It Takes an International Village

Centennial, CO – Earlier this year, Victor Lobos and John Faus were getting worried. With the global economy in a tailspin, both members of the International Lightning Class Association Executive Board were hearing gloom-and-doom predictions about the future of the class’s major boat builders. Orders were slow, and times were getting harder. During the recent World Championships in Mallett’s Bay, VT, Victor Lobos explained it this way: “If your boat-builders don’t have work, your class might just disappear.”

Lobos, of Concepcion, Chile, and John Faus of New Jersey did some trans-equatorial brainstorming via Facebook, e-mail and cell phone. “Victor knew that a couple of potential boat-buyers in Chile were hesitating because of the logistic challenges,” said Faus, “So we started thinking –– why not match-make between these buyers and the boat-builders and the shipping companies, and end up with a big win-win for Lightning sailors?”

It couldn’t be so hard, they figured, to provide some shipping expertise and a discount for shipping a container of Lightnings. The Lightning class (2,000 members strong) would be sure to have some experts willing to volunteer their knowledge. And with the innovative Boat Grant Program (which provides race-ready boats to young sailors for free) working so well, maybe the 70-year-old class would be willing to wager some more dollars on another new idea. The two presented their plan to the various ILCA boards, got rapid approval, and started publicizing the Fleet Development Initiative in late March.

The fruit of their labors: the first container of Lightnings will ship to Chile later this month, with one boat ending up in Argentina.

“It took a boatload of help,” reported Faus. Staging began in Mallett’s Bay, where several of the boats competed in the World Championships. “A Lightning friend, Jimmy Roe, hauled my boat back so I could tow a double-deck to Monmouth (NJ) Boat Club,” said Faus.  “Mark Schneider doubled up to bring a boat to Jersey, while yet another Lightning skipper, Pierce Barden drove Carter Utzig’s boat north.”  The four boats will be stacked and packed into a 40-foot container this coming week in Newark. “Tom Starck, a Lightning sailor from the Buffalo area, arranged a great price for shipping.”

“I expect to see four more boats at the Chilean Southern Circuit in a month or so,” said Lobos. “We’re looking forward to adding some competitive new boats to the fleet in Concepcion.”

The costs are not yet in –– depending on how many non-volunteer hours it takes to put the boats into shipping containers –– but boat builder Tom Allen of Allen Boatworks in Buffalo reports that the Fleet Development Initiative has resulted in at least two new boat orders.  ILCA leadership hopes that this container will be the first of several.  “We’ve spoken with people interested in building their fleets –– in Finland and Nigeria, for instance, and in reviving the class in Argentina. Additionally, we’re hearing from folks who want to start up Lightning fleets in Mexico and Australia, ” said ILCA president Brian Hayes. “We are very excited about what this means for the future of the class.”

The Lightning is a triple-handed dinghy designed by Sparks and Stephens in 1938. Actively raced in Europe, North and South America, and Africa, the recent World Championships included entries from Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, U.S., Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Italy, and Nigeria.  The Lightning has also been used for the Pan Am Games and as a U.S. Ladder Championship boat. 

For further information, please contact Victor Lobos, Chile  ( or  56-41 274-9350), John Faus (, Steve Davis, ( ), or the ILCA office (SKYPE: ILCAoffice,, ph: 303-325-5886) or visit the ILCA website at http:www/