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The ILCA Unveils International Fleet Development Initiative

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Centennial, CO – Many one-design classes are bemoaning the dramatic decrease in activity due to the economic downturn, but for the International Lightning Class Association (ILCA), the situation has spurred the class to action.   “The Lightning class has two main builders. Boat orders are down and it would be all too easy to foresee that one or both of them might not weather the economic storm,” according to John Faus, Treasurer of the ILCA. ILCA Executive Board Fifth Member Victor Lobos of Concepcion, Chile, agrees, “Without boat-builders, even a vital class like the Lightning could fade into history.”

But can a class association save not one but two businesses?  The short answer: maybe, if they can help generate new boat orders. Moving with unprecedented alacrity, the ILCA Executive Board has approved a new program to encourage development of fleets outside of the U.S. and Canada.  The program will offer assistance for overseas shipment of new and nearly new Lightnings in the form of advice, boat “matchmaking,” and funding to defray shipping costs. “I think everyone is concerned about what will happen in the next couple of months,” said class Secretary Rob Ruhlman. “It’s probably better to take action sooner rather than later.”

“John Faus and Victor Lobos are continuing our class’s creative spirit with their idea of the International Fleet Development Program,” said ILCA President Brian Hayes. “While we're very fortunate to have many quality builders producing Lightnings around the globe, the road block of shipping costs associated with exporting and importing boats has curbed the enthusiasm in many countries to build fleets and youth programs. We are hopeful that this program will provide a spark to our international fleets to upgrade their current boats and perhaps create an opportunity for new fleets to be developed throughout the world.”

On opposite sides of the equator, Faus and Lobos both recognized the danger facing the Lightning Class. They brainstormed via Facebook, e-mail and “good old-fashioned cell phone,” and the idea took shape as a low-risk gamble. “The class has had amazing success with the Boat Grant Program in North America,” explained Lobos. “So we hoped they might be open to another innovative idea on a broader scale.”  The innovative Boat Grant Program provides race-ready Lightnings for young sailors to campaign for a season free of charge.

“Victor knew he had several potential boat-owners lined up in Chile who just needed a little encouragement to get the ball rolling on a boat order,” said Faus.  “And we’ve touched base with fleets in Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Nigeria. We have high hopes for the program.”

“We have active fleets in Africa, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Ireland, Chile, Greece, and all over North America,” said Steve Davis of the ILCA International Growth Committee. “And with the Pan Am Games coming up in 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as the Worlds in 2011 in Buzios, Brazil, it’s important that we keep good competitive boats circulating outside the U.S.”


A three-person skiff designed by Sparks & Stephens in 1938, the International Lightning has a venerable history with the Pan American Games and U.S. Sailing Ladder Championships.  The ILCA World Championships, held alternating years, will take place this coming September on Lake Champlain in Vermont.

Program Specifics


In order to encourage the production of new Lightnings, the ILCA is offering incentives to get competitive boats to its international fleets, as well as advice and funding to make shipping boats via container easier and more affordable.  The program will be in effect on a trial basis for the first four full containers, and the offer will continue only through 2010.

The rules are simple: to qualify for the incentive program, a fleet (or individual) must import at least four Lightnings in a container from North America. The Lightnings must be new or nearly new, and the shipment must generate at least two new boat orders – either directly as boats to be shipped, or indirectly as boats to replace those shipped abroad. The subsidy per container is $2,500. The administrative committee must approve of the shipment, and will be available to help manage the logistics of shipment, the selection of boats, facilitate communication between buyer and seller.

For further information, please contact Victor Lobos, Chile  (valobos@lobosarq.cl or  56-41 274-9350), John Faus (johnfaus@yahoo.com), Steve Davis, (sdavis7625@gmail.com ), or the ILCA office (SKYPE: ILCAoffice, office@lightningclass.org, ph: 303-325-5886) or visit the ILCA website at http:www/lightningclass.org.



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