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Lightning Fleet Sailing

Gary Cameron
After purchasing the extraordinary Lightning, you surely want to get the utmost enjoyment from it. Sailing about by yourself is fine, but it's a safe wager that joining the Lightning Fleet in your area will make the boat even more pleasurable for you and your family.

Established by boat owners to promote good sailing, racing and camaraderie, Fleets are located worldwide. They compose the bottom level of the International Lightning Class Association; local Fleets are the substance of a District, and Districts make up the ILCA.

Fleet facilities run the gamut. Some possess only a dock and launching ramp on a small lake or river/ Most are located at rather small, pleasant, member-run yacht clubs. A few boats plush clubhouses replete with tinseled doormen and energetic boat launchers at your service. Regardless of the surroundings though, the results are always identical - fine sailing with equally fine people.

As a Fleet member you can still sail off on solitary cruises to parts unknown, but in addition you can participate in numerous organized sailing activities. The variety and extent of these programs depend primarily on the enthusiasm of Fleet members. The spectrum of things to do is wide, limited only by the bounds of member interest.
Racing programs are the most usual activity. Some Fleets run races on Saturdays and/or Sundays, while the more active ones may also have a series for weekday evenings. Further breakdowns in spring, summer and fall series are not unusual either. Trophies go to the winners, and sometimes even the losers.

This Fleet racing can be more informal and relaxed than at the regattas, an excellent opportunity to sail with the family as crew. Or the racing can be used to tune up for the big races. In any case the simple delights of sailing and competition are available on a regular basis. And you can always find at least one boat to beat.

During the season, many Fleets host one or two regattas, when Lightning crews from other Fleets visit for weekend racing and socializing. Considerable planning and hard work on shore and the water by the Fleet
 membership are required to produce a 
successful regatta. The rewards make the effort entirely worthwhile, though. The sailing is always keen, and the social hour get-togethers with old and new friends are never dull - Sailors always have something provocative to say, even is the alibis are copious occasionally. 

Some Fleets are fortunate enough to be able to sponsor junior sailing programs. Interested members often are the ones who give of their time and boats to teach sons and daughters the techniques of skippering, crewing and racing, and to run races for them. Everyone can benefit, too: What better way for skippers to pick up instant crew for races?

On-shore activities also take an important role in Fleet schedules, both in and out of the sailing season. Meetings to talk sailing and plan future events, family picnics, awards dinners, films, instructional guest lectures and seminars featuring prominent sailors, are examples of several types of events that do take place. Of course come manual labor may also have to be programmed at times, but even these work-days for club maintenance can be made painless with a keg of beer nearby.

In sum, anyone who likes sailing and people will find Lightnings and Fleet membership just great. The entire family can enjoy the multiple Fleet activities on a year-round basis. Sailing is a fabulous sport, and Lightning sailors are outstanding people to know, work and sail with. Clearly, the total Lightning experience should not be missed.

This article appeared in a Lightning Flashes supplement published in February, 1970, but it still presents its case wonderfully, almost 30 years later, for joining a Fleet and getting even more involved with the Lightning family. We are looking for articles about Lightning sailing which reflect that part of the Class which is not necessarily the hot-shot racers, from whom we hear after the regattas. Please let us hear from you. What do you love about Lightnings, or sailing in general, or your Fleet, or your lake, or even your boat building project? We want to present, in the pages of Flashes, the "total Lightning experience."

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