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Ensign Hall of Fame
Ensigns Hall Of Fame - The American Sailboat
Hall of Fame Standard:
A boat that has earned lasting recognition by
fostering new enjoyment and growth in the sport of sailing through excellent
design and production ingenuity
Guided by this standard, Sail America has selected 20 boats for induction
into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame since its founding in 1994.
These Hall of Fame boats are true American classics, exemplars of the
extraordinary skill and ingenuity of American boat builders. They range
in size from 8 to 41 feet. Several date to the dawn of the fiberglass
era and are considered collector's items; others are still in production,
selling briskly. All have profoundly influenced the sport of sailing.
By their sheer excellence, they have made sailing better.
Selections for the Hall of Fame were
made by a committee of magazine editors comprised of Bill Schanen, Sailing
Magazine, chairman; John Burnham, Sailing World; and Charles Mason,
Sail. Half-models of Hall of Fame boats are displayed each year at Sail
Expos, and are on permanent display at the Museum of Yachting in Newport,
She is rarely the belle of the ball. In fact, some hotshots have even
been known to call Ensigns "tubby" as they go zipping by in
their dripping-wet performance dinghies. But a funny thing tends to
happen when sailors stop to take a closer look at this long lived one-design
racer and family day sailer. They notice the old girl is more attractive
than they thought. In fact, she's got some pretty nice curves. Before
they know it they're in love.
Designed by Carl Alberg in 1962 as an upgraded version of a boat called
the Pearson Electra, the 22-foot, 6 inch Ensign immediately found a
niche among sailors and has been going strong ever since. Between 1962
and 1983 1,775 Ensigns were built by Pearson Yachts, making it the largest
full-keel one-design class in the United States. Today there are over
40 active fleets scattered throughout the Northeast, the Great Lakes,
Louisiana, Texas and Florida. In 2001 the Ensign Spars company of Dunedin,
Florida, began building brand-new Ensigns again after a nearly 20-year
The key to the Ensign's success has been its moderation, the fact that
while it has a shapely, easily driven hull, Alberg wasn't afraid to
give the boat enough displacement so that it would be a joy to day sail
on a sunny, breezy afternoon. Although the boat races with a crew of
three or four, the huge cockpit has room for six or even seven. And
it's deep enough and the boom is high enough that you don't have to
worry about banging your head at every tack.
In addition, the 1,200 pounds of ballast in that big keel mean you don't
have to worry about capsizing. And even if the boat does fill with water,
its generous buoyancy tanks ensure positive flotation. The boat's relatively
heavy displacement has yet another benefit in that it provides a sea
kindliness that is absent in most faster and lighter boats. The Ensign
revels in a stiff breeze and steep seas, which may explain its popularity
in the often choppy Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie.
In the end, the boat's forgiving sailing qualities and its active racing
scene have resulted in an appeal that resonates with sailors of all
backgrounds and of every age. Indeed, within some families, generations
of sailors have been introduced to the sport aboard the sturdy Ensign,
and then stayed loyal to the boat even when other sailors might have
The class association has gone to great lengths to ensure that the
class not only remains uniform, but that it doesn't cost an arm and
a leg to be competitive. Changes come slowly; if you want geared winches,
internal halyards, barber haulers or other go fast items, you'll have
to look elsewhere. But if all you want is top-notch competitive sailing,
then you'd be hard pressed to find any better boat.
"Back in 1962 when I first got going on the national level I had
a young family, and it's a great family boat with a deep cockpit,"
said Merle Hallet, president of Handy Boat Service in Falmouth Maine,
who sold Ensign No. 1."Now, as an old man, I sail them because
they're comfortable. Stable, comfortable, maybe a bit plain, the Ensign
nonetheless has a deep-seated quality that inevitably shines through.
No doubt the boat will be taking families and racers sailing for generations
~ Adam Cort, SAILING