Deb Whitehorse is almost positive that she and her brother never saw an entire episode of TV’s Star Trek growing up. “The machines were too loud,” she says. ‘The machines’ in the basement of their Madison, Wisconsin home on Lake Monona belonged to their father. He was building iceboats. “I would say he was probably obsessed,” she remembers. She says if he wasn’t building iceboats in the basement, the family was sailing iceboats on one of the four nearby frozen lakes.
Whitehorse grew up rooted in the sport. Her dad, David Roston, was a decorated iceboat racer in the 1950s. Whitehorse raced competitively into the early 1990s. She also began serving as secretary of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, a position she still holds today. Running regattas, recording races, and taking photos of the competitions are all part of her duties as secretary.
In the 1980s, Whitehorse noticed iceboating wasn’t getting sporting news coverage like it had decades prior. “I realized that we have to tell our own story now. The internet has been really important in that way,” she remarks. Whitehorse taught herself how to build a website. Iceboat.org, a website she created and maintains, will celebrate its 25th year of being online in 2023.
Ideal conditions for iceboating are rare and fleeting with safety being top of mind. The internet has made communication among iceboaters easier over the years. Clubs around the world use social media to bond over their shared passion, but also to coordinate races in locations that give them what they need: snowless ice.
Whitehorse is a master organizer. Beyond serving as the secretary for the local iceboat club, she is also the executive secretary for the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, helping manage international racing competitions. “I’ve made quite a few really good friends in Europe and around the world through iceboating. It’s a way to see the world,” she says, smiling.