Peter Johanson took first place finish in the Silver Fleet | Photo: courtesy of Bruce Brown.

| 1 min read | by Bruce Wm. Brown as first reported by Stockbridge Community News, |

When winter temperatures turn the water solid, thousands of iceboats sail across lakes in the US, Canada, and Europe. The most popular class of iceboat, the DN, can spirit along at four times the speed of the wind. On Jan. 21 to 25 an intrepid local sailor, Peter Johanson of Dexter, won the top spot in one of the most notable iceboat races on the continent, the Silver Fleet of the 2020 North American DN Championship Regatta. The championship regatta draws the fastest hardwater sailors from all over the world and took place on a large, frozen lake formed by the Missouri River near Fort Peck, Mont.

Johanson, a committed ice sailor, remarked on his Montana experience, “It was insane to drive 22 hours to race iceboats, but then it would have been insane not to.”

Sailing conditions can be severe and competition is fierce between qualifying ice sailors for a top finish in these races. This year, snowstorms and warm temperatures had eliminated Midwest, Canadian, and East Coast sites. Montana was the farthest west the DN fleet has ever traveled to find enough sailable ice to hold the North American Championship.


After four days and nine recorded races, high winds and rough ice were causing boats to break up, so on the last scheduled day of races, the race committee ended the regatta as “Complete.” Having traveled from Dexter, Mich., Johanson was pleased to bring home the first-place trophy—and his DN, which survived the racing intact.

Another Michigan ice sailor, Ron Sherry of Clinton Township, won a second place in the Gold Fleet. James Thieler traveled from his home in Rhode Island to win the Gold Fleet Championship.

A group of sailors designed and built the first DN in 1937 as part of a Detroit News-sponsored contest, so DNs have Michigan roots. In 1953 the Detroit, Anchor Bay, and North Star Sailing Clubs sponsored the first North American DN Championship on Lake Saint Clair.

As the popularity of the DN Iceboat expanded, a European Championship was initiated in 1966. A Gold Cup World Championship was added in 1973 and alternates yearly between sites in North America and Europe.

Photos and some excellent drone video of the 2020 North American DN Championship can be viewed at