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Not a Spectator Sport

Not a Spectator Sport
2015 Lightning World Championships

As the sun rises on the morning of July 21st, the colorful flags of 13 countries will fly on the boardwalk at the Buffalo Canoe Club in Ridgeway, Ontario, flanking the competitors as they walk to their vessels for the first race of sailing’s 2015 Lightning World Championship. The Lightning is a 19-foot sloop originally designed in 1938 by famed yacht designers Sparkman & Stephens as an affordable family day-sailor and racing boat. She has evolved into one of the most popular and competitive one-design racing boats in the world, and in 1962 was awarded International Class by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

The Buffalo Canoe Club last hosted the Lightning World Championship in 1973––although since then they’ve also hosted six North American Championships and three Junior World Championships.

This 2015 regatta will test the abilities of top sailors from thirteen countries ranging from the U.S. to Nigeria to Argentina. This event marks the pinnacle of competition and success in the large, active, and advanced fleet of over a thousand members of the International Lightning Class worldwide.

67 boats will attempt to claim the title as the top Lightning team in the world during this five day, ten-race regatta. However, the trials began long before July for all of these teams. They began with qualifying races at the 2014 North American Open in Wisconsin or the Canadian Open in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Most importantly, they began with long hours of training, boat tuning, and fitness that distinguished the good sailors from the elite sailors.

Buffalo can claim to be home of some of the worlds greatest Lightning sailors. Reigning Lightning class world champion David Starck lives in Buffalo. His wife, Jody Starck, is the current Rolex Yachtswomen of the year and has won the award three times. These are both very prestigious titles and only the most elite sailors can attain them.

What do they attribute their success to?

“Ultimately, the answer is because I love to sail,” said Starck, “love to compete on the water, and love working hard at trying to learn and get better every time out there.” He added that the “Buffalo Canoe Club is perhaps the nicest place to sail on the planet. The prevailing southwest wind aligns with the lake and creates fabulous sailing conditions. And it’s fresh water, which is a treat.”

Some of the best sailors and some of the world’s best conditions exist in our local community, and many are unaware. David Starck is highly successful in his sailing ventures, and he also believes that the sport brings friends and family closer together. “My fondest memories of sailing always revolve around spending time with my best friends and my family.”

This star-studded fleet contains dozens of former world champions and renowned and respected skippers and crew. Among the competitors is 2012 U.S. Olympian (Laser Class) Rob Crane, 2009 Lightning World Champion Matt Fischer, and reigning Lightning North American Champion Greg Fischer. However, this regatta is more than a test of the skills of top sailors. The Lightning class has a community feel and the upcoming Worlds will be as much a social event as it is a fierce competition.

There are many junior teams that train at the Buffalo Canoe Club in the summer and we are taking advantage of the fact that some of the best sailors in the world will be present for a few weeks. Organized by former World Champion Larry MacDonald (also competing in this regatta); strategy, tuning, and tactics lessons will be given by several top Worlds contenders.

The organizers of this regatta are striving to make it a classic event that will be remembered for years to come. Coming off a huge success hosting the 2014 Lightning Youth Worlds Championships last summer, the Buffalo Canoe Club is expected by many to incorporate high quality racing, creative and plentiful entertainment, and a communal atmosphere that will ensure a successful regatta.

Tanner Probst just graduated from 10th grade at Orchard Park High School and is the reigning Lightning Class North American Junior Champion—a title he earned at the 2014 competition at the Sheboygan Yacht Club in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

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