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From the Desk of the Lightning Class Historian

Lets Start at the Very Beginning
By Clayton Gray
Posted on 2/1/2018 11:00 AM

                                                      19 foot Bug Class

The linage of the Lightning starts in 1895 with 'Departure' a William Gardener designed to the Long Island Sound Thirty Foot (waterline) Rule. She differed from the conventional round hulls usually used in these boats by being drawn with hard chines and and arc bottom. Hard chine boats are easier and cheaper to build than round hulls. A hard chine boat is built over its own framing eliminating the expensive molds required to build a round hulled boat. Incorporating an arc (arch shape) in the bottom panels stiffens the structure.  In 1908 Gardeners office designed a small version of Departure the 19' Bug for George Cory. Cory would return to Gardener in 1910 for a sightly larger boat of the same design, the Star was the result. Frank Sweisgult was the staff draftsman who drew the boat. The Star became the first Class to be sailed nationally. In 1932 Lowndes Johnson, a Star Class champion,drew the lines of a "Star Jr." named the Comet. Skaneateles Boat Co. would add the Comet to its line and it became the backbone of their sales. The Comet's success made the gamble to build the 19 footer developed by members of the Skaneateles CC a good bet. The Lightning would be the most successful of the arced bottom, hard chine boats building more than the Star and Comet classes combined.  Below is a diagram I made of the lines of the hulls. They are not to scale but are set up to look relatively the same size. Look closely at the bottoms and note the shallow arcs in the lines. In future posts we will look more closely at this evolution but for now lets establish this as our correct linage.

  So we evolved from keel boats. This will be even more true with the development of the Lightning in the Sparkman & Stephens office. Olin and Rod Stephens were keelboat sailors with the 6 Meter as their first love. Two of their keelboats would serve as the basis for our Lightning. First would be the 1936 Arrow (S&S design #171) a 21 foot keelboat for Rumson CC in New Jersey, notably Rod Stephens designed the rig which is very much like ours. Most important the contract to build the boats was awarded to the Skaneateles Boat Co. This contract would build a working relationship with the Stephens and the Barnes brothers. In 1938 S&S would design a 20 foot keelboat for White Rock YC in Huston. The Corinthian sported a long waterline with a pronounced 'chin' at the bow making for the  long waterline. The mast is our mast almost exactly, a tall spar for its day supported with vee strut stays. The Lightning would incorporate both features. Note that the smaller Lightning has the same waterline lenght as the larger Star. 

  Now look at this photo of the Corinthian. Here we see our boat as a keelboat.   

  Here is an interesting idea. What would a Star look like designed by Sparkman & Stephens?  It turns out they did, S&S design #322 'Raceabout' was featured in the November 1939 issue of Rudder magazine. It reads "The Raceabout's bottom is simular to the Lightning- a radius bottom. The boat was the same length as the Star but was 4 feet longer on the waterline. The pronounce chin allows for this just like the Lightning. The rudder is on the transom just like a Lightning. The weight was the same as a Star but the Racebout had more outside ballast making it stiffer. I cannot find any evidence that any of these boats were ever built. 

The hard chine boats developed in the US would spead worldwide providing access to sail racing at a resonable cost. Star, Snipe, Lightning, the plywood prams (Optimist) and the Sunfish would be for years be the crossroads for racing sailors to meet and compete.

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