Design: Sparkman & Stephens, 1938
Over 15000 built
More than 500 fleets worldwide
Length: 19’0” (5.8m)
Beam: 6’6” (2m)
Displacement: 700 lb (318 kg)
Draft (board down): 4’11” (151.3cm)
(board up): 5” (12.8cm)
Mast height: 26’2” (7.9m)
Sail area (main & jib): 177 sq.ft.
(spinnaker): 300 sq.ft.
Crew (racing): 3

Take over 50 boats, start in Savannah, Georgia on March 10 and race for a couple of days in a narrow, shallow river area. Pick up, pack up and convoy down to Coral Reef YC in Miami, Florida where some more boats join the fray.

This is where I joined the Southern Circuit, due to some unforeseen travel complications. At Coral Reef there were 59 boats on a very long start line!

Now I’d never raced dinghies before and my one-design start experiences were limited to the odd NOOD regatta, with perhaps 20 boats on the line. This order of magnitude was all new to me. The sound of everyone counting down within a few feet of each other, the deafening cacophony caused by the luffing of crisp Dacron sails, the bumps and nudges as each boat vied for the extra few centimetres that would put them first (but not early) across the line. It was incredible.

They’re an old, established, and vibrant class. New Lightnings are made in such a way that they do not render an older model obsolete so no one gets an advantage just by buying a newer model – they have to bring the skill along with it. And there is a lot of skill in this class.

From the Lightning class site:

Ted Turner, Dennis Conner, Ken Read, Dave Dellenbaugh, Dave Curtis, Bruce Goldsmith, Tom Allen, Neal Fowler, Steve Benjamin, Ched Proctor, Bill Shore, Greg Fisher, Andy Horton are just a few of the rock stars who have competed in the Lightning. So, don’t be surprised if you look in the boat beside you and see one of them there!

After 2 days of racing in Miami, it was time to pick up and pack up again to head across the state to St. Petersburg YC in St. Petersburg, Florida. Here was the celebration of the 60th Annual St. Petersburg Winter Lightning Championship, and over 70 boats came out to mark the occasion.

While it appears to be primarily a North American class, it will be on display in Greece in July 2007 with the Lightning Worlds, Lightning Masters’ International and Lightning European being held in Piraeus at the Yacht Club of Greece. For details visit the website.