Swiftsure Lightship Classic Race: Kettenburg Race Results 1949-1968
By Neil Atwood

The Swiftsure Lightship Classic race first began in 1930. The 136 mile race begins in Victoria, BC, Canada, then a beat to weather out the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Swiftsure Lightship (no longer there) off shore in the Pacific Ocean, passing the lightship to starboard, and a run back to the finish at Victoria. If your not familiar with the Pacific Northwest, this may appear to be an easy race. However, the Pacific Ocean enters the Juan de Fuca Strait between BC, Canada and Washington State heading for the San Juan Islands, and then goes north into the Canadian Straits of Georgia, and south into Puget Sound in Washington State. The Juan de Fuca Strait is 100 miles long, and between 11 and 17 miles wide. The confinement of the ocean in this manner increases current. Additionally, at a location of latitude 48 degrees north, there is a tide change of 8-12 feet every six hours.

The other consideration to racing in the Swiffsure Lightship Classic is the wind. The jet stream travels west to east, and usually directly at this part of the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, the wind from the Pacific Ocean increases velocity at this point because the Juan de Fuca Strait provides an opening in the Olympic mountain range that is parallel to the coast line. And thus, forcing the wind through this opening. On a good day, the wind usually blows from the west at 15-25 mph. On a bad day, it is like racing in the Fastnet race in the worse conditions possible.

Kettenburg sail boats were not only built in San Diego, it was also widely believed that they were designed solely to be raced and sailed in the light air conditions of Southern California. However, in 1948, George Kettenburg Jr. sailed PCC, hull #9 up from San Diego to compete in the July, 1948 PIYA Regatta in Victoria, B.C., Canada. George Jr. won his class in that regatta, which convinced Dr. Phil Smith, Commodore of the Seattle Yacht Club to buy her, which he named "Gossip". "Gossip" went on to win Swiftsure overall in 1950 and again in 1953, losing out by narrow margins to second place overall in both 1949 and 1952. Robert Page's "Hussy", PCC, hull #15 later went on to take a First in Class A, and win the City of Victoria Trophy-First to Finish in the 1964 race, and a First in Class A, and won the City of Victoria Trophy-First to Finish and the Ocean Cement Trophy-First Division 1 in the 1967 race.

In 1948, George Jr. introduced the Kettenburg 38, which immediately caught on with Seattle racing sailors, who captured just about every possible trophy during the Fifties. Altogether, 39 Kettenburg 38s were built over five years, with the first, 'Tomboy', going to Paul Kettenburg, the San Diego yard's chief engineer and co-owner. The second went to Dr. H.W. Day, a member of the Seattle Yacht Club. Dr. Day christened his new K-38 "Ono". Dr. day won two Swiftsures-the first in 1952 and the second in 1958 with "Ono". Then followed Doug Sherwood's 'Rebel', 1959 winner; Henry Kotkin's 'Totem'. overall winner in 1954; and Bob Regan's 'Thetis', which figured prominently in several races, placing third in 1961, third in 1962, and losing out on a protest in 1963, after initially declared the overall winner.

The Swiftsure Lightship Classic race results for Kettenburg boats 1949 - 1968 appears below. However, the race results don't always tell the story. Here are exerts from "Swiftsure the first 50 years" by Humphrey Golby and Shirley Hewett regarding racing condition during the 1950 race:

"Ono" (hull #2), the first of the new Kettenburg 38's, and smallest entry, led a 12 boat fleet into the teeth of a gale force, gear busting winds in the race that started from Port Townsend on May 28, 1950. In spite of her small size, "Ono" was the only yacht to escape some form of damage as winds gusted to over 50 knots and seas crested at 30 feet.

Herb Day's "Ono" , the first to arrive in the vicinity of the mark, miscalculated her position in the fog and darkness and overstood the turn by 15 miles. The Canadian Navel escort vessel reported: "It was chillingly cold. Sleeting rain and a dull swirling mist cut visibility to a few hundred yards. As the day dawned, we ran a patrol out into the Pacific and begun a wide circle course to check for stragglers or misplaced yachts. While on station, we sighted a yacht with a K 38 on the sail, rail down, double reefed with storm jib, headed for Japan. A single numbed figure crouched immovable at the helm as she plunged on and on. We wheeled and came along side within hail and told the stunned night watch that he was almost 20 miles beyond the mark! Bodies appeared and, in moments, the boat bore off, shook out the reefs, hoisted a jenny, and was on her way home." It was "Ono", and sad to say, she missed the mark on the way in and was disqualified. Third across the line, Dr. Phil Smith's 'Gossip' (PCC, hull #9) , easily saved her time for the overall win. It was a rare sight to watch 'Gossip' literally plane down the straits as westerly gusts reached 55 knots. Patrol vessels clocked her at better than 13 knots. In one burst, as she shot out of Race Passage, an offshore blast knocked her flat in the water as the spinnaker pole snapped. Ken Ollar was right there. His memorable pictures shows crew men up to their waists in water as they struggled to free the spinnaker sheets." A yacht designed earns his reputation, and a ocean racing yacht design gains it's pedigree based on winning races. As the race results below show, Kettenburg boats 'owned' the Swiftsure Lightship Classic race for a decade during the 1950's.

Year   Yacht Name   Design   Skipper   Class/Finish   Corrected   Corrected
                    Elapse Time   Finish Fleet
1949   Gossip   PCC   Dr. Phil Smith   A/2nd   11/23/1942   2nd
1950   Gossip   PCC   Dr. Phil Smith   A/1st   8/19/1932   1st
    Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/1st   08/41/53   3rd
1951   Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/1st       DSQ
1952   Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/1st   26/11/13   1st
    Gossip   PCC   Dr. Phil Smith   A/1st   26/32/34   2nd
    Rebel   K-38   D. Sherwood   BB/2nd   27/28/57   8th
1953   Gossip   PCC   Charlie Ross   A/1st   22/51/29   1st
    Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/       DNF
    Rebel   K-38   D. Sherwood   BB/       DNF
1954   Totem   K-38   Henry Kotkins   BB/1st   38/39/51   1st
1955   Totem   K-38   Henry Kotkins   BB/1st   29/52/00   11th
1956   Gossip   PCC   C.U. Sahlin   A/1st   26/35/17   3rd
    Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/1st   26/54/56   5th
    Totem   K-38   Henry Kotkins   BB/4th   33/51/11   15th
1957   Rebel   K-38   A.D. Sherwood   BB/1st   25/51/09   3rd
    Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/4th   42/16/49   18th
    Totem   K-38   Henry Kotkins   BB/5th   49/14/24   19th
1958   Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/1st   29/09/37   1st
    Totem   K-38   Henry Kotkins   BB/5th   29/37/44   13th
1959   Rebel   K-38   A.D. Sherwood   BB/1st   26/41/34   1st
    Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/2nd   26/57/06   2nd
    Totem   K-38   Henry Kotkins   BB/8th   38/37/04   27th
1960   Rebel   K-38   A.D. Sherwood   BB/3rd   28/25/57   4th
    Ono   K-38   Dr. Herb Day   BB/7th   30/21/33   19th
1961   Thetis   K-38   R.L. Regan   BB/3rd   26/24/41   3rd
    Totem   K-38   R.L. Brown Jr.   BB/6th   26/40/53   8th
1962   Thetis   K-38   R.L. Regan   BB/2nd   23/40/01   3rd
1963   Thetis   K-38   R.L. Regan   BB/       DSQ
1964   Thetis   K-38   R.L. Regan   BB/2nd   10/17/2007   2nd
    Hussy   PCC   R.G.Page   A/1st   10/47/38   3rd
    City of Victoria Trophy - First to Finish                    
1965   Hussy   PCC   Robert Page   A/1st   19/32/47   3rd
    City of Victoria Trophy - First to Finish                    
    Ocean Cement Trophy - First Division 1                    
1968   Hussy   PCC   Dr. R. Winmann   A/3rd   14/46/24   59th