Lightning Class Attracting Youth Sailors

The Lightning class has drawn some of the most experienced sailors to its championships over the years. Some names you’ll often see are Ched Proctor, Jody Stark, Geoff Becker and countless other seasoned veterans. Most one-design boats with three or more will draw successful sailors to their events. But something sets the Lightning apart from other classes of its kind. At the Lightning class worlds you will see youth names on the leaderboard as well as veterans. College sailors all the way down to juniors will be present on these boats and it’s not by coincidence.

Yacht Clubs across Long Island Sound have incorporated junior programs into their Lightning fleets, with boat owners using junior crews during weekly series, or having junior sailors skipper boats themselves. Cedar Point Yacht Club’s Lightning Fleet 126 often incorporates junior sailors into their Wednesday Night Series. Orient Yacht Club similarly includes junior sailors in fleet 506’s Thursday night races. Local clubs are not the only encouraging party junior participation in the Lightning class. The International Lightning Association (ILCA) provides resources for junior sailors as well.

The ILCA Grant program provides junior sailors with the opportunity to experience the best in Lighting sailing. Through an open application process recipients are chosen based on merit, not necessarily on his/her sailing resume. The Lightning grant will provide a competitive boat; will pay for insurance, and substantial regatta expenses. The winners will also be assigned a mentor. If selected the sailor must meet certain requirements such as writing articles and conducting themselves with a high degree a sportsmanship on and off the water. Both the requirements, and the opportunity parallel to form an incredibly rewarding and formative experience. As a recipient of the grant, you are in charge of planning and executing a schedule of regatta trips throughout the season, which almost becomes a campaign. The ILCA’s commitment to junior sailing has only been beneficial to the class, bringing youth talent into the top ten at some of the toughest regattas and strengthening the field. Not only does competing for the grant help sailors launch into big boat sailing at a young age, the grant also incentivizes teams to train together for other events such as the sears cup. A team out of Cedar Point the area qualifier held at The Waterfront Center in Ideal 18s. A factor in their victory was training together on the Lightning, which requires similar communication and technique as the Ideal 18 class.