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An interview with Adam Young on the 2023 Deep South Lightning Regatta

by David Schmidt 21 Mar 08:00 PDT March 23-25, 2023
2014 International Lightning Class Association Youth World Championship © International Lightning Class Association

There are a few names in yacht design that stop all debate. Nathanael Greene Herreshoff literally defines this category, however Olin Stephens, of Sparkman & Stephens fame, is probably the second name that most sailors would place on this elite list. Given Stephens' fame and the pedigree of his designs, it's therefore not that surprising that a dinghy that Stephens designed in 1938 should still be attracting top talent 85 years ex post facto.

The design in question is of course the Lightning.

The boat carries a fraction rig, a symmetrical kite, and a centerboard, and it's typically raced by crews of three. Add the right breeze and sea state, and the Lightning's flat undercarriage delivers the kinds of grins that have been making the boat a success for almost a century.

A glance at the Lightning Class Association's webpage reveals coast-to-coast fleets, but with the concentration laying east of the Rocky Mountains and south of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. A glance at the calendar reveals engaging events such as the Deep South Lightning Regatta (March 23-25, 2023), which is being hosted by the Savanah Yacht Club in Savanah, Georgia.

I checked in with Adam Young, who serves as the SYC's sailing director, via email, to learn more about this exciting One Design regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Deep South Lightning Regatta's history, culture, and the kinds of sailors one can expect to meet at this regatta?

The Deep South Regatta was started at the Savannah Yacht Club eons ago. I'm a bit scared to guess the year but I have heard maybe 60 years...

This was a convenient stop for the class as they made their way further down South to escape the harsh winters on the East Coast. In the '50s, '60s, and '70s SYC had a huge fleet of Lightenings. Our regular weekly races had around 30 local boats competing.

SYC has a long history of world-class sailors, many of whom raced Lightenings. The Deep South Regatta is always a great event. There is hard racing on Friday and Saturday with wonderful fellowship Friday and Saturday night.

This regatta is always a super competitive event but at the end of the day, everyone goes out of their way to help newcomers get faster.

How would you describe competition levels at this year's event?

I am expecting great competition this year. I think that everyone is chomping at the bit to get back to Savannah. We had a couple of years of not having the regatta due to Covid. It's always interesting to look at the skippers and recognize big names from other classes. I think this regatta brings people out of the woodwork.

How many boats are you expecting on the starting line?

We are expecting 30 to 40 boats this year.

Generally speaking, what kinds of conditions can sailors expect on the waters of the Wilmington River (and/or the Skidaway River) in late March? Also, what weather conditions will dictate racing on one area vs. the other?

First of all, they can expect warmer weather than where they currently are...with the exception of Florida. Winters in Savannah are mild. Our average daily temps are 67 degrees in the winter months. Winds are a bit fickle during the winter but we are averaging 8-12 knots during midday.

Sailing in Savannah is unlike any other place. The course is set up on two rivers. At times the current can reach four knots, and we have an average of eight-foot tides that rise and drop throughout each day.

Our race committee is top-notch and always do a great job of giving the sailors a 45 to 60 minute race.

As a follow-up to the last question, what drives conditions on on the river(s) more: wind off of highlands, heat off the land, or the river's current? Or, is there a different primary driver that influences the racecourse(s) ?

The course is always set up with the primary focus being on wind direction but the RC does a great job of taking into account the tide.

I realize that these are still early days, but do you have any entries that you're eyeing for podium finishes?

Again, the registration list looks like a "who's who" of the sailing world. You have old timers like Lenny Crawcheck and youngsters looking to make their first big impression.

David Starck won the last time, and I just noticed there are three separate Starck boats competing. Matt Fisher sailed the last regatta with his brother Greg and they are always super-fast, regardless of the boat.

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

Come early and stay late. Savannah is a wonderful place to visit and sail. You are ten minutes from historic downtown and world-class dining, and 15 minutes in the other direction from the beach.

As for the sailing, I learned long ago that you have to "bump" the board...meaning sail til you feel the centerboard hit, then pull it up three inches. You continue the process until you are in the marsh grass. It is sometimes all you can do to stay out of the current.

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

Because of where we are, i.e., minutes from the ocean, the club always does a great job of keeping waste to a minimum. We will be offering all registration and document online, and will not have any hard copies. We also encourage each competitor to bring their own water bottle, keeping single-use plastic to a minimum.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

We look forward to hosting the event and seeing everyone.

As a One Design sailor, I love anytime we have regattas like this at our club. The class is super friendly and always goes above and beyond getting everyone up to speed.

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