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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Cool runnings
From the Isthmus archives, Jan. 8, 1988
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Credit:Richard Hanson

The fastest iceboats are built "right on the brink of disaster," Bill Mattison explains in Isthmus staffer David Medaris' cover profile of the legendary Madison iceboat builder and racer. Mattison, 59, built his first Skeeter - an elite design capable of speeds well in excess of 100 miles an hour - way back in 1954. He called it Honeybucket I; II, III, IV and others would follow. He won his first International Skeeter Association championship in 1962, and his 10th ISA title in 1986. Now, after investing more than 300 hours of thought and effort in his Williamson Street boat-building workshop, Honeybucket VIII is finished. Built to brink-of-disaster specifications, it appears as fragile as it does sleek. Mattison can't decide whether it's "going to be a rocket or it's going to be a turkey." It proves the former: He sails it to victory in two races staged by the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Association over the Christmas weekend on Lake Kegonsa. Mattison ascribes his successes to experience, but he is also willing to endure substantial physical punishment. "You look like a little glider going out there," he says, "but I'll tell you, you come out of there hammered, black and blue, just pulverized." Today, Mattison continues to design and build state-of-the-art iceboats in his Williamson Street workshop, and still competes in regattas.

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