The Ensign sailboat is the largest class of full keel boats in North America. It was designed by Carl Alberg. Its popularity, rather than declining with the advent of very high performance boats, has been on a major upswing. It has one of the strongest national organizations and support fleets from the East Coast through the Rocky Mountains, with fledgling fleets on the west coast including a fleet in San Diego, CA. The Ensign reigns supreme coast to coast as a one strong one design fleet spanning purposes from family day sailor to one design racing machine.
The Ensign is 22 and 1/2 feet long, weighs about 3,000 pounds, has a draft of 3 feet (0.91 m) and is best raced with a crew of four. It has no life lines and therefore can be sailed with many dingy tactics such as hiking and roll tacking. It is a comfortable day sailer with a large cockpit. The small two-berth cuddy can be used for close-coast and harbor overnights. Besides a main and working jib it can have an inventory of a #1 and # 2 Genoa, a blade and spinnaker. It can be equipped with a roller furling genoa.
The Ensign Class Association promotes Ensign Class racing under uniform One-Design rules to maintain competitiveness while controlling costs. Ensigns are the largest class of full-keeled, one-design sailboats in the United States.
In 1959, Pearson commissioned naval architect Carl Alberg to design a 22-foot (6.7 m) cruiser suitable for racing in the Midget Ocean Racing Club (MORC). His design, called the Electra, was the predecessor of the Ensign.
Pearson dealers John Nichols and Osman Robinson of the Nichols Yacht Yard in Mamaroneck, New York, found many prospective Electra buyers would prefer the boat with a larger cockpit and smaller cabin. They passed the information along to Pearson, who asked Alberg to design a day sailer, suitable for one-design racing, based on the Electra hull. The Electra Day sailer was first built by Pearson Yachts in 1962. It was later renamed the Ensign when the class association was formed to avoid confusion with the Electra MORC racer.
Pearson Yachts of Portsmouth, Rhode Island built Ensigns from 1962 to 1983. They manufactured 1775 boats. The original molds were sold to the Ensign Class Association when Pearson Yachts went bankrupt. Ensign Spars, Inc. started building new Ensigns in 2001 using the original molds, calling their boats the New Ensign Classic.
The Ensign was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame in 2002.