The Lake Erie Lightning Districts were held at the Buffalo Canoe Club last weekend. With hot, sunny, and windy conditions that required only surf shorts and t-shirts while sailing, there was great close competition, and typical trophies were handed out to the top people in the fleet. However, the real winners are those who came away with new or enhanced friendships. The Canoe Club, and the Lightning Class, are one of those parts of the sport where money is rarely discussed and matters almost not at all when it comes to the perpetuation of the game. It is a challenge to figure out if the club and class are a thriving sailing ecosystem, or a commune: resources are shared freely for the purpose of helping everyone become better sailors, and human beings.
The Canoe Club and Lightning Class both have a long history in the creation of great young sailors, many of whom stay with the sport for a life time, and who also contribute the betterment of the game. The real story of this regatta are some demographic facts – there were 30 males and 25 females participating, with many family combinations, and at least 20 excellent high school or college crews, with the majority of the younger sailors being female.
Unfortunately, one young sailor who couldn’t make it to the regatta was Kaleigh Wilday. She was killed several years ago by a drunk driver. Her family had raced a Lightning for decades, and she loved sailing on it. In her memory, her family created the Kaleigh Wilday Memorial Youngest Sailor Award for this regatta. The recipient this year was 11 year old Maggie MacDonald of Hamilton, Ontario shown receiving the award from David Starck, and his daughters Jamie and Sabrina.
The Wilday family still owns the Lightning. Hearing about the team of Christine Moloney, Kayla Oak and Julianne MacDonald who needed a boat to practice in this year before heading to the Lightning Youth World Championship in Tuusilanjarvi, Finland at the end of July, Skip Wilday offered the use of his boat to them. Julianne and Kayla were awarded the Jerry Blake Trophy, which has been given to the crew that best embodies the qualities that make a superior crew: sailing talent is not enough to win this award, the crew that wins the Blake Trophy must also display a quality of helpfulness to others.
If they matter, you can read the regatta results here. What matters more are the people who race sailboats that help and nurture each other, like the Wilday family has continued to do in the face of the greatest loss anyone can know. If you’d like to help Kaleigh help others, you can donate to the Kaleigh Wilday Foundation here . Kaleigh’s friendship lives on and thrives while she helps others through her Lightning. – Peter Huston