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Ice yacht fans sail into Lake City

LAKE CITY -- Even at the beginning of February when lakes are frozen over, boat sails were set over Lake Pepin. What makes these boats different is that they sail on ice -- not on water -- and their captains race one other. Over the past week, the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association held its World and North American races on Lake Pepin.

The races began when the Detroit News held a competition to see who could bring the "fastest ice yacht you can build at home and carry on your roof rack," to them," said Joerg Bohn, a German boater. "That was the announcement. What was the outcome was the yacht we sail today."

The ice yacht is not a traditional looking boat. The hull is thin and narrow, just big enough for the racers to ride on after a running start. The boat is supported by two side anchors with a running blade underneath, just like the hull of the boat is. This allows for the boat to quickly skim across the ice. The sail or mast of the boat is just like that of a sail boat.

All parts of this boat are strictly regulated so that different technology of a boat does not give a certain racer an advantage over another. Tomas Lindren, a Swedish racer who previously won the World's race, said that is one of the reasons he likes these races.

"It's up to the sailor how he sails his boat and how he trims his boat. It's not the equipment or anything that make you go fast or not fast," he said.

Training is needed to prepare for the races that are held worldwide. Lindren said that he works out four to five times a week for a couple hours. Lindren said that it is very important to stay fit for competition, and having that competition is "something that inspires you to go to the gym or go running or bicycling or whatever."

Since it is a worldwide event, the races switch locations annually. Bohn said that traveling through the association has been good because "it makes you aware that life is different, but people are the same, great-hearted everywhere, from Russia to the United States, but life is different, starting with the breakfast," he laughed, saying it was different in every county he went to.

In the United States alone he has been to a variety of places including Marinette, Wis., Detroit, Brainerd, Minn., and three times now to Lake City to race on Lake Pepin.

"The people in Lake City are very friendly to us. They have signs out, 'Welcome ice boaters,'" Bohn said, "I think that it's very nice to be welcome and hopefully we'll be back."