Last year I started considering having a sailing dinghy, because Finnish Lakeland is such a unique place in the world. Sailing dinghies are handy, because for their very shallow draft you can sail to many places, that are tricky to approach or to beach by an expensive keelboats. As Lightning is a popular class in Finland, it looked like a good choice. Still, I wanted to find out, what other alternatives there are available. The criterion was suitability for cruising, safety, big enough crew size and well-established class.
Most of the sailing dinghies were design for up to two persons racing. Performance is more desirable than safety in case of racing boats. As result of my study, there were two candidates, that met my criterion and felt interesting.
The first one was Lightning, which was also the starting point of this study. When racing, its crew size is three, but on cruising crew size can be up to 6-8, but probably having cockpit full of people is not a safe option in a gale. It’s easy to transport Lightning on a trailer and according to Finnish Lightning Association, an experienced crew can launch it in 30 minutes. Its weight is 320 kg (700 lb), that makes it significantly heavy, and length 5.8 metres (19 feet). Some sources mention, that the weight makes it harder to beach. Lightning has roots in United States, where it was introduced in 1938. According to International Lightning Association, national Lightning associations can be found in North America, South America, Europe and Africa. European associations are found in Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy and Greek. In general existance of an association means, that there are used boats available and races are organized frequently. Lightnings are manufactured in Finland too, even of wood.
Another interesting option was famous and popular Wayfarer dinghy, introduced in 1957, which is for some reason quite unknown in Finland. Still, it’s considered as a good family, training and cruising dinghy because of its safety and good maneuverability. The most famous sailing trip was made by Frank Dye, who sailed over the sea from Scotland to Iceland with his sailing friend. The designer of Wayfarer dinghy, British Ian Proctor, mentions safety, reassurance for the inexperienced, maneuverability and suitability for cruising as some of his design principles. We can see, that Frank Dye and other have found, that Wayfarer meets those goals well. It can be raced with a crew of two, but in daysailing 4-6 persons are the maximum, depending on Wayfarer version and weather conditions. Its weight is 169 kg (373 lb) and length 4.8 metres (16 feet). As boats longer than 5.5 (18.5 feet) have to be registered in Finland, you don’t need to register Wayfarers. Internationally Wayfarer is popular outside of Great Britain too. United States, Canada, Netherlands and Denmark have their own associations. Actually the Danish Wayfarer association is known as Scandinavian. Currently Wayfarer building rights are exclusively owned by Hartley Boats, which makes only dingies of glass fabric. You can find wooden used wooden Wayfarers. Many woodie owner consider it important to have their boat in perfect condition, even if it was built decades ago. There are several generations of Wayfarers since wooden Mark 1. CL-16 dinghy is built in Canada and is practically a Wayfarer with some cosmetic modifications.
It took several evenings to compare those two boat classes. I liked Lightning because of its Finnish community and maximum crew size, but bigger size, weight and price were negatives. Wayfarer was attractive for its lighter weight, easier launchability, better beachability and good seaworthiness. Its negatives were smaller maximum crew size and absence in Finland. Eventually I decided to go with Wayfarer.
The next problem was, where to get one…?