Pure Class

The following article was sent to us by Colin Youngs who is the H28 fleet contact at the South of Perth Yacht Club.

In 1942 one of the worlds most popular cruising yachts came off the drawing board and soon started production in boat yards and backyards throughout America. It was designed for building and sailing simplicity, allowing for quick rigging and easy handling even in heavy weather. The inventor had a life style in mind when determining its final shape and it became so successful that more circumnavigations have been made with the H28 than any other design. Lewis Francis Herreshoff intended the H28 (Herreshoff 28) for use on coastal waters and lakes, originally designed as a ketch, it could easily be sailed single handed. It wasn't long before H28s were being built around the world, Australia and New Zealand were no exception. Viking Boat Builders of Perth were quick to introduce the H28 and built their first boat in 1947 named "Saga" for Past Commodore Frank Corser. Most H28s in Perth have been adapted with a sloop rig making it ideal for competitive racing. Many boats in Western Australia were built during the 50' sand 60's with the exception of Alma in 1977 and Gundarra in 1994, both these boats were of cold moulded construction. As with many boats built in Western Australia before the fibreglass revolution, they were constructed of jarrah planking with Kauri ribs and often Oregon was used above the water line. Originally wooden masts were used but only a few remain, which are still doing a good job competing with aluminium.

Few of the H28s would be of the same design within the cockpit or cabin, some are fitted out with lots of cruising in mind and others are more sparse leaving them lighter for racing. Cabin layout usually allow for a small galley, ice box, toilet and two bunks, those designed with a larger cockpit may be used for outside accommodation, weather permitting. All except two in the club are sloop rigged but one of the finest example of a traditional H28 is the ketch "Genevieve" owned by Grant Oliver. This magnificent boat commenced construction in 1948 in Victoria and is built from Huon Pine, in recent years it has been renovated with a modern cabin layout and displays inlaid decking and many ornate fittings.

The H28 division was formed in 1963 at S of PYC allowing them to sail in their own class with many original owners at the helm. There were 25 boats within the fleet during the 80' s and as many as 20 have fronted up to the start line. Today Gordon Jones with Mariner is the only original owner still sailing at S of PYC out of a current fleet of 21 boats.

There is estimated to be 40 H28' s in Western Australia ranging from Albany to Port Headland. Most are in Clubs on the river and many are kept in excellent condition. Owning a H28 has become a custodial challenge and regarded as a project of pride, if ever there was a yacht to open up the spirit of sailing, it has to be the H28.

Sadly, constructing boats of wood planking has become prohibitive and there is little likelihood of seeing a new wooden H28 built today, therefore it has become of concern to preserve the present fleet. Today the H28s are still well represented and still form one of the largest fleets in the club, in fact, it is possibly the only H28 fleet left sailing in the world. It is now possible to buy a fibre glass boat with a more modern design, these have become very popular over the East and in New Zealand where Walker of Geelong have sold over 130 boats. They are supplied as a Ketch or Sloop with all modern features, the length and width are greater with a higher freeboard to allow for more headroom.

There is perhaps one disadvantage of the H28, as relayed to me by a couple a few years ago cruising around the Kimberly on route from Sydney to Perth. While anchored in the Prince Regent River a tenacious crocodile had to be shot attempting to get at their cat, the low aft deck proved too convenient for predators to board!


Dimension Measure
LOA 28 ft (8.5m)
LWL 23 ft ½ in (7 m)
Beam 8 ft 9 in (2.7 m)
Draught 3 ft 6 in (1.1 m)
Sail area (ketch) 343 sq ft (32 sq m)
Sail area (sloop) 439 sq ft (41 sq m)

Local variation

H28s are designed with a full keel and fractional rig (sloop), many local boats were fitted with an 8hp Stuart Turner 2 stroke engine although some have since been fitted with more reliable diesel engines. For such a traditional construction, these boats offer good performance and capable of 10 knots off the breeze. They lack the pointing ability of most modern fin keel boats, particularly mast head rigs, yet superior than many of it's counterparts.

L Francis Herreshoff believed his design should remain unaltered and wrote:

"If H28's design is only slightly changed, the whole balance may be thrown out. If you equip her with deadeyes, build her with sawn frames, or fill her virgin bilge with ballast, the birds will no longer carol over her, nor toilthe odours arising from the cabin make poetry, nor will your soul be fortified against a world of warlords, politicians and fakers."

I suspect L Francis Herreshoff would have intended to introduce the beauty of sailing to the masses and allow many dreams to be fulfilled!

Colin Youngs

16 June 1999