Sailing with Skates is Great Winter Sport (Feb, 1930)

I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I’ve seen “F’rinstance” used in print.

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Sailing with Skates is Great Winter Sport

For real thrills there’s no sport like skate sailing, says Mr. Brown—and he goes ahead and proves it in this article. Moreover, he gives you plans for building your own sail and full directions on how to operate it when it’s finished.


HERE he comes—there he goes!

Just like that! Like saying “Jack Robinson!”

And thrills. . . Man!

Maybe you’ve felt the smooth gliding swiftness of skating. And the flying sensation of skiing. And the speed of ice yachting. And the fun of tobogganing. But if you’ve left out skate sailing, then you’ve missed the grandest sport ever dished out by Old Man Winter.

You don’t have to be a wonderful skater, or a good sailor, either, to go skate sailing. All you need is the equipment, the necessary expanse of slate gray ice, and a moderately strong pair of ankles; and then if you hold the sail—any way you please—you are bound to glide off in one direction or another.

The first thing required for skate sailing —supposing that you already have the skates—is the sail. Ready-built sails can be purchased at moderate cost at any large sporting goods store, but you can make one of your own from the directions which follow. You don’t have to be an expert sail maker to do a good job, and the only tools required will be found in even the most scantily equipped home workshop.

You’ll get a good idea of the size and appearance of the sail from a glance at the photo of the sailor, above, and the sail itself on the page opposite. Dimensions for a good-sized sail you will find on page 107. Before we go into detail on how to make the sail, it will be well to get a clear idea of what you’re going to make. The fabric is cut in the shape shown in the dimension diagram. Lengthwise through the center will be run a wooden backbone; at the bottom of the sail a cross piece will be needed, and a cross spar will be placed two feet from the tip of the sail to support it at its broadest part. The cross-spar will be built in two pieces, adjustable to varying lengths to keep the sail taut as a drum. Now let’s begin.

The very first operation in making the sail has to do with the making of the backbone. This is a piece of 1-3/4-in. Half Round (you can get this stock cut at any lumber yard), 9-ft. 6-in. long. To one end of this, and on the rounded side, screw a 1/2″in. eye-screw. Two feet from this eye, nail a 10-in. leather strap. Take another strap and cut it in two a short distance behind the buckle; then nail the plain portion to the other end of the sail backbone. The strap will be your means of securing the cross-spars to the backbone.

Now, consider the sail! Material for this can be either three-ounce zephyr cloth, three-ounce duck, Egyptian cotton, balloon silk, or any other light, strong material. The sail can be made in one single piece or it can be ribbed together from three or four smaller pieces. At any rate, the shape of the finished cloth should be as shown in the diagram—hemmed all around as shown. Get a 5/8-in. washer and sew it to the top of the sail, reinforcing it on either side with a triangular piece of heavy canvas or light leather, as pictured on page 106. Punch out the cloth or leather in the center of the washer so that it can be fitted over the screw-eye at the tip of the backbone.

Jumping down to the other end of the sail: Take a 3-ft. 9-in. length of 1-1/2-in. Half Round and insert it into the wide hem, tacking it firmly in place. To the center of this spar, nail the buckle end of the strap mentioned a few paragraphs back.

The cross spar for the sail is made from two pieces of 1-3/4-in. Half Round. One of these pieces is 3-ft. 6-in. long; the other 5-ft. 2-in. long. Bore a 1/4-in. hole through the center of the shorter piece. At one end of the longer piece, bore a similar-size hole, and then another, and another, and another —each spaced 1-1/2 in. apart. All of this hole-drilling business has to do with one thing—they figure in the stretching of the sail.

Like this: Take the two pieces and fasten them together with a bolt and wing nut, running the bolt through, say, the next-to-the-end hole, as shown in the photograph at the top of page 106. Now you can get the whole business—the finished sail and how this cross spar serves as a stretcher. Hook the washer at the top of the sail over the screw-eye at the end of the backbone. Pull down the cross spar so that the two pieces cross, and then insert either end into reinforced canvas pockets which should be sewn to either side of the sail. Hook up the secondary stretcher at the bottom of the sail, pulling; it as tightly as possible; then bring the cross spar into line, fastening it securely at the center with the leather strap. You can readily see that the spar stretcher is adjustable. By inserting the bolt into the various holes you can make the cross bar either shorter or longer as you desire. The sail must be drum tight —it is only with a “drum” on your shoulder that you can get the true “slap” of a brisk breeze set loose by the Old Man up north.

Now, with the sail all made, you’re ready for the real fun. If you’ve ever sailed a boat you’ll know just how to get best results, for the sailing technique is the same. Your skates have just about the same effect as the rudder on a boat. All ready, now: Skate out on the ice, holding the sail at arm’s length over your head, both hands grasping the cross spar, so that the sail presents the smallest possible area to the wind. Then, bring the sail upright against your right side, resting the long backbone spar on your right shoulder. Your right hand should grip the long spar, while your left takes hold on the cross bar. The sail is between you and the wind.

Away you go, directly across the wind, your skates biting into the ice and preventing you from “drifting” sideways. If you want a bit more speed, simply swing around so that the wind is more to your back. And listen: Never hold the sail as a point blank target to the wind. And why not? Simply because the skate sailor travels faster than the breeze.

F’rinstance: Supposing there is a seventeen mile wind blowing. The inexperienced sailor, thinking to take full advantage of this, holds the sail directly at his back, presenting a point blank target to the breeze. The result is that he is swished off, and gradually increases speed until he is going about twenty-one and one-half miles per hour. What happens, then, to Mr. Seventeen-mile-an-hour breeze? It cannot keep up with the sailor, and there is a sudden vacuum behind the sail which is often of such intensity as to cause the sailor to lose his balance. The correct way to sail before the wind is to hold the sail at a slight angle away from the breeze, so that you zigzag down the wind instead of scudding directly before it.

Now, let’s imagine that you want to get back to your starting point. The first thing to do is to change the position of the sail, as this must always be carried between you and the wind. To do this you swing around into the wind, which frees the sail from your body, then quickly lifting the sail flat over your head you lower it on the opposite side of your body.

In beating into the wind, as illustrated by the diagrams, you will notice that the push of the wind tends to send the sailor toward the bottom of the page—in other words, in the same direction the wind itself is traveling. What, then, gives him his motion almost directly into the wind? His skates? They bite into the ice and act in the same capacity as a centerboard on a sailing canoe in holding the sailor on his course.

Suppose you want to sail directly into a north wind. You’ll have to do it by “tacking,” as sailors term it. First cover a fair distance on a northeast course. Then, swinging the sail to the opposite side of your body, start on the opposite tack— that is, to the northwest. By alternating these two directions, you will eventually arrive at your destination—due north.

From this you can readily see that the type of skates you use has a great deal to do with your success in this maneuver, for the greater the “bite” the skate runner has on the ice, the easier it will be to sail into the wind. Long skates have the preference. Many Canadians use the huge Norwegian skate with its 24-inch blade. American choice leans toward the 15-inch speed skate. The individual’s choice is more or less a matter of “what have you?” You can enjoy great skate sailing sport on a pair of semi-hockeys or on even shorter skates if they are sufficiently sharp.

Why doesn’t the sail blow you over, you ask? Maybe it will, until you learn the trick of balancing yourself by leaning against it. Perhaps you’ve seen sailboats heeled over by sudden gusts of wind, and the same thing can easily occur to a skate sailor—but that’s where much of the sport comes in. The knack of holding the sail at the proper angle to get best results comes with a little experience. When you want to stop, swing about facing the wind and bring the sail flat above your head, a position in skate sailing which might be said to correspond with neutral in an automobile. In case of a collision with other sailors you can always let go of the sail.

1 comment
  1. Hirudinea says: December 7, 20119:40 pm

    Looks like fun, but not much use at the rink.

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