January 4, 2023
I read the article on the Lightning Grant program and have followed it for years. I think the concept is great. I am an avid Shark sailor and have been in the fleet for 34 years.
We have a great fleet at National Yacht Club and a great program of Tuesday night racing where we have our own course and run two short course races each night that keeps the fleet close together and competitive. The problem with the Shark fleet is that it is aging (both the boat itself and the racers in the fleet) and that risks it longevity. It is not a sexy fleet and we do not have the high-profile sailors that the Lightning fleet has south of the boarder, although the Shark is raced in Europe and the fleet there is better every time I go.
In 2021, I bought another Shark because the price was too good to pass up, put a little work into it to make it more race ready and loaned it to a crew to race in 2021, which they did. They bought another boat in 2022 and raced on their own at NYC, mission accomplished, year 1.
Year 2, the boat sat idle most of the year.
The boat itself is not pretty to look at but I have raced it on occasion and put improvements on where it counts. I will be doing work on the keel in the spring to improve it, it has a good rudder and all the rigging works. Any improvements anyone else does would be a bonus.
the loaner Shark
I never imagined it would be hard to find a young crew (and to me that is anyone under 35) that would be interested in using a free boat for the summer with no more than a commitment to race on Tuesday nights. I thought someone with a young/new family without room in the budget, university students working in Toronto in the summer, sailing school graduates, university race teams, how hard could it be? Put four people together in a group and see if three or even two can make it each week. If all four show up, maybe let the fourth crew with another boat that is short and have more knowledge transfer. The only real cost is the issue of membership of some sort which we would have to work out with NYC once we knew who the crew was.
I think once I get someone in the boat for a year, the boat sells itself as the biggest bang for the buck on the lake. They find one and buy it and the fleet grows. Same concept as the Lightning. Get them in that boat and not a fancy sportboat and the fleet sells them on the rest. The Shark fleet remains the largest active keelboat fleet in Canada. It does not have the sexy appeal of modern sportboats but also does not have the prohibitive costs that might prevent entry. It does have a group of excellent sailors that love the shark and love to help others get into the fleet and improve. They could even do some local regattas in the boat if they wanted to.
I would like to see this work and would appreciate any thoughts you might have at attracting the right crew.
John Brunt, Toronto