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From the Desk of the Lightning Class Historian

October 1941 Flashes...
By Clayton Gray
Posted: 2020-12-08T14:23:00Z
October 1941 Flashes...

The most important thing about this issue of Flashes is that it is the only record we have of our third Nationals (NAs). Looking at the score sheet we have our Champion, John M Stern of Buffalo Canoe Club. But of interest is that the boat that crossed the finish line first in all three races is Howard Siddons who would partner with Harry Sindle to be one our more prolific builders both in wood and fiberglass. Siddons was DSQ in the second race ruining his chances for a Championship win. Now having dates and names we go to our collection of Yachting magazines and find in the October 1941 issue a write up of the races and some photos. 

This photo on page 128 shows the start of the final leg. The text give us a wind speed of 20kts and gusts to 30. Note the lead boat, Sterns, is reefed as most were for the race. Crews are sitting in with the skipper all the way aft. However Siddons is full sail with the crew sitting out and looking at Siddons position in the boat he has to have had a hiking stick (or really long arms). While not illegal, this "was just not done" by more traditional skippers! 

Maniping the photo we get a portrait of 'Beth' the first non Skaneateles Lightning to win decisively on the water.

Also we get a better quality photo of the winning crew.

Google turns up little on Stern, maybe our friends at BCC can help us out here. Crane is old line Lightning family but interestingly Bob Woods (listed as co-owner) is mentioned in Flashes as designer of the Bell Aircraft "Airacobra". We find that Woods was chief designer (and principle investor) in Larry Bell's aircraft business in Buffalo, NY. The Airacobra was the primary US fighter plane at the start if the war. It would be flown in all theaters by many Allied nations.

Check out the mid-fuselage engine placement allowing for a cannon on the nose. Woods would develop an all wooden fighter, the X-77, that Skaneateles Boat Co.  would develop molding techniques to make parts for. Woods would become famous for heading the design team to build the first plane to break the sound barrier, Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1.

What else would you expect of Fleet #12 !

Looking at he rest of the competitors we find many young folks. I will need to do a follow up in time on our youngster's successes over the years, something tells me we have more than any other Class. But note that racing was Jack Webb from Riverside Conn., Fleet 7, in #249. Jack would become a leader in the Class and would promote junior sailing. His daughter, Jane, would be crew. She would head the RYC program.  

1945 Lightning Class Yearbook

Jane's Mom was a photographer for Life magazine. She would would run a spread and cover shot of her daughter's program.

Note the date, 8/6/1945. This was the day the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan...

This one old Flashes has opened a door on our past. Think of what the ones will unlock.

(A note on our look at Mr. Cronk. COVID has locked down many of our online sources making follow ups hard to do just now.) Our founders were dynamic people living in interesting times. 

More to come... 

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