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Lightning Class Association

#15281 — The Newest Woody  Built and Sailing in Finland

In the season 2006 we got a brand new wooden Lightning on the race courses of Finland. As in the other parts of the Lightning sailing world most of the boats are made of fiberglass, but now the time has come for the original material.

There has been a serious problem in Finland and in the other European countries. New boats are available only in the US, and importing them is expensive. The only Finnish boat builder ended building Lightnings a few years ago. No new boats, now marketing of the Class and no new sailors.

The 1990’s was a decade of renaissance of the wooden boat in Finland. New boat builders are educated and there are already skillful young talents making their living in the wooden boat business. There has been great restoration projects. For example Finland has now one of the biggest fleets of 6 mR -boats in the world . There has also been a lot of development in the modern boat building technique.

All this made possible the idea of building a new competitive wooden Lightning. The first new wooden boat, FIN-15214, was built in 2004. This boat basically followed the lines of the original Lightning, which all of us who have seen the Lightnings of 1960’s still remember. The sailors of the Finnish District gave all the possible help to the builder in order to get a well working boat. The building process itself was a succes and the boat performs reasonably well.

In the autumn 2005 the Finnish Ditrict Champion Kimmo Aromaa and his team—his brother Mika Aromaa and cousin Juha Aromaa – decided to order a new wooden Lightning. The idea was to create a competitive boat with no compromises. The aim was to build a boat that would have a demand on the sailing boat market, hopefully not only in Finland but in the whole European Union. The boat should be fast, beautiful and the price should be reasonable.

A young boatbuilder Pyry Klippi was chosen to the task. He has a one-man company but he and several other boat builders have gathered together in Kotkan Puuvenekeskus (Kotka Wooden Boat Center) in the town of Kotka in Eastern Finland. So there was a network of help available in the project. (It can be mentioned that the quite famous 6 mR yacht US-80 "Djinn" designed by Sparkman & Stephens in 1938 was also restored in Kotkan puuvenekeskus and is nowadays sailing with the same name but under the Finnish flag and the sail number FIN-67.)
Before starting the building of the new Lightning the whole boat was designed by computer. This gave many advantages. First of all we could be sure that the boat fits the Class Rules. We had also the possibility to study different possible solutions and calculate how they would effect on the weight of the boat. The third aim was to automatize the building processa as much as possible in order to reduce the building cost. For example some of the parts, like all the frames, were laser cut in order to get them precise and to make the building process less time consuming.

The materials in the new Ligthning are:

  • Frames: Okume plywood, 9 mm + three thicker frames in the mast area
  • Bottom: Mahogany veneer, 10 mm cross-laminated with epoxy
  • Inner bottom: Okume plywood, 9 mm
  • Between the outer and inner bottom there is polyurethane foam for the buoyancy
  • Outer keel plank: Okume plywood
  • Inner keel plank: White cedar
  • Centerboard trunk: Okume plywood, 15 mm
  • Sides: Okume plywood, 9 mm
  • Transom: Okume plywood, 15 mm and mahogany veneer, 2.8 mm
  • Deck: Okume plywood, 6.5 mm
  • Seats: Okume plywood, 9 mm, the seats form air tanks for the buoyancy
The boat is painted all white with the exception of the mahogany veneered transom.

The boat was ready to sail in July 2006, just for the Europeans and Finnish District Championship in Jyvaskyla, Finland. As the first of its kind it still is a prototype. All the experiences are collected in order to find everything that could still be made better.
The boat is measured and it certainly is beautiful. It is slightly overweight, 331 kilograms instead of the minimun of 318 kilograms. The reason for this is propably a little bit too much of epoxy in the bottom. This should naturally be corrected in the next boat. The exact building cost hasn’t been calculated yet, but already by now we know that the price will be competitive if you put any value at all on the excellent woodwork and the beatiful appearance.

The main question was of course how the boat performs. The hull is stiff, and the boat works fine. The Europeans and the District Championship was the very first regatta for the new boat, and Kimmo Aromaa and his team managed to win the District Championship. In the Europeans Kimmo was in the 8th place. Kimmo won also the following regatta in the Ranking Series and in the last Ranking Regatta he was the 2nd with the team’s new boat. These results are of course good news for the Wooden Lightning Project. For the first time in many decades the Finnish District Championship was won with a wooden Lightning.

FIN-15281 will be seen sailing in the Europeans and the Worlds in Athens in 2007. Also a new boat will be built for the 2007 season. Some slight details, like the overweight, are corrected and improved in the next boat.

We would like to welcome you to take a look at FIN-15281 in Athens next summer (or why not in Finland if you pass by…). If you would like to have more information or you are interested in trying to sail the boat don’t hesitate to contact Juha Aromaa, e-mail, telephone +358-40-7717210, address Jaakonkatu 3 A 10, 05900 Hyvinkaa, Finland.

Juha Aromaa
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