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Lightning Class - Capturing the Imagination
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The Publisher
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Dec 3, 2012, 7:45 AM

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CAPTURING THE IMAGINATION
While the Lightning may not be sexy looking or high performance to sail, its strong class leadership has helped it to remain popular for over 70 years. Participation remains strong, with the class attracting both top competitors and family programs. Scuttlebutt asked some of the class insiders how the Lightning continues to capture the imagination of today's sailors.

Here are comments from Dave Starck, class booster and top competitor:
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1) The Lightning Class has been focused on / working hard at attracting and retaining college and post-college sailors. The ILCA Boat Grant program targets these sailors and it's been effective. The percentage of 'Boat Grant Grads' who have bought boats and/or still compete in the class is extremely high.

2) Leadership. The class has a history of strong class officers and executive secretary (class office). Today's management is as good as ever, and Laura Jeffers (ILCA Exe. Sec) is rock solid. Communication with members, promoting regattas, etc, etc is non-stop, plus we are effectively using multiple social media outlets. Really good stuff.

3) Supporting the fleet internationally. We have a program in place where the class subsidizes shipping costs to get new or nearly new boats overseas. Keeping the class strong in non-North American countries is a priority. This has been keeping the boat builders very busy. There are a ton of new boats being sailed today and the builders have lots of orders.

4) At my club (Buffalo Canoe Club, Ridgeway, ON), we have our own version of a Boat Grant (BCC Boat Grant). The fleet owns a Lightning and we go thru a similar process as the class. We have so many kids feeding into the Lightning it feeds on itself.

5) Finally, it's a tremendous boat/design for any/all ages. Excellent leadership, very good sailors, strong internationally, the list goes on. The 2013 Worlds will be held in Italy next June.

Charleston, SC reflects a recent success story. Three years ago there were less than five Lightnings in Charleston, and maybe three of them were active. Today there is well over 20 active boats and growing. Local class champion Greg Fisher helped, but ultimately a group of one design sailors got together with a list of criteria and all chose to buy Lightnings - instant fleet. Recently there was a regatta with 39 boats. Good stuff.
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GRANT: The International Lightning Class Association is now accepting applications for the 2013 ILCA Boat Grant Program. The program, entering its seventh season, offers a few select teams the opportunity to sail a race-ready boat in one of the strongest one-design classes in North America. Details: http://www.lightningclass.org/...013/pressRelease.asp




The Publisher
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Dec 3, 2012, 5:43 PM

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Here are comments from Ed Adams, past Star world champion and new Lightning owner:
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The Lightning Class has always been forward thinking about class growth.

Every person on the boat has to join the class, but I think it is only $10 for a crew. That puts them on an email list, so they get the newsletter and regatta announcements.

Every regatta has a standard web page, with links for local housing, and a list of "who's coming." You can easily search the archives to see what attendance was like in the past. And if you within driving distance, they send you email prompts every week about upcoming events and why you should attend.

At the regattas you have the aging class stalwarts, and a smaller, but still sizeable contingent of sailors who have graduated from the youth program. The average age is still quite a bit older than you would want for a healthy class, but they have managed to keep regatta attendance up.

They held the NAs in Houston this year, which I thought was risky, given that only 13 Laser Full Rigs showed up for the NAs in Houston the month before. But 50+ Lightnings came, and I think that speaks very highly of the class. The primary builder, Tom Allen, has a year's backlog of boat orders (usually around 10 boats), again a healthy sign.

As for me, I was looking for a class with a healthy regatta schedule, good competition, and a boat that was inexpensive to purchase and maintain. Cheap entertainment. You can get a regatta-winning used boat like mine for 10 grand, and other than sails, you really don't have to spend much to maintain it. Class rules are strict, so it really is a "turn-key" proposition. I don't have the energy anymore to spend my evenings upside down under the foredeck trying to invent custom rigging systems.


The Publisher
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Dec 4, 2012, 5:22 PM

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Here are comments from John Faus, International Lightning class president:
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We are working hard on our Boat Grant program ...and keeping touch with the alums of the program. We have had a pretty decent retention of BG alums and we keep in contact with them often. We also just appointed two Boat Grant alums to take control of the program itself. Will Brown (2010 All American from Brown) and Justin Coplan (RIT alum and an amazing natural talent).

The trick is getting them initially out sailing, meeting the people, seeing the depth of talent, being an international class with opportunities to go overseas, amongst other things. It is tough to compete against the various sexy sport boats that continue to pop up (some surviving/some not).

We are also exploring the idea of a class sponsored boat loan/finance program. Maybe three boats per year? Still developing the idea. We are lucky that the class has a decent amount of money invested in the ILCA fund!

A growth area for the Lightning is to harness the young people who were products of Opti/420 youth sailing, and perhaps sailed collegiately, and are now unsure how to remain engaged in the sport. We just try our best to introduce them to the class, and with an older class like the Lighning, there are affordable starter boats that are plenty fast. I recently recruited a girl who basically quit sailing after graduating from Harvard (over 6 years ago!) She is now active in the Long Island Sound. I am sure she is the norm.


Bruce Thompson
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Dec 5, 2012, 10:23 AM

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If I could add my two cents to the comments by John Faus, President of the Lightning Class, it would be to expand the boat grant program to more kids by using older, cheaper boats. We recently had a boat grant recipient team composed of three boys here in Chicago. The costs associated with buying the boats (and more critically paying mooring fees for) limits the size of the program.

If I had the chance, I would get a couple of older Lightnings and make them available to the sisters of the previous grantees. The girls are quite young and do not have the financial wherewithal to buy and maintain new boats, but they do have the sailing talent necessary to learn to sail them. Then the veteran sailors of Lightning Fleet 5 would need to use their influence to convince the Government Powers That Be in the Chicago Park District to let the girls sail in a Pan American Games class boat, so as to show the IOC that they were mistaken when they chose to go elsewhere for the 2016 Olympic Games!
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I also would like to ask that people look at my post on the future belonging to the girls elsewhere on this forum.

Here's why...

In the long and storied history of Lightning Fleet 5, no one would argue that some of our greats were Bruce Goldsmith, Bob Smither, Mike Huffman and Bill Faude. I would argue that the list of greats should also include Audrey Matteson, Karen Johnson, Terrance Fox and Bonnie Hawkins. When we lost them, we lost of lot of what made us a fleet. We need to put more emphasis on getting girls into Lightnings!





jon159785
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Dec 8, 2012, 10:01 AM

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For clarification... it was the US Laser Nationals that was held in Houston and there were 14 standard rigs, 43 radials, and 24 4.7s. Certainly less attendance in all fleets than we typically see at a US Nationals, but more than 13. The North American's were held at the Columbia River Gorge later in the summer. Results.


Quote
RE: Here are comments from Ed Adams, past Star world champion and new Lightning owner:


.....They held the NAs in Houston this year, which I thought was risky, given that only 13 Laser Full Rigs showed up for the NAs in Houston the month before. But 50+ Lightnings came, and I think that speaks very highly of the class....






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