Can you sail in Estonia during the winter?

Source: Visit Estonia

Can you sail in Estonia during the winter?

Usually, when summer ends in Northern Europe, so does the sailing season. Sometime in October, boats are lifted out of the water for winter, and sailors have to focus more on land-based activities. But not here in this part of the Baltic Sea. A whole new sailing season starts in Estonia for adrenaline junkies and those who can't stay off the sea. This is sailing on frozen water, also known as ice sailing.

Sailing on ice looks cool and sounds exotic, but it is actually pretty simple. It is a sledge with ice-blades and a sail to make it move. Estonia is one of the birthplaces of ice sailing and offers excellent conditions in Haapsalu andfirst ice trial or even to compete with the best sailors in the world Pärnu for your  once you are ready for the European or World Championships. Be sure to try ice sailing also in Saaremaa, Võrtsjärv or Saadjärv.

How ice sailing developed from trade to sport

Sailing on ice was a mode of transportation in the 17th century, dating back to the Hanseatic era when Estonia was a key part of a trans-European trade route. Ice sailing was one way to transport goods from one side of the frozen lakes and bays to the other. Traditional vessels were modified in winter by strapping blades or runners to the hull. Sailing on ice is extremely fast – this attracted more and more people and turned it into a sport. Speeds can easily be over 100 km per hour (60 mph) because of the low friction between metal blades and ice.

Ice sailing in Estonia

Photo by: Jaak Nirgi

Estonian ice-sailing design conquered the world

Ice sailing first became a sport in Estonia in 1888. In 1932, the legendary Erik von Holst designed the Monotype-XV ice yacht in Estonia. It became popular quickly, and more than 200 yachts were built in a few years, spreading across Europe. Nowadays, it looks almost the same as in the 1930s, and it is the largest monotype class in Europe today.

Explore your own (and nature's) boundaries

Sailing with these boats could seem too extreme in the beginning. But it is not, once you start and an instructor gives you a short introduction. It's more like a lot of fun and enjoying what nature has to offer. Of course, accidents happen, but this doesn't happen so often, and even when it does, you wear protection, a helmet and gloves, so you'll be alright, maybe just some bruises as souvenirs toyou as take home with  proof of your battle stories.

Yachting World visits Pärnu, Estonia, for DN Ice Sailing World Championships:

Sailing in Estonia on ice gives you a perfect way to discover the country from a whole different perspective. First of all, it's winter, cold, and unbelievably beautiful. So mostly, all the activities outside end with a hot sauna somewhere inside. And there are no crowds! You can enjoy nature in its true beauty, enjoying freedom while trying out something you may have never tried before. As ice sailing needs certain conditions (ice thickness, smoothness and wind), you can explore different locations in Estonia.

Oh, and you can drive a car on Europe's longest ice road that stretches over the frozen surface of the Baltic Sea, connecting Estonia's mainland to the island of Hiiumaa when looking for the best spot to sail. Weather permitting, of course.

Mini Transat winner Benoit Marie discovering ice sailing in Estonia (in French):

Last updated : 31.01.2024

In category: Activities & Adventure