Subject: January 1, 2000 Mainsheet PC Article
I don't need to tell any readers that there is something very special about this month. I can remember, as a youngster, reading George Orwell's "1984" and knowing how strange the world would be in, that, so very far future and how I probably would not be alive anyway because "no one" could live to be that old. I am, at the same time, awestruck and sentimental when I consider past events that I have witnessed and/or lived through.
Those who have read some of my past articles might understand how it is that I, personally, hold the PC fleet (past and present) in such high regard. At the risk of being smug, I confess that I look upon the fleet and each individual boat as being very special. Special not only to the San Diego Yacht Club, but to San Diego as well.
Let me take you back to the late 1920's when George Kettenburg Sr. was building power boats with the assistance of his two sons, George Jr. and Paul. What with the success of these race boats and the obvious talent that George Jr. displayed in design, it was not long before local sailors approached the Kettenburgs about the possibility of building assorted sailboats in addition to their proven engine powered vessels. Production of Alden-designed knockabout sloops followed by the, now famous, Star-class sloops proved to all that George Jr. and young Paul (with the fiscal support of their father) had the makings of a very serious and successful boat yard. Kettenburg Boat Works officially opened on Point Loma in 1929. While the 40' R boats were being raced locally, they were not a true "one design", but an "international" design. Skilled sailors like young Joe Jessop were sailing these boats as well as the Stars. Other known sailors like A.E. Childs, Emil Schmidt and Robert Mann, like Joe, craving a one design which would suit San Diego conditions, approached George Jr. with a request to consider designing and building such a boat. The end result was George Jr.'s first sole design effort. The first Pacific Class (PC) was born!
Hull #1 proved to be a winner in one on one competitions with several other class vessels. Soon orders followed, one after another. The year 1931 proved to be an important testing ground for the abilities of the PC, when Joe Jessop arranged a race at the Pearl Harbor Yacht Club between 4 PC's (hull numbers 2, 3, 4 and 7) and 4 Herreshoff S-Class boats. Expert sailors such as Joe Jessop, A. E. Childs, Robert Mann and George Jessop were among the participants in this regatta. With the PC's being victorious, popularity for these yachts became evident. All 4 PC's were immediately sold in Hawaii by the end of the regatta. Within hours of the original owners returning home, two of them ordered new boats! The Kettenburg yard was now a hub of activity. Also in 1931, was George Jessop's PC victory in the San Diego Lipton Cup. This race, open to 20-30 foot LWL race boats, was keenly contested, thus Jessop's victory was a true "prize" to the new "PC" class.
While building continued, honors continue to be recorded by people like Douglas Giddings, who, in 1936, won the first SDYC sponsored Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Regatta, in PC's, representing the University of Arizona. The Giddings brothers continued to dominate the SCYA Pacific Coast Championship race course in Hull # 10 ("Windy") throughout the 1930's and well into the '40's. The popularity spread north as PC's competed in regattas in the LA area. At the request of yard owner Walter Hubbard, the Kettenburgs agreed to allow the building of hulls 13, 15 and 17 at the South Coast Boat Yard in Newport.
Thus, by way of trophies, the PC established itself as a champion. Among the notable persons who skippered a PC was Jimmy Roosevelt, son of the President of the United States. Jimmy launched PC #29 in 1938 and continued to race in the San Diego Fleet.
Until 1941, there were no changes made to the design of the PC, however due to George Jessop complaining about lack of headroom, George Kettenburg was convinced to add a "doghouse" to Jessop's #8 (Wings). While the change did result in added headroom, the design didn't catch on. Only the modified #8 and two new boats built in 1941 (#30 and 31) were built with a dog house. Hull #35 was built without a "doghouse" but with the longer cabin. Another minor, but important change to the rig, was the introduction of the Genoa rig to the PC class, for better performance against the Rhodes 33 in "team racing" in Newport. A total of 35 hulls were assigned from 1929 to 1941 when WWII required that the Kettenburg Yard invest their efforts in building not pleasure boats but boats to be used as war machines or fishing boats for the good of the country.
With the war finally over, and sailors again eager to enjoy the pleasures of day sailing and racing, the Kettenburgs began the construction of PC hull #36 in 1945 ( presently undergoing restoration locally). This, and future PC's, were built with Honduras mahogany planking, rather than the now unavailable Philippine mahogany, had the longer cabin (which went forward beyond the mast), along with a galley and toilet. These additions allowed for longer journeys with some degree of comfort. Rig changes included raising the jumpers 3 feet and moving the headstay forward 1 foot. In this manner, the head of the jib was raised. With the boats being in demand, the Kettenburgs allowed for hulls #56, 57, 58 and 59 to be built in Vancouver. Hulls #80, 81, 82 and 83 were built by Kettenburg in San Diego, but shipped by rail, upside down, to be finished in Seattle. The last hull number assigned was #83, and 1952 brought the end to PC production.
The fleet continued to flourish into and beyond December 21, 1952 when the senior partner of the Kettenburg Boatworks and chief designer, G. W. Kettenburg Jr. died. The company, founded in 1918 by George W. senior had lost the mainstay of the business. Younger brother Paul took the helm until the business was sold.
Despite the fact that new PC construction had ceased, lovers of these wonderful yachts continued to sail, maintain and race them. SDYC MAINSHEET articles listed Wally Springstead as the winning PC skipper at the helm of #14 "La Cucaracha" in the 1960's. Chuck Eaton and Dave Miller dominated the class, racing in hull #16 in the 1970's. The 1990's brought an even greater interest in the PC Fleet. With some of the boats being 60 years old, more extensive restoration has been required and several fleet members have stepped up to the plate. A beautiful movement of restoration began and continues on.
Along with restoration, there has been continued interest in fleet racing. In 1995 Staff Commodore Gene Trepte initiated a repeat of the 1931 Pearl Harbor Regatta. With Elizabeth Meyer's "Endeavor" serving as the windward mark, the Pearl Harbor Trophy Match Race was repeated. The Captain of the New York Yacht Club's S-Boat fleet (Mike McCaffrey) agreed to bring his Herreshoff to the SDYC to repeat the 1931 race. Bruce Gresham in Hull #72 "Yankee", smartly won the race series. A second challenge was accepted several weeks later, while the S-Boat was still at the SDYC. As proof of how closely matched the two boats were, this time the S-Class skipper won.
Shortly thereafter, the SDYC and the PC Fleet sponsored a series of PC Vs S Class Team Races, using club PCs. Teams came from Newport Rhode Island and the New York Yacht Club "Harbour Court" to compete in this series. Again, the PC fleet prevailed. This type of team race was repeated on the NYYC turf, when PC skippers went back east to sail the S-Boats in a series of races. Again, our fleet skippers returned home victorious!!
Late 1996, again, brought new life to the PC fleet. Staff Commodore Joe Jessop was on hand to begin the restoration of hull # 9 which he sailed 64 years earlier!! Several fleet members assisted in the hauling and restoration. Owner Lee Estep was assisted by Bud Caldwell, Vance Gustafson (who now owns the boat), Jack Sutphen, Gene Trepte and others to bring "Jade" back to life. Joe was present for the haul and to "supervise" as often as possible. Though he passed on a few months later, we know what it meant to him to see "his boat" come alive again.
Thus brings to a close, this history of the San Diego Yacht Club PC Fleet at the beginning of a new millennium. Whereas the fleet once dwindled to less then 7 or 8 boats, we are now up to 22 with one of them, #8, at the San Diego Maritime Museum. A recent roster has accounted for a total of 40 of these wonderful yachts. Hopefully, a continued search will locate others. Hulls number 14, 16, 36, 37, 40 and 70 are presently undergoing restoration here is San Diego. I'm sure the trend will continue on into the 2000's.
And so... the next time you look up and see those graceful lines gliding by with the large PC logo on it's sail, think of George Sr, Jr. and Paul Kettenburg. Think of George and Joe Jessop, A.E., Emil, Robert and all the other folks who made and kept this dream alive.
Fair winds and flat seas to all of you into the new millennium from the entire PC fleet, past and present.
Staff Commodore Gene Trepte