How Do I Learn More?
On the front page of the website www.lightningclass.org follow the navigation links under Resources to a list of Active Lightning Fleets. Follow this link and you will be able to locate fleets and most importantly Fleet Captains in your area. Call your local Fleet Captain to find out about racing opportunities. The focus of the Class organization is on competitive sport, not recreational sailing. Some fleets are more race centered than others. You don’t have to be rabidly competitive to participate, but expect the top tier of sailors in any District to be world class competitive sailors.
Also note that most organized sailing venues are clubs. These clubs vary in facilities, activities, and cost. Know the local club situation before you buy a boat.
If you are interested in restoring an older boat we have a very active group, to communicate with this group on the front page of the web site, top navigation links, find Resources, then the bottom link will be Wooden Boats. Follow this link to a wealth of information and resources.
What Do I Need to Know About the Boat?
The Lightning was designed in 1938 as a wooden planing sloop. The boat saw very rapid growth until 1942, again in the early 1950’s and then in the 1960’s as sailors turned to fiberglass hulls.
What is perhaps unusual in the boat is that the designers, Sparkman and Stevens, gave the Class association not only rights, but ownership of the design and the name. All royalties for many of the boat’s components, including the hull, mast, and sails go to the International Lightning Class Association, who also regulates the design and the Class activities. This fact is probably the biggest single reason for the continued success of the Class. It is also the reason the boat gets but limited “press” in the various journals or shows. Class ownership means limited manufacturer control and fewer paid advertisements.
Over time the boat has evolved into a superb match of the needs of the rig and crew to the capabilities of fiberglass shapes. About the only thing which could benefit greatly benefit from the tremendous shaping advantages that glass offers over wood is the bottom, especially the flat forward entry. However the hull shape is what defines the boat. That shape is the hallmark characteristic.
The rig itself is very capable and in many ways was front runner as a modern, backstayed, flexible mast design. While rig changes, including sails, reefing etc, are infinitely possible, the rig is a great performer as it is. Simply put, the rig is under powered below 8 knots, perfect from 8 to 15 knows, overpowered but controllable to 25 knots and requires considerable skill above 25 knots.. As will all sailboats, one should look at the prevailing wind velocities where they plan to sail before deciding the Lightning is the right boat for them.