew of Washington Irving, who was the author of Rip Van Winkle), the IYCP was the most sought after title in American ice yacht racing. During the heydays, the Hudson River was the site of 15 challenges. John A. Roosevelt's Icicle was a 4 time winner. Few challenges were raced during first half of the 20th century, one of the biggest reasons was the Hudson River became a shipping lane patrolled by Coast Guard ice breakers.
1950: Rise of the Skeeter Class
In the 1930s, a new class of iceboat, the Skeeter, overtook the Stern Steerer in popularity. Skeeters are a single pilot front-steering boat, easier to transport and much faster than a Stern Steerer. Skeeter class competitions thrived in the east and midwest after WW2. Eastern Ice Yachting Association officer Ray Ruge, an avid iceboat builder, designer, racer, and writer, was instrumental in the revival of the competition for the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant. On February 18, 1951, Ed Rollberg of Fox Lake, Illinois, in Black Magic became the first Skeeter pilot to win the pennant. Today's modern Skeeters are the most technologically advanced and fastest iceboats in the world.