Interview / Sailing News

Shoreline Interview: Thurston Smith’s documentary film – Frostbiters

Thurston Smith

Thurston Smith

Emmy Award winner, Thurston Smith has captured the sport of winter sailboat racing in a new documentary film Frostbiters. Thurston graciously offered to answer a few of our questions about the film.

How was the idea for Frostbiters conceived?

I grew up sailing at Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Centre Island NY, and when I was a kid, I watched the frostbiters out in their Dyers in the snow and the cold… and was absolutely fascinated with this. When I grew up and got in the film business, I thought that it would be interesting and a lot of fun to do a film on this area of the sport.

By chance, are people from Rochester, or Western New York (my area) in the film?

The IC fleet from Rochester Yacht Club is covered in the documentary. Fittingly, the day that I went up to interview and film Sunday sailing, it snowed almost two feet. So it was awesome frostbiting!

Can you foreshadow any scenes that you really enjoyed shooting?

All of the footage and fleets that I filmed were all visually stimulating in their own ways.  But it is always the most fun and memorable to meet the sailors and to get to know them and why they do this – that is the footage that stands out to me the most. And that is what I hope to demonstrate in this documentary.

Where did you find frostbiters to be most dedicated, or perhaps most competitive/extreme?

All of the forstbiters that I have met are dedicated – they wouldn’t be out in these conditions if they weren’t.  But some fleets are more competitive than others – most of the larger IC fleets, the Laser fleet at Sail Newport, to name a few.  Perhaps the most extreme are the sailors in the Cape Cod Frosties – due to the boats and the size of them… just crazy!

This is extreme weather filming – did it cause any problems?

Sparkman & Stephens: 11' 6" Interclub Dinghy

Sparkman & Stephens: 11′ 6″ Interclub Dinghy

Filming in harsh conditions like this can be tough on the equipment. For example, at Riverside Yacht Club I filmed Sunday frostbiting during a Nor’easter/blizzard – brutal wind, white out conditions (which was completely insane). And although it provided some of the most extreme footage, it is very challenging to film action that you can’t see – you have to know where the action is without seeing it.

Have there been showings? And, when is the movie coming out or available for viewing?

Some screenings are being discussed at some yacht clubs in and around New England. From there, I’ll hit the film festival circuit, and see what kind of response it gets both within the sailing community and beyond.

Do you have a new project in the works (sailing or not)?

I have some projects that I am thinking about, and would certainly like to do more sailing projects.  

This film, although about winter sailing and the extreme conditions, is still firmly based on the principle of the love for sailing – snow, ice and very cold temperatures are simply conditions that these sailors will sail straight through.

Link to Information about Thurston Smith’s SPK Independent Film Productions

Rochester Frostbiters

“Frostbiters” captures images of Hojack iron bridge – Port of Rochester, NY