Sailing on ice has been a winter tradition in the Hudson Valley since at least the 1800s. Until the invention of the automobile, ice yachts were the fastest vehicles on earth and attracted many rich and famous sailors – including the Roosevelts.
The Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year, has teamed with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home, Library & Museum to organize a historic exhibit of Hudson River Ice Yachts, on display from December 21, 2014 through January 3, 2015.
The following ice yachts are confirmed for the display. The lineup includes FDR’s ice yacht Hawk, owned by the National Park Service, as well as several others owned by the Hudson River Yacht Club and its members. More yachts may enter by the opening date.
Hawk was built by George Buckhout of Poughkeepsie, and presented to Franklin Roosevelt by his mother, Sara, as a Christmas gift in 1901. From 1901 to 1904, FDR sailed and raced the Hawk on the Hudson River, chiefly during the years he was a student at Harvard.
Kriss was built in 1898 by George Buckhout of Poughkeepsie for John A. Roosevelt, the uncle of FDR.John A. Roosevelt was a founding commodore of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, which was established in 1885.
Vixen was built by brothers Charles and William Merritt of Carthage Landing (now Chelsea) in 1886.It was the first successful lateen-rigged ice boat.This speedy and better balanced boat was originally named Eugene, and was quickly purchased by FDR’s uncle John A. Roosevelt and renamed Vixen.
Jack Frost is one of the largest ice yachts in the world still sailed today.She was built in 1892 by Jacob Buckhout for Archibald Rogers of Hyde Park.One of the fastest yachts of its day, Jack Frost captured the prestigious Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America in 1893 and 1902.
Whiff was built by Jacob Buckhout of Poughkeepsie in 1875-6, being commissioned by Irving Grinnell, commodore of the New Hamburg Ice Yacht Club, for display at the Philadelphia centennial of 1876. A May 1876 article in the Poughkeepsie Eagle described Whiff as “The Finest Ice Yacht in the World.”
Established in 1885, the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club is one of very few in the world whose members continue to actively preserve and sail these remarkable craft. Yacht Club members will be on hand throughout the week to talk about their boats, their sport, and the history of ice yachting on the Hudson.
An opening reception will take place Sunday, December 21st, at 2 pm at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center. The exhibit runs from December 21st through January 3rd but will be closed on December 25th and January 1st. The exhibit is also subject to closure due to inclement weather conditions. Call ahead to confirm exhibit hours at 845-229-9115 or 1-800-FDR-VISIT. More information can be found online at www.nps.gov/hofr.
Photos: Above, the ice yacht Whiff on the Hudson River near Athens, NY; and below, the Jack Frost sailing off Hyde Park in 1900 (photos provided).