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Watch now: 'A complete rush'; Ice boating season starts on Lake Como near Lake Geneva

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Ice boating

An ice boat sails in the distance on Lake Como on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.

When the temperature hits below zero and the lakes freeze over, most may think boating season is long gone. Think again.

For many, the season is just beginning — the ice boating season that is.

On Friday, Jan. 7, the morning temperature was below zero, but that didn’t scare the ice boaters away.

“If there is good ice somewhere, people flock,” said Marek Valasek, the executive director of Geneva Lakes Sailing School, who is also an avid ice boater.

Because Lake Como is the smallest of the Lake Geneva area lakes, it’s the first to freeze over and the first lake for the ice boaters to hit. From there, Delavan Lake freezes and then finally Geneva Lake, which is the deepest and biggest in the area.

RacingThroughout the winter, there is a group who meet up and race on the ice when they can. Ideally they try to race every Wednesday afternoon, starting around 2 p.m. and Saturday, starting around 10 a.m.

But conditions don’t always allow it and they often switch where they will meet. For that reason they don’t put out a public schedule for events, explained Steve Schalk, fleet captain for the Skeeter Ice Boat Club, which started in 1933 and organizes the events.

Steve Schalk, fleet captain for the Skeeter Ice Boat Club, helps organize races for the group throughout the winter when conditions are right.…

They don’t want people showing up at the wrong lake if conditions are not safe there. They also cannot race if they get too much snow and the ice is covered.

“One thing about ice boating is you don’t pick. You go where the ice is good,” Valesek said.

Before going out boating on Lake Como, measurements around the lake had been taken to ensure the ice was thick enough and the boaters were closely watching conditions and talking to each other along the shore.

Ice, wind and speed

Ice boaters were out on Lake Como on Friday, Jan. 7 for the start of the ice boating season. A group tries to race whever they can on area lak…

There was one open area and a crack going off of it that they were watching closely. Monitoring the ice isn’t the only safety precaution. While boating on the open water you have a life jacket. In contrast, when ice boating you have a helmet in case you fall on the ice and, just as important, to keep the wind off your head when sailing.

Some ice boats can go up to 100 knots or over 100 mph, Valesek said.

“Hence the helmet” he added.

When you are on the ice, you don’t have the resistance that you have when sailing in water and that is why the boats can go so fast.

The sail catches the wind and the direction is controlled by a pedal inside the boat with two cables connecting to the front runner, to push the boat to the right or left.

Lifelong sportCasey Schiche, 70, of Lake Geneva, has been ice boating since he was about 6 or 7. He stared with his dad and uncle and now he has his uncle’s boat – Satan.

Casey Schiche, of Lake Geneva, has been ice boating since he was about 6 or 7. He is 70 now and still at it.

He was one of about ten boats out on Jan. 7.

Scott Norman, who coaches sailing with Valesek, was also out on the lake on Friday. It was his first time ice boating in about 30 years, but he quickly remembered.

“It was a complete rush,” he said after taking a couple laps on Como. “You feel complete freedom … It was unbelievable.”

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