While many one-design classes struggle to attract and retain young sailors, the Lightning Class is taking active steps to give young adults a leg up: the class provided fully rigged, insured and competitive boats for several worthy teams for the 2007 sailing season. An idea dreamed up and put into practice by Allan TERHUNE of North Sails in Annapolis and Bill FASTIGGI of Vermont Sailing Partners in Burlington, the ILCA Boat Grant had an ambitious goal: supply two race-ready boats, mentoring, upkeep, fee supplements, and insurance -- at no cost to the young skipper.
Allan TERHUNE was himself just starting his career the year he won the ILCA North Americans. "When you have bills to pay, and a limited amount of vacation-time, it's a hard choice to commit to racing a sailboat." FASTIGGI, a North American runner-up in 2005 agreed. "We've seen too many promising young sailors opt out of the sport because it's just too much." The two tackled the nuts-and-bolts details involved and then convinced the ILCA leadership to take a chance with a really new idea.
"Obviously, we didn't know if it would work, but we gave it a try and met with a groundswell of interest and support," said FASTIGGI. "Before we knew it, people had donated sails, boats, covers, and cash to the program."
In 2007, the ILCA granted four boats, with teams selected from 15 applicants from across the US, Canada, and South America. Teams headed by Bob KING, 24, of Syracuse, NY; Bobby MARTIN, 22, of Riverton, NJ; Guy TAWNEY, 19, of Baltimore, MD; and Stephen WALDIE, 21, of Montreal, QC (Canada) competed at the North American Championship, as well as their District Championships and various other local events.
According to Bobby MARTIN, the Boat Grant program exceeded expectations, "My boat was brand new. It was amazing. When I ran into issues, my mentor and members of my local fleet were always there to help… I never could have imagined that I would have enjoyed the Class and boat this much." And Bob KING, just out of law school, said that the program provided critical funding for his young "and poor" team, "The expense program is what allowed me to travel to the bigger regattas. For example I could not have afforded the $200 in gas to go to Cedar Point for the ACC's."
For 2008, the ILCA plans to build on these successes. At least four grants will be offered. Both Nickels Boat Works and Allen Boat Company are providing the use of a new boat for the 2008 season. "We hope that even more young sailors will apply to the program, knowing what a positive experience it's been." Said John Faus, of the ILCA Executive Board, who will be helping organize this year's program, "This really works out for the sailors and the class."
The ILCA is now accepting applications for the boat grant program for the 2008 season. The application deadline is December 31, 2007. (http://www.lightningclass.org/Boat_Grant/GrantProgramIndex.htm)
The International Lightning, a 19-foot sloop designed by Sparkman & Stephens in 1938, can be found in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. Class alumni include Carl EICHENLAUB, Bill SHORE, Tito GONZALEZ, US Rolex Yachtswomen Jody (SWANSON) STARCK, Betsy ALISON, and Bonnie SHORE, US Rolex Yachtsmen Ken READ, Dave CURTIS, Dennis CONNER ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Ed BAIRD -- many of whom got their start in the boat sailing with friends and family.
International Lightning Class Association - http://www.lightningclass.org