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Allen Brothers

An interview with Allan Terhune Sr. on the 2023 Lightning North American Championship

by David Schmidt 3 Aug 2023 08:00 PDT August 5-11, 2023
On-the-breeze action at the 2006 Lightning North American Championship, hosted by Mission Bay Yacht Club © Mission Bay Yacht Club

When it comes to truly classic One Design sailboats, the Lightning has it all: serious design pedigree, a fast and planning friendly undercarriage and a similarly accommodating sailplan, and an active and dedicated class association. This elusive combination of attributes continues to make the three-person Lightning, which Olin Stephens (of Sparkman & Stephens fame) designed in the mid-to-late 1930s, a popular and competitive boat.

Take, for example, the 2023 Lightning North American Championship (August 5-11), which is being organized by the International Lightning Class Association (ILCA) and the Toms River Yacht Club (TRYC), and which are being hosted by the TRYC, which is situated in Toms River, New Jersey.

Racing is set to unfurl on the waters of the Barnegat Bay and will employ course shapes ranges from windward-leewards to triangles, to windward-leewards/triangle courses that leverage offset marks or gates.

A glance at the entry list includes many big names in the Lightning class, making this regatta a tough ask for all, and—for one fast and well-prepared team—a proud win once the finishing guns have gone silent.

I checked in with Allan Terhune Sr., regatta chairman for the 2023 Lightning North Americans, to learn more about this exciting One Design championship.

The Lightning is easily one of the most iconic One Design boats ever drawn, but it's not new. Can you please tell us a bit about the state of the Lightning class, its current culture and the competition levels one can expect to find at this year's North American Championship?

The lightning class is over [90] years old and has 150 fleets around the world. It's very competitive yet family-inclusive and multi-generational.

Looking at this year's entry list the Starck family has several entries, as does the Taboda family. Many teams are sons and daughters of past sailors.

The level of completion is extremely high with several international teams using this as a tune up to the Pan Am games later this fall in Chile.

Former national and worlds winners include Ched Proctor, Tito Gonzales, Augie Diaz, the Starks, Allan Terhune Jr., and others.

How many boats are you expecting on the starting line?

37-42 [boats].

Generally speaking, what kinds of conditions can sailors expect on the waters of the Toms River in early August?

Typically, the sea breeze comes in about noon time. SE generally at 12-18.

There is Bay chop associated and some seaweed starts to move. The breeze is dominated by the thermal between the bay and barrier island.

We can get westerly action with severe heat, which generally brings thunderstorms.

Racing is planned two a day and starting after 12 [pm].

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Local knowledge can be advantageous with the barrier island and predictable breeze movements. This can be negated by studying chart and paying attention to pre-race briefing.

The completion is good and these guys will figure it out

I realize that these are still early days, but do you have any entries that you're eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who could potentially steal the show?

The names mentioned previously are all in the hunt.

Dark horse, one of the Taboda teams and a team from Peru.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) sailors, what would it be?

Be patient and be consistent.

Pay attention to determine if breeze is oscillating or persistent.

What kind of onshore entertainment can sailors look forward to once the finishing guns have gone silent each day?

A well-planned week at the club, the pool is open and two bars and food [are] available. Barbecue cookout with band one night.

Wednesday night [is the] sail and picnic. Famous A Cats will be available to sail. A trip to the boardwalk for pizza and games.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made to green-up the regatta and generally lower its environmental wake?

The is a green regatta and boats are responsible for their own garbage containment and disposal.

[We use] electronic entry and race forms are online.

All markboats and patrol boats are located in designated areas to preserve fuel and better efficiency.

Part of the proceeds from the event are being donated to Save Barnegat Bay www.savebarnegatbay.org.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about this year's Lightning NAs, for the record?

It's a well-planned event to exceed the expectations of the class. Top-notch race management and social programs presented by one of the top yacht clubs in the country.

Also, our main sponsor is Jersey Mikes Subs with a NJ Solar Power also helping make the event special.

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