Why is this such a big deal for everyone in the world of Lightning sailing? Because Wooden Boat
magazine itself is a big deal. It's a slick, first-class publication with high-quality writing, photos and drawings. For Wooden Boat
to select the Lightning Class over, say, the Snipe, Thistle or Flying Scot, tells you that the Lightning class has, well, class.
Here's what Wooden Boat
says: "The 19' Lightning, designed by Sparkman & Stephens, is today one of the world¹s most popular one-designs. Racing fleets have been established around the globe."
"Why the Lightning?" I asked Wooden Boat
Editor Matthew Murphy.
"How many Lightnings have been built?" he asked me.
"About 15,000," I said.
That, pretty much, is the answer, said Murphy.
"I've been reading the Flashes for years and I've owned a beat-up old Lightning and it's one of the most popular one-designs in the world. We hadn¹t really done anything on racing classes, and it seemed like an ideal boat, given its popularity."
For the Lightning to be featured not in one issue of Wooden Boat
, but in three consecutive numbers of the magazine, is a public relations bonanza. The same number of pages of advertising would cost thousands. Flashes Editor Karen Johnson tells me ILCA can¹t afford to advertise in Wooden Boat
. Now they don't need to.
The impact is evident already. By mid-April this year, Karen tells me, she had sold 25 sail numbers for new Lightning boats. In a normal year - a whole year—commercial builders buy account for the 20–25 sail numbers ILCA sells. In the first quarter, she has assigned 25 numbers, and 17 went to builders of wooden Lightnings. That's 68 percent, and it indicates a sudden interest in the Lightning by non-professionals.
It's also exciting that none of these amateur builders are ILCA members. They are new to the Class.
"This is wonderful," said Johnson. While there is no reason the new woodies couldn't be raced, the people who are buying these plans are voicing a preference for day sailing and cruising, Johnson said.
This phenomenon could widen the interest in Lightnings. "There is a huge population of Lightnings that are not being raced, and we don't want to lose those boat—we¹re trying to get to the more general sailors," said Johnson.
's Murphy, the $14k selling price was a major feat, too.
"We had that much money into it, and I had to justify the project by getting the money back."
Justify the project? He did more than that. Wooden Boat
demonstrated that a state-of-the-art wooden boat can compete in price with the commercial builders. And they showed the Lightning for what it is—a classic boat.
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