Fancy a spin? Quebecers in Abitibi break world record for largest ice carousel

An ice disk bigger than four CFL football fields has made a group of friends from Quebec's Abitibi region world record holders.

Jean-François Richard, along with ten of his friends and colleagues from Clerval, Que., about 100 kilometres northwest of Rouyn-Noranda, built the world's largest ice carousel last week, setting it spinning on Dec. 7.

"At this time of the year, there's not so much to do over there," Richard told CBC's Breakaway. "It's cold, not enough snow to do snowmobile, so we just decided to say, 'Hey, let's do it!'"

An ice carousel is made by cutting a round disk into a sheet of solid ice, causing the disk to spin on top of the water. Only once it spins a full rotation is the disk considered a proper carousel.

It was Richard's first attempt to beat the world record, something he's been wanting to do ever since he first saw the carousels on YouTube.

"It was a challenge between nations," he said. "The Americans did a big one last year, about 509 feet [155 metres] in diameter.… We just wanted to make it bigger!"

The Abitibi carousel had a final diameter of 209.7 metres and an area of 34,307 square metres. (By comparison, a CFL football field, including the end zones, is 8,152 square metres.)

Submitted by Jean-François Richard

While ice carousels are not recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, there is a World Ice Carousel Association that keeps track of big carousels. It recognized Richard's carousel as the largest yet.

The making of an ice carousel

Richard said the hardest part of making the carousel was the precision involved. There was only a 20-centimetre gap between the disk and the rest of the ice, and once completed, if the disk hadn't made a full rotation, its record size wouldn't count.

To make sure it was a perfect circle, they put a pole in the ice and tied a rope to a snowmobile, which drove around it. 

Once they traced the disk's perimeter, they had to actually cut through the ice.

"We decided to build ourselves a big chainsaw with two blades, to cut the [entire] gap at once," Richard explained. 

Submitted by Jean-François Richard

"We started building the saw first last year, and we did a test on a small scale," he said. "We had some modifications to make … and this year it worked perfectly!"

Richard said he and his friends didn't intend to tackle the world record over the weekend. Initially, they were planning to do a practice run with a 61-metre (200-foot) diameter disk.

But "our team said, 'Just do it bigger,'" said Richard, laughing.

Once the disk was cut, Richard's team used two outboard motors and snowmobiles attached to the ice with winches to get the disk spinning.

Richard said he was happy to know they'd beaten the world record, but he didn't expect the feat to garner the attention it did on social media.

"I'm sure my mom is pretty proud of us," he said.

Submitted by Jean-François Richard

A new challenger approaches

Because ice carousels can only be made under the right winter conditions, other teams will also be making attempts in the weeks to come, Richard said.

He's already received a call from a man in Minnesota who said they'll be trying to take the title away from the Clerval team in early January.

Submitted by Jean-François Richard

"There is a tradition in the ice carousel association that the actual record holder has to go physically, in person, to the side that tries to beat us," he said.

Richard said he plans to go to Minnesota with the trophy, so he can hand it over in person if they manage to beat his team's record. 

"But they have to be aware that Canadians are very competitive," he said. "We will just do better after them."

Richard said they plan to make another ice carousel next year, and he hopes the public will get involved in the attempt.

Watch Jean-François Richard's team beat the world record for largest ice carousel here: