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Chilean Lightning Lab

Published on 11/1/2018

Algarrobo, Chile Lightning Lab 2018

In early October (springtime in Chile) Kristine and I had the opportunity to travel to Chile to conduct a Lightning Lab.  We had never been to Chile, so this was a great opportunity to help the Chilean Fleet train for the upcoming Pan Am selection trials, visit friends and explore the country.  The Lab was held at Cofradía Nautica del Pacífico in Algarrobo which is about 100 kilometers West of Santiago on the Pacific Ocean. 

We took an overnight flight from the USA to Santiago.  After settling in at very nice boutique hotel (Victor nailed the recommendation) in a funky, artsy area of Santiago, we met Victor Lobos and Cristóbal Perez for lunch.  They welcomed us, and we went over the plans for the weekend Lab.  We have traveled a fair amount and there is something special about visiting a new country while catching up with long time friends who are natives.  For dinner we found a good tapas bar and indulged in delicious food, Chilean wine, Cuban rum, and great conversation before settling down after a long day-and-a-half of traveling.

Saturday morning, we enjoyed one of the best hotel breakfasts ever, before Victor and Alvaro Varela picked us up and took us to Algarrobo.  We were immediately impressed by the number of boats and the buzz of activity as we pulled into the club.  There were about a dozen Soto 40s, Opits all over, J-70s, 470s, foiling boats, Nacras, and more. There was a real sense of excitement about sailing at the club. We found many families, a “fort” complete with cannons to protect it, and to top it off, the club property is adjacent to a penguin sanctuary: what a cool place to sail!

Chilean Lightning Sailors

We found Tito Gonzalez in the boat park along with Trini, Javier Conte, Felipe Robles, (Ignacio, Francisco, Cristian) Perez and many more great sailors.  My first thought was: “How can I teach these guys anything about Lightning sailing?” The breeze in Algarrobo doesn’t usually fill in until after lunch, so I spent the morning tuning boats while Kristine helped some of the teams by going over boat handling techniques.  Kristine’s advice must have been especially good as some sailors were seen taking notes!  We had a quick lunch in the club restaurant and then headed out for an afternoon of sailing.

On the water we ran practice starts and then did short races on a windward leeward course.  From a RIB, we were able to give advice and get good video showing heel, sail trim and mark roundings. The skill level of this group of sailors was impressive.  At some point it seemed like every boat was in first, last, or somewhere in between.  After sailing we all gathered at the club to review video.  Being able to see what worked and doesn’t work helped all of us learn.  Watching the boat go sideways when it heels up and develops weather helm was probably the most dramatic illustration of what sometimes feels good but is clearly not fast.  Mostly, we saw video of Lightnings being well sailed!  Here are some quotes from participants:

"The Lightning Lab was a great chance for our local fleet to focus on boat handling, the sheets, and speed, without getting too focused on things like fine tuning, which is important, but if you can work on these aspects you can really improve your game"

Victor Lobos


" Todd made us focus a lot on boat heel, and how this affects boat speed, this was shown very clear when we reviewed videos on the debriefs after sailing"

Cristobal Perez



The Lab on Sunday was the same format but with a bit more wind.  All the boats usually got to the mark at the same time and with the left side often favored things got pretty exciting on the port tack layline!  After watching all of these teams sail, I can say that the battle for the Chilean spot in the Pan Am games is going to be intense. 

With our duties over at the Lab, we were off to Pucón on Monday morning.  Pucón is a beautiful mountain town south of Santiago known as the gateway to Patagonia.  It features Lago Villarrica, Volcán Villarrica, and has hosted many Lightning regattas including the 1981 Worlds. Tito and Ana Maria Gonzalez were kind enough to allow us to stay in their lakeside home. The mountains, countryside and hot springs in the area are stunningly beautiful. We experienced snow, rain and sun.  Hiking in the mountains followed by a swim in the hot springs is not to be missed.

On a more sobering note, while we were in Chile the Lightning family experienced a great loss.  Rose Simonsen Franke along with two of her friends were exporing a river in a Chilean National Park when their lives were taken in a tragic accident.  Rose was the daughter of Amy Simonsen and Bob Franke, both longtime Lightning sailors.  Rose had been chasing her dreams living and working in Chile.  Amy immediately traveled to Chile to deal with the situation.  Members of the Lightning “family” stepped up to help her and let her know that she was not alone in a foreign country to deal with her grief. Chileans are very friendly people who put family as their top priority and they took Amy in as one of their own. We cannot thank our Chilean friends enough for their kindness.


All of these events led us to consider why we sail Lightnings and have enjoyed spending time with our Lightning friends around the globe. We reached the conclusion that regardless of results, the truest takeaways from traveling either nearby or across hemispheres to sail Lightnings are the memories and friendships that we gain. Keep this in mind next time you are at a crowded mark rounding. Seeing new places, meeting new people, or learning more about your longtime friends is where so much of the fun in the ILCA is found. Thank you to our Chilean friends for being such wonderful hosts, and we look forward to coming back!

Todd and Kristine Wake



Kristine Wake_Chile         chile_waterfall       pucon volcano

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