To augment the Lightning Lab program, in order to attract new blood from the ranks of the post college crowd the class has started a very successful boat grant program. While a modest start, it has grown significant very quickly. It’s a pretty simple concept – grants are given to sailors who demonstrate a commitment to race the boat. By all measures, this program is the basis for long term future growth. You can read about it here.
History Repeats Itself
Then Apprentice/Mentor aspect of the club has been evident within the class for decades, almost everywhere the boat exists. My admitted bias is based on my experience as a young sailor at the Buffalo Canoe Club, which has endured as one of the foundations of the class for decades, having hosted many major Lightning regattas, and personalities that have contributed directly to the class, and often times, decades later, through lessons they have imparted to others.
It is impossible to name every club and person in the class who has played a large role in the class, if not sport, and while it is not intended to slight those not named here, there are some people who simply need to be acknowledged for what they did decades ago that pay dividends today.
Probably the best place to start is Karl Smither. He was a great sailor (won one Internationals, and was second many times), but an even better gentleman. Karl was a leader of leaders. He always ran an eminently fair protest hearing, and people around the Great Lakes (if not the entire country) learned much about sportsmanship from him. I’ve often been told by a key International Juror and Umpire that Karl provided him with a good deal of the basis for his ability to properly chair a Jury. So, 40 years on, lessons Karl Smither taught to a young sailor from Michigan are paying dividends in the form of fair jury decision on a global basis.
Of course, Karl his wife Idy had a daughter named Anne, who married a guy named Tom – Allen. Son Bob Smither was a class stalwart for decades, and active in USYRU/US Sailing too. Who can forget his “Hot Yachts in Cold Water” article in the mid-70’s? For those reading this who are not familiar with the Allen’s, Tom Allen has probably won more major Lightning regattas than anyone else in the class, ever. Tom and Anne won Pan Am medals, with Dr. Larry Bone. Tom had several near misses in various Olympic boats like the FD, Tempest, and Finn. It is impossible to think of Lightning’s and not mention the success of the Allen’s. Tom is also a Past Commodore of the BCC, and Anne is a Past President of the class, and is the current Commodore of the BCC. Karl Smither was a Past Commodore at the BCC too. The Allen Boat Company might have built more Lightning’s than any other builders. And no doubt Karl and Idy smile down from above on those accomplishments, but they are probably most proud of the fact that Tom and Anne’s son, Tom Jr., won the first George Fisher Sportsmanship Award.