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Lightnings on Cazenovia Lake

Willow Bank Yacht Club and Cazenovia Lake will be host the Central New York Sailing Association Annual Regatta the weekend of July 9 and 10. The event will bring participants from 30 sailing clubs across the state to partake in races.

In the preceding weeks, a series of articles about the various fleets that will be seen competing will be featured.

Since 1947, after four local sailors established Lightning Fleet 164, Cazenovia Lake has been the sailing waters for many Lightning sailboats. Willow Bank Yacht Club has since been the host for Lightning Fleet 164, organizing and managing races and sailing events that attract many Central New York sailors. Lightning sailboats (and thunderstorms) can be seen on the lake after the summer sailing season starts over Memorial Day weekend.

The Lightning is a sloop-rigged dinghy originally designed in 1938 by Olin Stephens from the prestigious firm of Sparkman & Stephens, designers and builders of many famous America's Cup boats. It was first built and sailed on Skaneateles Lake.

Its original design concept was that of a boat of simple construction so that amateurs could build it at low cost. It can also be easily sailed as a family-racing sailboat that performs best on inland waters, like CNY lakes.

The design, which has since been maintained to follow strict standards and specifications by the International Lightning Class Association, was for a 19-foot sloop with a beam of six feet, six inches, and an all-up weight of 700 pounds It has a high-profile mainsail, a jib and a 300-square-foot spinnaker. It has a hard-chine hull, with an ample cockpit that easily accommodates four to five persons on a leisure cruise along the lake. When racing, only a crew of three is allowed.

One of the most successful one-design sailboat classes, today Lightnings are found in over 500 fleets worldwide, with over 15,500 boats built. Awarded International Class status, the Lightning is sailed in more than 13 countries and in the Pan American Games. A World Championship is held every two years. North American, South American and European Championships are held each year as are innumerable regional and District championships.

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