The Lightning is a sailing dinghy originally designed by Sparkman & Stephens in 1938. More than 15,000 Lightnings have been built since then and there are over 500 fleets of Lightnings worldwide.
The Lightning, a 19 foot trailerable centerboard sloop, was originally designed by Sparkman & Stephens as an affordable family day-sailor and racing boat. She has evolved into one of the most popular and competitive one-design racing classes in the world. Awarded ISAF International Class status, the Lightning is sailed in more than 13 countries and in the Pan American Games, and the class provides a professionally-managed association that is among the largest in all of one-design sailing. The Lightning’s rig is simple, but offers sophisticated sail shape controls. The hull features a unique hard chine design that combines the stability that provides sail-carrying power, with flat bottom sections that promote planing. The International Lightning Class Association protects the boat’s design and licenses custom and private builders to build boats under its administration. A list of Lightning builders is available from the ILCA upon request.
Whether racing or daysailing, the Lightning offers a combination of performance and stability that eludes most one-designs. The Lightning’s hard chine and 130 lb centerboard give her the stability and power of a small keel boat going to weather in strong winds and allow her to carry a very large spinnaker for breathtaking offwind rides.
There’s room in the cockpit for two couples or a family to daysail, but the Lightning is easy to ramp launch and light enough to trailer with ease. In the event of a capsize, she can be righted and sailed dry by her crew.
Modern Lightnings are built in foam-cored fiberglass with stainless steel centerboards and black anodized aluminum spars. The world’s top sailmakers give the class their best efforts. In short, there are enough controls to keep the most technically inclined happy, but it’s good tactics, boat-handling and hiking that win races.
Had a Lightning in the 70s. It had been badly maintained before I got it (very cheap). After some years I just had to give it up and bought a bigger sailing boat. However I miss the nice feeling sitting in the water and feel the immediate response to wind and stream. Also the advantage to sail in shallow water. It is a great boat also for family with kids. We were five persons (3 small ones) going for week long tours with tent and sleeping bags. I long to buy one again. Unfortunately not easy to find in Sweden ore nearby where I live.