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Big reasons for Big numbers at Lightning North Americans

Published on July 31st, 2014

Over 100 boats are expected when the Lightning North Americans get underway next week in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. With participation in the championship having hovered in the 50s for the previous three years, that’s a big bump. However, as event co-chair Bill Faude explains, who is also VP/Marketing for the class, this was the turnout they were expecting….

The Lightning is showing real, measurable strength. We don’t think that strength is surprising, even in this one-design sailing environment where the incredibly shrinking leisure time problem is a challenge we all bang against. We think it’s coming from marketing an interesting, often thrilling boat with a well-run organization that finds ever-better ways to understand its members.

The most important ingredient to the Lightning class is that we’re not afraid to make adjustments to our longstanding traditions if our members think the time has come for change.

Last Spring, we did a trial, reducing our Southern Circuit from three to two venues, after members indicated in a survey that less travel for more racing would stimulate more participation. It did. We increased our participation substantially versus previous year in an environment where other one-designs saw much smaller fleets. Yes, there was a lot of discussion about abandoning tradition…and tradition is VERY important in our Beloved Square Boat, but wooden masts were a tradition too and our move away from those in 1967 has proven to be a success.

The Lightning has just had its most well-attended European Championship in over 15 years in Greece, with the most boats from the host country in more than 20 years. This was a result of lots of effort by our Greek members and a ton of work by folks in the USA who found/ sold/ spruced up competitively-priced boats, and shipped a container to Greece last fall. Every one of those boats was on the water in Greece where they might have been in a storage building over here.

We still have a lot of work to do in expanding the class in Europe, but we’re committed to similarly growing ourselves in Italy and Switzerland. Currently, we’re thriving in South America with a new builder in Brazil, with explosive growth in Chile and renewed interest in Argentina and Columbia. Ecuador is always strong.

This is kind of a secret, but there is also a large fleet of new Lightnings in Lagos, Nigeria and new boats in Sydney too. Shhh!

With regard to the 2014 North American Championship, our Organizing Committee set a goal of 100 boats last September and we’ve been blogging about our regatta prep since then. (Editor’s note: This blog is brilliant. Check it out here:

We’re pretty unabashed about begging people to come, with both myself and co-chair Todd Wake personally reaching out to invite class members. We wanted them to know that ALL Lightning sailors were welcome and wanted. To ease family logistics, a week long sailing/fun camp for the children of participants is being hosted by Sheboygan Youth Sailing Club.

No doubt we’re taking advantage of a “Perfect Storm” of enticing regatta conditions:

  •  It helps that some South American teams are attending to attempt to country qualify for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. We normally get 8-10 South American teams but there are more coming this year. And we’ve worked to get them charter boats.
  • It helps that this year’s NAs are the US qualifier for next year’s World Championship which are being held at the Buffalo Canoe Club (Ridgeway, ONT) which is many people’s favorite place on this planet to sail Lightnings.
  • It helps that the regatta is taking place in Sheboygan, WI where Sail Sheboygan has so much experience hosting top flight regattas and the Sheboygan Yacht Club members volunteer in droves to help out.
  • Then, it helps that Sheboygan is the perfect size to host a regatta like this with tons of boat and car parking, local merchants who “get” sailors and a cost structure that, with a lot of work by the committee, lets us price the whole week for less than the cost of a jib.

We will NOT declare our goal met until there are 100+ boats on the water at the warning gun of the first qualifying race on August 11.

But with the submission this week of the 100th boat entry and payment, these are exciting times. Registering isn’t sailing…but we’re pretty psyched right now.

Entry list:

Bill Faude: On-Water Chairman, Lightning Class NAs Committee 2014
Todd Wake: Off-Water Chairman Lightning Class NAs Committee 2014

North American Championship – Past history
2014 Sheboygan, WI – 100+ boats
2013 Westport, CT – 58
2012 Houston, TX – 55
2011 Lasalle, MI – 57
2010 Toms River, NJ – 75
2009 Sodus, NY – 66
2008 Newport, RI – 98
2007 Annapolis, MD – 80
2006 San Diego, CA – 71
2005 Sheboygan, WI – 66
2004 Ridgeway, ONT – 103
2003 Westport, CT – 70
2002 Lasalle, MI – ???
2001 Malletts Bay, VT – 101
2000 Annapolis, MD – 92
1999 Carlyle, IL – 67
1998 Ridgeway, ONT – 107
1997 Lasalle, MI – 64
1996 New Orleans, LA – 77
1995 Henderson, NY – 100
1994 Hamilton, ONT – ???
1993 Sheboygan, WI – 110
1992 Ridgeway, ONT – 125
1991 Newport, RI – ???
1990 Rochester, NY – ???
1989 Lasalle, MI – 110
1988 San Diego, CA – ???
1987 Ridgeway, ONT – 98

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