Lightning Fleet #50 prepares for the Doc Gilbert races
With the Chesapeake Float coming less than a week off, it’s a bit disconcerting not to have had a chance for a single test sail in the Lightning. We set a record last week for most consecutive days of rain, weeks of rain, and that really set back progress on the boat. It may still be ready, barely, but I had hoped to have taken a couple of shakedown cruises by now. Lots of unknowns, and I keep finding ways to break things. Sunday morning it was the valve stem on one of the tires, which promptly went flat. I expect a handful of things to break the first time I try to sail in any wind.
I decided to try and see what I am in for, so took a drive to the near side of Washington, DC, to see some other Lightnings. Fleet 50 has an annual weekend regatta on the Potomac out of Leesylvania State Park, known as the Doc Gilbert. Was a couple of hours of driving, but well worth it. Many years ago I had some projects there with the CBYCC. The park has come a long way since then.
When I arrived, all the boats were rigged. Unfortunately, none of the classic woodies were there, but about 21 of the modern fiberglass type. However, one of the fellows I’ve corresponded with on the Classic Lightning forum was there. Bob Astrove is a great guy, and has sailed Lightnings since he was 7 years old. He’s a reservoir of knowledge about both sailing and restoring these boats. With all the trash floating in the river from the floods – logs, pieces of piers, etc. – and wind gusts expected to hit 30kts, he left his classic boat at home and brought the fiberglass boat he had also restored. But he was able to give me several tips in short order that made the whole drive worthwhile.
Very nice people, these Lightning sailors, and quite a variety – young and old, and from all walks of life.
I also got to watch all the boats launch, raise canvas and sail off. That, too, was very instructive. The boats are exceedingly well behaved under main alone. It’s not until the jibs are raised that the boats really power up. Essentially, lowering the jib is like tying in a second reef. Very good to know. Though all the boats carried a crew of three, I can see that single-handed sailing under main alone will be a good way to dial things down considerably. By using the one reef in the main things should be manageable, even alone, for all but the worst of conditions. I’m certainly looking forward to trying it.
After they were all away, they spent the whole afternoon racing round the marks. I left shortly after the first race started, but Bob says they had a great day, and had to call it quits before the series was done as the cold front came through with the promised gusty conditions.
I had plenty to think about on the drive home.
Here’s some video of the launching and sailing off the dock: