rb rocket 030114The Rocket, above in foreground, with the Jack Frost.  (Photo by John Oakley of Fantastic Signs. Click to enlarge)

The New York Times has a story in Monday’s edition on a rare meeting between two giant iceboats – the Rocket and the Jack Frost – on the foot-thick ice of the Hudson River Saturday.

The Rocket, the prized possession of Red Bank’s North Shrewsbury Ice Boat & Yacht Club, weighs more than a ton, and requires ice a foot thick to support its weight. Ditto for the Jack Frost, which belongs to the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. There is only one other vessel their size in the world, and it’s in a museum.

Ice that thick being rare, the two 120-plus-year-old behemoths, capable of speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, rarely sail. And they had not raced head-to-head in a century, the Times reports.

But then right conditions arrived over the weekend, and the members of the NSIB&YC postponed an open-house event scheduled for Saturday and made a beeline to Barrytown, New York.

After noting that the western edge of the Hudson remained open to tanker traffic, thanks to Coast Guard icebreakers, Times reporter Corey Kilgannon gives this account:

The crowd favorites were clearly the Rocket and the Frost, which both stood nearly 50 feet tall. Their main beams and transverse spars gave them a crossbow-like shape, as they rested on the ice on their heavy cast iron blades.

The two clubs had a tradition of holding 20-mile races between their prize boats, and on Saturday onlookers prodded the members to pit the Frost against the Rocket, even before the Rocket’s first ride.

The wind obliged, blowing upriver from the south at more than 15 knots, and the Frost seemed to taunt the Rocket by whipping up and back on the river.

Members of the North Shrewsbury club nominated Dan Clapp, of Red Bank, one of the top competitive ice boaters in the country, to take the Rocket’s helm.

Bob Pulsch, 80, a retired plumber from Port Monmouth, N.J., smashed the Champagne across the Rocket’s nose as club members cheered.

“Long live the stern-steerers,” they roared, and the Rocket took off to chase the Jack Frost on the frozen Hudson.