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Well, done some research. The Lightning site is a great place. It does look like this boat could be a good choice - thanks to those who lead me to it.
Now I'm looking at available boats. Given that I'm not planning national racing, are there any years/sail number it should avoid ? The Lightning site warns not to buy before 1990, and notes that the rigging was changed in 1986, and that newer boats have better recovery.
Are these significant things that I should be concerned about ?
I've found a nice 1984 Nickels that's near me and in my budget...
Yes they are substantial changes. My post above was written at the same time yours went up so I didn't see it.

There are a lot of issues with a pre 86' boat, I touched on some of them, but they all boil down to a boat that won't self right (realistically) and is prone to turtling (almost unrecoverable without outside help). It also means you can't snag cheap sails from racers or use published tuning guides.

The boats are very different though they look the same.
 

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I never raced my Lightning so my experience is quite different from Mr. Ruben Esq. The Lightning I had was made by Clark, not a prime mfr per se, and was from 1976 according to the folks at the ILCA.
I got mine for $1K with a rusty trailer, Lightning in barely riggable shape & 2 sets of well raced sails & spinnaker. It was still a fun boat to sail and was a plastic hull. I added a spin pole and got to use it once flying north across Long Island Sound. What a blast!

Some Lightning owners used empty gallon jugs of water under the gunnels to add buoyancy. I never got around to that. I never capsized the boat. Even kept at a mooring a season or two. Yes, the Lightning is quite sensitive about where your body weight is in a gust but you have ways to mitigate the ensuing heel from a gust: release the main sheet &/or move your butt up higher on/over the windward deck.
 

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While I'm certainly not the most experienced one here, I quite enjoy sailing/racing my scot. I trailer sail it and rig/de-rig it by myself. Unless you get caught out in some pretty nasty stuff, you have to try pretty hard to capsize one. And installing a bow flotation bag(believe it's required for racing) and the transom port help quite a bit with getting the water out should you happen to go over. Anyway, just trying to add a little positive feedback for the scot to the conversation. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Well, I always like to close out these threads instead of just leaving them hang.

First, thanks to all for your time and advice.

So, what did I buy ? Lightning, Scot, Highlander, Thistle, Interlake ???
Sorry - none of the above. Couldn't convince myself that lone sailing in a small craft was wise on Erie, and the comments on the poor ability of these larger dinghys to be righted confirmed my concerns.

I decided to go a bit bigger, and acquired a 1984 Catalina 27. Of course, now I need a dock, but it should still meet the first purpose ( teaching my boys to sail ) and also cover some family outings to the Islands.
Hope to see you out there !!
Thanks.
 

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BTW, a Scot will come up quite dry after a capsize if handled correctly. Capsizes do not automatically require a rescue as some have implied. Done it a few times so I know. The boat will float high on its beam and the seats will keep the water out. As long as you go right to the head of the mast it won't turtle, and you can then climb up the seats to get on the center board. I've seen them righted in under a minute and continue racing. If you're really concerned, add available mast flotation and give yourself a bit more time. I've capsized and righted in a race and came up with less than an inch of water which was easily bailed. I've even seen a Scot dry rolled--not easy, but it can be done. It will fill with water and require rescue only if you turtle and the required bow bag will raise the bow so that a tow can empty water out the also required transom port. Usually a turtle is the result of the crew not going right to the mast head after the capsize.
 
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