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Number One

This is Where It All Began

Olin Stephens — April 2, 2003

The recent letter about Olin Stephens made a great point about an amazing man. Those of us dedicated our beloved square boat—the Lightning—get to thank him in person every ten years at our anniversary regattas.

As a tribute to our history, the ILCA has purchased and is donating Lightning Hull # 1 to The Mystic Seaport Museum in August during our Women’s, Juniors', Masters' North American Championships in Connecticut.

Anyone wishing to support this donation, may send to contributions to: ILCA 1528 Big Bass Dr, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689. Those Masters over the age of 55 with a total crew age of 130 years and invited to get a boat and join us!

From the Historian — November 16, 2002

Sandy and I spent a couple of hours at Mystic Seaport last week with the Curator for small boat administration. We saw Lightning One where it is being stored in the Mill Building (Watercraft Hall) across the street from the Museum. This building is being prettied up to be able to display boats, among them the Lightning. The ceiling is 26’ high, but as we have done at boat shows, we can tilt the boat slightly in order to show her with the mast up. At present all the sailboats in the small boat building on the grounds of the museum are not shown with their masts up.

The Mill building will be finished fully as soon as enough money is collected to do so. At this point, the building needs a nine milliom dollar donation

to finish it the way they would like—ANY ONE UP FOR THAT? They even will call it "lottery," Hal, but I have not won that yet. I have only won a couple of dollars here and there. In the meantime, they are just painting a large section for casual display.

The building also will serve as a resource center for all the records they have been accumulating and other storage for the museum grounds.

All of our records will be kept on the Web as we go forward, with that being the database for the Class. The Office and a few others will have access to this, and in the future, as technology changes, we can always be current. It is surprising some of the things that have turned up. If you are a long time member or have someone you know who is, please check out what someone may have and send it to me. I keep a pile that I scan when I have a few minutes and will then store all this on CDs.

Is there anyone who can and would scan one whole yearbook? Just one. I want to put these together ads and all into the records. Pick a year and let me know. I will do the little old ones this winter. The big ones start in 1947. Again I will be storing them on CDs.

Dave Peck is setting the schedule for the WJM at Niantic this summer and will have a Mystic evening planned for the presentation and reception at Mystic on the 13th. Those families that are there who wish to tour the museum earlier that day will be welcome.

Other Information

We are compiling a record of Trophies. Karen will give me the major World and NS, SA and European Champions with the year and Club/Fleet, but it would be nice to have our District Championships and major regattas recorded also. Whoever is the current Champion, please copy the names on the trophy, years and fleets, the deed of gift and history if you have it, and take a picture—digital is fine and send it to

A reminder to everyone when sending in pictures or any information to the office, a yearbook editor, Web, or m—please put the name(s) and date of who is included in a picture and references to anyone who writes text. We can’t keep stuff unless it is identified.
Thanks to all those who have sent us info. You can also send things that you have digitally to either myself or Mark to perhaps use on the web.
As we come to the end of the year and you have some extra dollars to contribute to Number One—we are over half way there. Happy holidays to all!


From the Historian — September 22, 2002

I had promised to write a more detailed report on the details for Lightning One to be donated to Mystic Seaport.  We will have this written in the section on Number One on the Web in a few weeks. I will make a list of things to be included, and Bill Faude will write up a letter of intent and explanation.  We really do need questions that you would like answered—I have not received any so far and please, if you have something you would like to know let us know.

I did talk this afternoon to Peter Vermilya, the curator for Watercraft at the Seaport. They are in the process of finishing an old mill that they acquired which will be called the American Maritime Education and Research Center—where we hope to have the Lightning on display is in this building. It appears that as of just recently part of the building, which they will eventually set up as Watercraft Hall, is where the Lightning will be on display. They just received a grant to help go for renovations to the building and the hall. As you might all know, they depend on donations of all kinds.  All of this takes patience so please bear with us.

For those of you who might be going to visit the Museum in the meantime, you can be shown our boat. It is best to call ahead so that someone is there to greet you. Mystic is open everyday of the year, with the exception of Christmas and one or two other days.

Sandy and I technically own the boat under our guarantee to Jack Ryan to pay him for it through your donations to the Class treasury or through us paying him for it. We are over half way there at this point. As this year comes to a close, please feel if you can to send a donation for the project.

Historical Note of Interest:

Our President asked about the gavel, which he holds, and it's inscription. "MADE FROM THE AMERICA'S CUP YACHT "AMERICA" 1854–1947 TO THE INTERNATIONAL LIGHTNING CLASS ASSN. FROM ROBERT F. MORRIS, L.E.H.Y.C. INTERNATIONAL REGATTA, 1958."

I will be talking to his son tomorrow, who is currently a member of the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club and its Race Committee. We have asked him to tell us how the acquired the wood from the destroyed yacht  "America." Thank you Franz (Schneider) for getting me Bob's telephone number.

I do get comments on the "trivia" pictures. You do have great imaginations.

As always, please send us any information you think will be helpful in preserving our history.  As we enhance the website, we will have a place for those who have won perpetual trophies through the years, so put your fleet or district trophy winners in order. We will have a template for you to follow later in the year.

Thank you for all the input.


                                                           Jig for building Lightnings?

The Caretaker

Nothing whets a collector’s appetite more than hearing that the first unit—Serial Number One—of some old product is still around. When I heard that Lightning #1 would be on display at Mystic Seaport the weekend of June 15–17, 2001, I got pretty excited. I’d already agreed to be there myself, showing Plug Nickel, my Lightning #9900. But the sight of this old boat. Number One, with the light green deck and cracked transom was the highlight of the show. By Sunday, ILCA President Mary Huntsman, her husband Sandy and Secretary Karen Johnson had cut a deal whereby the Association will buy Lightning #1 and loan it to Mystic Seaport Museum.

It was a happy outcome for Number One. But it could have been different. There was a time when an owner was desperate to rid himself of the old woodie and its ritual upkeep. Nobody—not the Smithsonian, not the town of Skaneateles where it was made, even—wanted to buy the boat. For many artifacts, that is the critical fork in the road. Does it go the landfill, or will someone step forward and take responsibility for it?

This is How Lightning #1 Was Saved

Summer of 1971. An FBI agent from the bureau’s Utica office jumps into one of New York’s Finger Lakes and swims out to a sadsack wooden sailboat moored offshore.

What’s he looking for?

Was this part of some big drug sting or white collar crime investigation? Truth is that Jack Ryan, then 33, couldn’t have explained even to himself why he was splashing toward that woebegone sailboat.

Because it was for sale? But Ryan already had a sailboat. It was a wooden Lightning, #754, made by the Skaneateles Boat Co. in Skaneateles, N.Y.

“Most beautiful I’d ever seen in my life,” Ryan says.

The summer before, Ryan had discovered the immaculate Lightning. When he saw it, he traded his power boat for the Lightning and went sailing. By spring of 1971, he was sailing Lightning #754 at Oneida Lake. What more did he need? He had a fine looking, great sailing classic boat.

One day he visited another of the Finger Lakes. At a boat club on Cazenovia Lake, someone pointed to a bulletin board. A 3-by-5 card noted that the first Lightning ever built was for sale—$1,500 for boat, trailer, sails, cover. Urged by his wife and kids to go have a look, Ryan drove to the seller’s house. That’s all he wanted to do, Ryan says. Just see what the first Lightning looked like.

Problem was, the boat was moored 30 yards offshore. The owner wanted badly to sell it, though, so he lent Ryan swimming trunks.

No tender. It was swim or go home.

Back in the car, his wife and kids were waiting for him to go see the boat.

“I’m upset at my wife for getting me into this,” Ryan said.

As Ryan and the owner, Hume Laidman, were paddling out to the boat, Laidman said, “I’m asking $1,500, and I’ll take twelve.”

Ryan, not the greatest swimmer, didn’t answer. He looked at the boat. “It was a mess. It was awful. The cover was almost rotted. It was dirty. There was water in the bottom, plus six inches of leaves.”

Somehow, all these negatives turned Ryan’s head.

“I’m interested,” Ryan said. Why? It was Number One.

“I wanted to buy it right then, but he insisted I come back and sail it before I buy it.”

A few days later, Ryan went back. The boat had been spruced up, but it was still dirty. It didn’t matter. Ryan had a plan.

That winter, Ryan’s car stayed outside. In the garage, he sanded the hull. Originally, he knew, the hull was painted white and the deck was green.


By the time Ryan got it, someone had painted it red, white and blue. Ryan removed all the paint andtook off the canvas, which was cracked.

“I put every screw in a bucket, which was stupid—every screw was a different size.”

“I had fun tearing it to pieces.”

Ryan re-painted it red, white and blue. He left the inside of the hull gray.

He noticed oddities, the sort of inconsistencies consistent with a prototype. The cockpit coaming on one side is 3/4 inch deeper than on the other. Floorboards have notches cut in them, as if they were made out of remnants from some other project.

When it was built in 1938, #1 had no skeg. Ryan eventually put a skeg on it to make conform to Class rules. He didn’t notice any difference in the way it sailed, with or without the skeg.

Over time, Ryan learned his boat’s history. The first owner was Gordon Cronk, who bought it the same day Skaneateles took the first publicity photos of its new product. Number One was shown sailing without a rudder, steering by trimming sails.

The second owner, Lou Ayres, who eventually had the centerboard trunk re-built and covered the bottom with fiberglass. It was leaking. He also documented the boat’s history. He acquired negatives of old Skaneateles Boat Co. publicity photos for Number One. I asked Ryan if there was a drain plug, and he laughed. “The centerboard trunk!” he said. If the water leaks in through the trunk, it can go back that way.

A previous owner installed a motor well, but Ryan covered it.

Ryan has re-finished the boat three times. He found that the deck is plywood, not planked like later production boats.

Hume Laidman was desperate to sell the boat in 1971. “He didn’t want to put it away again,” said Ryan.
Laidman had contacted the Smithsonian. “They showed a great deal of interest, but as a donation,” said Ryan.
Laidman contacted the city of Skaneateles to see if they wanted to buy the first edition of the boat that made their town famous among sailors. “They wanted to buy it, but he wanted $1,500. $1,500! Who did he think he was?”

Laidman put modern hardware on the boat. Ryan removed the new stuff and gradually added vintage bronze pieces. The boat has its original belaying pins in the pin rack behind the mast. There is a big round bronze winch for holding the jib sheets. Lines and sheets are manila hemp, though he couldn’t get hemp of the quality available in the 1930s.

In 1972, Ryan took #1 to the 1000 Islands Antique Boat Show in Clayton, New York. It was mainly a power boat show. He was told he could leave it on display for a time, but “get it out of the way when the nice boats come.”
One of the judges was Howard Chapelle, boatbuilding historian from the Smithsonian Institution. Another was Moulton Farnham, editor of Small Boat Journal.

The judges ruled Lightning #1 classic boat of the year. “We didn’t leave that spot when the fancy boats came,” laughed Ryan.

Ryan came to Mystic last week(June 15–17, 2001) with one goal: He didn’t want to take #1 back home to Peoria, Illinois. What he wanted was a commitment to pay him $25,000 for the boat. Sunday afternoon, Ryan hit the road for Peoria.

Number One still sat where he rigged it. A hard, long rain was coming down and there was a good two inches of water in the bottom. Underneath, you could see water dripping out. Through the centerboard trunk.

Lightning Number One won’t be leaving Mystic. It is the fancy boat.

Joel Thurtell can be reached by e-mail at or by snail mail at: 11803 Priscilla Lane, Plymouth, MI 48170

                                                 We've Come a Long Way, Baby!


I found the ILCA website several weeks ago and have enjoyed surfing through it. I grew up sailing at Milford Yacht Club, Milford, Connecticut, Fleet #238. It all started when my father (Harrie Patrick) bought a sailboat in the fall of about 1958 or 59. The fact that it was delivered in a dump truck should have been a clue! He spent the winter in the garage, rebuilding the whole boat. It was hull #517. The bottom was 1" wide strips of wood, so took a loooooong time to finish. It leaked like a sieve- and since it was dry-sailed, it continued to leak! At the time, there was a very active fleet at Milford. Dad raced the boat, but always came in last. I'm not even sure it measured in. My older brother, Hal, crewed for Dad. Over a couple of years, Dad ended up on the Committee Boat and my brother got a "hot" boat, #7520, and continued to race. #7520 was originally owned by Bud Olson, it was named "Padalin" for Pa, Dave, and Lynn or Lin. We renamed it "Paladin" as the TV show of that name was very popular. Hal was very successful. At the time I crewed with Dr. David and Davey Brown, in an #8925, I think. We won the Governor's Cup around 1963, and qualified for the Nationals, held that year at Mission Bay. Hal got to go to California with the Browns- they didn't want a 13 yo girl tagging along! They drove straight through from the east coast to the west, trailering the boat. I don't recall how they did.

I remember the First Lightning Worlds, held in Milford. Folks from all over the world, and that lousy old clubhouse. It burned down that winter after the Worlds and was replaced with a very fine building that still stands. Too bad it didn't burn down the winter BEFORE. It was a busy time- all the sailors housed the world-wide contingent of guests participating in the Worlds. Somewhere, I think my mother still has newspaper clippings about the event.

Have had a lovely trip down memory lane looking at the great photos. I don't sail anymore, except once in awhile if an opportunity presents itself.

I'm going back to Connecticut in July. If you'd have any interest in the news clippings that might still be around, let me know and I'll look.

I'm thrilled about #1 going to Mystic Seaport!!

Marcia Patrick

Do You Have Any Suggestion for Paul—New Owner of 280—December 1, 2002

Hello, My name is Paul Marchand.  I just bought lightning #280 from Aron Buterbaugh. The boat is currently stored in the Cayuga Wooden Boatworks and has already had some significant money put into her.  Work should begin again after the new year.

I sailed on a Llightning as a kid in Buffalo, New York, but later got into messing about with old cars (from the '30s) and airplanes.  A little over a year ago, I moved to Clearlake, California—just about the perfect lake for a small, shallow draft vessel.  This jarred fond memories of Lightnings from many years ago.  So I looked around, and now I own #280.
I have a strange  psychological aberration that causes me to like antiques from the pre-1945 era.  I don't know where this came from.  On my days off work I have the strange habit of driving around in either my 1939 Ford woodie station wagon (purchased new by my grandfather), or my 1932 MG type J2 (restored from a burnt out rusty parts car).  Both these are fairly authentic restorations painted original colors.  They have both won prizes in shows; but, more importantly, they are also used regularly.

As evidenced by your article about Llightning #1, you have done quite a bit of research concerning early lightnings.  This is information that is very interesting to me because I had hoped to do repairs that would be consistent with the standard that has justified the success of lightnings over the years.  Since my Lightning was built only one or two years after #1, I was hoping that fitting, rigging and paint schemes might be more or less consistent among the early boats.

In January, the new keel is going in, along with several new ribs and planks (all professionally installed at Cayuga Wooden Boatworks).  With luck I'll be able to fetch her to her new home in California in early February.  The more mindless work (suitable for my background in automobiles and airplanes as a hobbyist), will be finished by me with the goal of a Springtime launch. Any technical help you could give will be gratefully accepted.  Please feel free to email or call at any time.


Paul Marchand, M.D.
4771 Kah-Bel Trail
Kelseyville, California 95451
H (707) 277-7670 | W (707) 272-7872


Appreciating Olin

In the June issue of SAIL now finding its way onto the stands, we have an appreciation of Olin Stephens written by Roger Vaughan. Thank you, Roger. But one magazine cannot contain Olin Stephens. We think of pivotal America's Cuppers such as Intrepid. We think of pivotal ocean racers such as Dorade, but there is so much more to this 95-year-old dynamo. See the boats in
If you looked at the boats in the shed and said "Lightnings," congratulations. You know your stuff. This story was shared with us by the Lightning Class:

At the 60th Anniversary regatta of the Lightning, sailors were standing in the boat park studying a brand new boat. Among them was Olin Stephens, a man associated—in the minds of many—with America's Cup defenders and high-end ocean racers. In the mindset of this group, however, Olin Stephens is "The Genius Who Designed the Lightning."

Someone said, "Olin, you've been looking at the Lightning as long as anyone in the world. If you could design the boat all over again, what would you change?" There was a pause as he considered the question. After a long time he began to speak, "Do you think, (another pause) we really need that skeg?"

There was a round of laughter.

"You're supposed to know that," was the reply. Mr. Stephens just smiled, crouched under the boat, and ran his hand along the skeg, "Has anyone tried sailing without it?" he said.

His listeners were stunned. Fifteen thousand Lightnings into the run, the boat's designer was still open to a possible design improvement. Maybe that's what made Olin Stephens the giant of his generation. The guy's still looking for the next performance improvement. He can't turn it off. And that's why at age 95 he always seems like the youngest person in the room. At that moment, if anyone had produced a saw, we would gladly have hacked off a skeg and gone out for two-boat testing.

Lightning #1—Ready for Restoration

As a tribute to Mr. Stephens and everyone who's ever loved the Lightning, the International Lightning Class Association has recently purchased Lightning Hull #1. The Association is raising funds for a full restoration, and when it is complete, the boat will be displayed at historic Mystic Seaport Museum, where it will join Laser #1 and a first-generation Star. Due to its fragility, Lightning #1 has not been on view for over 10 years.

Mystic will display the boat mast-up, with original cotton sails. But, the boat won't be locked away all the time. Provisions have been made for Lightning #1 to make the pilgrimage to upstate New York for the 70th Anniversary regatta and the 80th and beyond.

Close examination of Lightning #1 reveals the beautiful inconsistencies consistent with a prototype—even one that went on to become a legend. The cockpit coaming on one side is three-fourths of an inch deeper than on the other. Floorboards have notches cut in them, as if they were made out of remnants from some other project. But one look at the boat and it's obvious that every boat sailing in over 300 active fleets in more than 14 countries traces its DNA to the boat waiting in Mystic.

Pictures from the original brochure don't seem to show it, and the original plans include one, but previous owners' accounts indicate that when it was built in 1938, #1 had no skeg. Hmmm...

Postscript: The 60th reunion took place in 1998 at Skaneateles Lake in New York's finger lakes region—the home of Lightning Fleet #1 and the waters where Hull #1 first set sail in 1938. The class reunion, held every ten years, routinely draws 200+ boats. For decades, Mr. Stephens has attended these reunions (despite the way that he puts people at ease, it's hard to imagine calling him anything other than "Mr. Stephens"). So what's it like to meet a legend? Imagine meeting Henry Ford in the flesh at a Summer Mustang Rally, and you're close.

Anyone wishing to support the donation and restoration of Hull #1, may send to contributions to: ILCA 1528 Big Bass Dr, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689. All contributions are tax-deductible

But Why Olin, Designing the Lightning?

At an Americas Cup fund-raiser at the Columbia Rope Company, in neighboring Auburn, New York, John and George Barnes, owners of the Skaneateles Boats Company, had met naval architects Rod and Olin Stephens, of Sparkman and Stephens, and discussed the idea of a completely new boat. This boat would be 19' long, providing room for a family; it would incorporate the hard chine of the Comet, allowing simplified construction; and it would provide the high performance required of a one-design class racer


By late 1935, Olin Stephens II had completed the plans for the Lightning. Over the next two years, the Skaneateles and Sparkman & Stephens teams
consulted with each other on the construction of the boat that would become the Lightning. Hull #1 was launched in October 1938 at the Skaneateles Country Club and used as a test bed for the Lightning development program. In the winter of 1938, the Barnes' took Lightning #1 to the New York City boat show, and were rewarded with numerous orders. It seemed the Barnes' had a successful design on their hands.

Olin Stephens and the Barnes' recognized the unique contribution that the boat could offer to one-design sailing and decided to treat the Lightning with unprecedented generosity. Rather than retaining exclusive rights to the design, they donated the rights to the then brand new Lightning Class Association. This contribution ensured that anyone who wanted to could build a Lightning, and all design royalties would contribute to the strength of the class association.

John Barnes became the first national champion in 1939.

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