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Lightning Generation Weekend

Laura Jeffers | Published on 7/24/2023

Buffalo Canoe Club - Fleet 12

Hosts a weekend of Lightning Sailing – July 15-16, 2023


Sailing for the Generations:  Lightning sailing at the Buffalo Canoe Club this past weekend included sailors aged 3-83 and abilities from novice to World Champions. 


 Saturday’s Lake Erie District Championship saw 24 boats competing in light and dying conditions.  While storms in the area prevented the typical Lake Erie Southwesterly and required constant surveillance of the radar, the Race Committee pulled off a feat in completing 2 races.  The fleet was a Who’s Who of Lightning Talent consisting of many current and former World, Youth World, Master’s World, North American, Junior North American, Master's North American and Women’s North American Champions as well as the 2023 US Pan Am Games team.  Larry Macdonald with Julianne MacDonald and Hank Wissenz captured the title with an impressive display of tactics and drifting. 

The ages of the sailors was a true display of our life-long sport.  More than a third of the skippers were under age 30 with 16-year-old skipper Sabrina Starck finishing 5th, just behind her mother Jody (3-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and former NA champ) and well in front of her father David (current NA and World Champ).  Following Sabrina, in 6th, was 83-year-old Eddie Roseberry.


Sunday dawned with the BCC’s 19th annual Sean F. Gregory Memorial Pro/Am.  In this event boat owners (Pros) take younger kids out for a few quick races close to shore.  No spinnakers are used, lots of smiles are seen, and a ticket for ice cream at the snack bar ensures these kids will look forward to their next sail.  Current World Champ David Starck runs the show, assigning youngsters to the appropriate Pro.  Former World Champ Larry MacDonald is a keen participant and is an incredible ambassador for the sport.  As a true testament to the event, many of the Pros show up to help as they remember the Sean F. Gregory as their first Lightning experience. 


Just as the Pro/Am boats came ashore, 8 other Lightnings packed with talent headed out in the bay.  The 2023 Pan AM team (Al Terhune, Madeline Gill and Sarah Chin) was in town for some practice!  Jimmy Barnash, Conner Godfrey, Jody Lutz, Tanner Probst, Robbie Robinson, David Starck and Jody Starck with their all-star teams came out for 3 races in breeze to help prepare the USA for their trip to Chile in the fall.  The tight racing portrayed the impressive skill level aboard all boats and with coaching and assistance w/races from Tom Allen Jr., Skip Dieball, Debbie Probst and Kevin Robinson the amount of Lightning talent and dedication out on Abino Bay was legendary. 


Take-Aways from the weekend:

  —Get ‘em hooked early, make it easy and make it fun.

The kids showing up for the Pro/AM need a lifejacket, and that’s it.  They leave with a smile, an ice cream and a great memory.  They create friendships with other sailors and want to return to sailing class.  They see older kids forming junior Lightning teams, training for regattas and heading out of town for the Lightning Junior North Americans.  They do the same.

As they get older, they’ve created bonds with others in the class from around the country and around the world.  Many sailors show up hoping for good sailing, but ALL sailors keep coming back because they have fun on shore.


 —Make it easy to keep sailing.

 Not every family has a boat for their kids to use.  The BCC has a local boat grant program, but also has many boat owners willing to lend their boats or take on new crew.  The Lightning Class has its own Boat Grant Program and other initiatives to keep the under-30 crowd involved.  The Limbaugh Fund is currently offering a regatta fee subsidy of up to 50% for skippers 30 and under.  We have an active group of younger sailors and this will help them continue showing up to regattas as they begin their careers and start balancing other expenses with sailing.

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