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To glide on a pair of ice skates across the ice powered by wind must be one of the most amazing experiences you can try. OK, maybe skydiving or bungee jumping beats it, but the feeling is quite extraordinary.

The original sport was developed in the 19th century, but is still developing. Today there are two different classes in competitions, but more about that later.

What do you need to do skate sailing (direct translation from the Swedish word Skridskosegling)? First of all you need ice, preferably snow free on a lake or the sea. Then you need a pair of ice-skates. To try it out the rather common long distance (tour skating) skates work fine, but in competition you will need higher and longer skates. In addition you need the sail, which is shaped very much like a 5 sided kite. In other words like a cross with a beam at the "bottom". In addition to this I would recommend warm clothes and ice security equipment.

To get the sail to drive you forward you hold the sail over your head, get some speed, and then lower the sail in the direction of the wind. Worth noting is that you always sail in a 45 degree angle to the wind, whether going against or with it. One of the scary things in the beginning is that when the wind increases you have to lean further into the sail. It feels like you're going to fall over (and occasionally you do). The reason for the high skates are that you can lean further into the sail.

In competition there are since 1979 two classes. Class one has the kite shaped sail of maximum 8.8 square meters and maximum 200 mm high skates. In the second, or open, class you can more or less have any kind of sail you want, but the most common one is the wing sail that encloses the skater and creates a better aerodynamic profile.

The speed is high. Skate sailers usually reach 70 km/h (approx 45 mph), but speeds up to 120 km/h (approx 70 mph) has been registered in hard wind.

There are no international competitions in skate sailing, since almost all of the active sailors in the world are in Sweden (about 700). There are a few active sailors in North America, of which most are from New Jersey. However, that looks like it might change, since new forms of sails based on windsurfing sails are becoming more and more popular.

A related sport is ice yacht sailing.

sources:

  • Stockholms Skridskoseglarklubb http://www.sssk.se/
  • Svenska Isseglarförbundet http://www.sifs.se/
  • Skånes Isseglarklubb http://hem.passagen.se/dalahbg/SEG.HTM
  • Stiftelsen Sveriges Riksidrottsmuseum http://www2.svenskidrott.se/riksidrottsmuseet/faktarutor/man_bild/mars2000.htm
  • Ice Skating Clipart Galore http://www.icesk8.com/clipart9.htm

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