On August 14-18 the Canandaigua Yacht Club in upstate New York will be hosting a truly special regatta, the 50th National Ensign Championship. Around 45 boats are expected to attend; not bad for a full-keel racer-daysailer in this age of carbon fiber and bowsprits. Gary Jobson, president of US Sailing, will be a keynote speaker at the event.
Designed by Carl Alberg, the Ensign was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame in 2002 and has long been the largest full-keel one-design class in the United States. Currently, there are over 50 active fleets throughout the Northeast, the Great Lakes, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Colorado and California.
Pearson Yachts built 1,775 Ensigns between 1962 and 1983. The boat then went out of production for 18 years, until Ensign Spars in Dunedin, Florida, acquired the molds and started building the boat again in 2001.
With its full keel, 1,200 pounds of ballast and a cuddy cabin with two berths for stowing sails or getting out of the rain, the 22ft 6in Ensign feels much bigger than it really is. While it’s not as zippy as the latest sport boat, it can still ghost along quite nicely in a zephyr and has a surprisingly powerful hull form for going to windward when the wind picks up.
Then there’s that magnificent 8ft cockpit. With its teak sole and mahogany bench seats, you sit in an Ensign, not on it, making it the perfect daysailer and training boat. Generations have learned to sail and race in the boat, without having to worry about slipping overboard or getting thwacked with the boom on every tack. Racing is truly a family affair, and there’s room for six or more when daysailing.
“The Ensign lends itself very well to day sailing and cruising,” says former Ensign yearbook editor Dirk Van Zyverden, summing up the boat’s attributes. “With its large and comfortable cockpit there is plenty of room for grandchildren or sleeping on a cruise.”
For evidence of the boat’s domestic appeal look no further than Doug Burtner who not only learned to sail in an Ensign at Canandaigua YC, but proposed to his wife, Erin, while sailing on Ensign #856. When he raised the spinnaker, it said, “Will you marry me?” in letters imprinted on the sail. How could she refuse? A romantic with good taste in boats is a combination that’s hard to beat.
For more on the class and its upcoming championship regatta, visit ensignclass.com