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post #1 of 9 Old 08-01-2012 Thread Starter
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Question Lightning vs Thistle

How do the Lightning and Thistle compare? I am looking for a boat for club/local racing (nothing too competitive) AND for day sailing.

I am interested in these two classes for three reasons: there are a lot of used boats for sale at reasonable prices, both boats are fairly fast, and both classes have local fleets (So. CA).

If I just wanted to race, I would probably get a Thistle. However, I understand that the Lightning is more stable and easier to handle as a day sailer. Does that sound right?

I look forward to your comments.

Richard
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post #2 of 9 Old 08-01-2012
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I have sailed both. I love the thistle but hiking is brutal.

I'd also crew on a couple of them first.

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post #3 of 9 Old 08-01-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Lightning vs Thistle

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Originally Posted by Sic Semper Tyrannis View Post
I have sailed both. I love the thistle but hiking is brutal. I'd also crew on a couple of them first. Sent from my Kindle Fire
Although I have not yet sailed a Thistle, I am sure hiking is uncomfortable. I have read that, when Sandy Douglass later designed the Highlander, he wanted to make it more comfortable than the Thistle and yet have similar speed.

However, I would think that you could fabricate a small side deck or "wing" that could attach to the gunwale for added comfort. Of course, it would have to be removable if you wanted to do class racing.

Has anyone tried that?

Richard
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post #4 of 9 Old 08-01-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Lightning vs Thistle

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Originally Posted by rlltrash View Post
How do the Lightning and Thistle compare? I am looking for a boat for club/local racing (nothing too competitive) AND for day sailing.
In an effort to keep my original post short, I did not go into much detail. While the Lightning and Thistle are on my current short list, I am still considering other boats, too (for semi-competitive local racing AND day sailing.)

I want something about that size (16'-20'), with a centerboard or drop/lifiting keel, and at least as fast as a Flying Scot. (I sailed the FS many years ago and liked it. However, it really bothered me to see the Lightnings, Thistles, Stars, and Solings glide by me. Even the occasional International 14 would pass me!

So, while boats like the Wayfarer, Day Sailer, or Hunter 170 are nice, they are just not fast enough. On the other hand, boats like the Flying Dutchman, 49er, or 505 are poor for day sailing.

I look forward to more replies - or you can email me directly at rlltrash@yahoo.com.

Thanks, Richard
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post #5 of 9 Old 08-01-2012
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Re: Lightning vs Thistle

I would agree with the assessment in your original post. The Thistle is going to get up on a plane more easily. The Lightning would be better as a daysailer compared to the open Thistle. The Thistle will be take more physical work to keep her on her bottom. If you're one design racing, both boats are sophisticated, challenging to sail and both have large competitive classes with superb sailors.

Mark Smith
1977 C&C 30 Mk 1 hailing from Port Clinton, Ohio
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post #6 of 9 Old 08-01-2012
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Re: Lightning vs Thistle

I have not sailed the Thistle yet but there is a racing fleet of them (and Lightnings) at my boat club. I owned a Lightning for several years and must admit that I really liked it.
Hiking out on the Lightning was quite easy with both an inboard cockpit seat and the deck not to mention the cockpit foot straps that ran athwart the boat. The boat I owned was racing rigged so it had every sail trim possible which I eventually learned how to use.
I could take my wife out and sail it (essentially single handed) in winds <= 15 knots.
One of the things I really liked about the Lightning was that even with a 2 knot wind the boat would go quite readily while heavier boats seemed to stand still.
I only flew the spinnaker on it once and it was like a Nantucket sleigh ride as the hull planed over the water.

I suppose one of the big differences between these two boats is the chine, or shape of the free board of the hull. The Lightning has a hard chine while the Thistle is smooth chined. As the Lightning heels over that sharp chine angle can dig in whereas the smooth sides of the Thistle offer no such grip on the water once heeled.

As with most boats of this size you can capsize them but you can install positive flotation in a Lightning underneath the deck around the cockpit.

I'd still like to have a go at a Thistle but you can probably guess which boat I would choose if it were my decision.

Welcome to Thistle Class Association
Welcome to the International Lightning Class

"The cure for anything is salt water~ sweat, tears, or the sea." ~Isak Denesen

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post #7 of 9 Old 08-02-2012
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Re: Lightning vs Thistle

The Thistle requires more vigilance but less strength than the Lightning. Their Portsmouth handicap numbers are very similar but the Thistle manages to achieve the same speed with a significantly smaller sail plan. If you sail in light air the Thistle will perform much better.

The Thistle has a much simpler set of controls: mainsheet, traveler,movable jib sheet cars, outhaul, cunningham, adjustable jib halyard, centerboard, pole lift, and some have barber haulers. The Thistle does not have a backstay, therefore, there is no backstay adjustment. The Lightning has the same controls as the Thistle plus, backstay adjustment, jib cloth, and jib wire but does not.

If you sail in chop the flat sections of the Lightning slaps maddeningly. A couple of hours of that will make you want to take up golf. I don't much credit the notion of the hard chine of the Lightning "digging in"; both boats want to be sailed flat.
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post #8 of 9 Old 08-02-2012
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Yeah my experience with the lightning was lots of slapping in the chop too!

I'd go with the stronger fleet. Both are great boats.

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post #9 of 9 Old 08-03-2012
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Lightbulb Re: Lightning vs Thistle

If for some reason you decide that you do not need OD racing and could live with occasional races under PHRF or Portsmouth in your sailing area.......
check out the Ranger 20.

Designed by Ray Richards and over 500 constructed by Ranger Boats in Kent, WA (with an addional model run by a builder in Salt Lake City), Ray explained that he designed it to get around the limitations of sailing and overnighting on his Lightning back in his younger days. He never really liked sleeping beside the centerboard trunk under a boom tent!


(Just a little small boat trivia for your Friday morning....)
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