Elvstrom taught us that if in winning the race you lost the respect of your competitors, you have won nothing. David & Jody Starck and Ian (Ya) Jones won the Lightning Worlds last week at Club Velico Castiglionese, in Castiglione del Lago, Italy. In a class that is comprised of great sailors, and better people, there might have been equally popular winners in the past, but never anyone more universally respected than these three.
While two days of sailing were cancelled because of lack of breeze, there were three days of sailing that tested the fleet across the spectrum of conditions. Better than the racing conditions was the organization of the event. In true Italian fashion, the club and entire region pulled out all the stops and produced a first class regatta in every respect. Ten countries were represented at this Worlds. Anyone who has sailed in the Lightning class knows the depth of the competition; Tito Gonzales from Chile has to be one of the best sailors of his generation, with five Lightning Worlds, and an Etchells Worlds to his credit, in addition to multiple other championships in other classes. Larry MacDonald, Peter Hall, and Mario Buckup were other former Worlds winners who raced. Consider that Allen Terhune, who tears up almost every other fleet he sails in, finished an uncharacteristic 19th. Clearly, this was a very talented fleet.
When I spoke with David this morning about the regatta, in typical fashion he deflected attention away from his performance, and heaped praise on his crew, his wife Jody and Ya. He said every aspect of the regatta exceeded his expectations, particularly the Italian hospitality.
However, he felt the most important thing to come out of the regatta was the performance of the Lightning Boat Grant recipients, particularly Justin Coplan, who finished second. Several years ago the Lightning Class determined that in order to remain sustainable, they would be best served to start a program that would introduce college graduates to the boat and class by awarding them the use of a boat for a year. Justin was one of the first recipients of a boat grant, and now having stayed with the class and purchased his own boat he has finished 2nd in a Worlds. To add further validity to the benefit of the program, Will Brown was 5th and Jeff Coppens 15th, both former boat grant recipients. While the Lightning might not have the most recent design, the class is led by a long and distinguished list of forward thinkers.
In a sport where the most recent boat design is too often lauded as a must have, there remain rock solid classes like the Lightning that prove it isn’t necessarily the boat that matters. What matters the most are the people who sail the boat. Champions like David, Jody and Ya serve to best illustrate Elvstrom’s most fundamental word: Respect.