DIAMOND HEAD is a stunning piece of yachting history. The visionary shipbuilding tycoon George L. Craig conceived of L'APACHE, designing and commissioning her one-of-a-kind construction in 1938 to be his personal "top-notch" highly competitive N-class racing yacht under the Universal Rule design parameters. This rule led to some of the most beautiful and prestigious classic sailing yachts known today including such jewels as the J-class Endeavour, Rainbow, and of course our beloved N-Class L'APACHE. She was constructed to George Craig's own designs at the Fellows & Stewart yard, a California shipyard on Terminal Island, Las Angeles, well known for building high-quality yachts with only the best components. The yard reportedly spent years acquiring a cache of long boards for her "single-sticker" hull planking which is double-planked Philippine mahogany. She was launched to much fanfare directly into the spotlight, touted by the Los Angeles Times as a "Topnotcher."
L'APACHE's beauty and magnetism give her a unique quality that has people wanting to be associated with her and wanting to talk about her, a characteristic that inevitably drew the attention of Hollywood executives in the early 1940's when she was bought by Warner Brothers founder, Jack L. Warner, and immediately sold to a top producer friend, Bryan Fov (best known for producing the first "all-talking" feature movie). By the end of the late 40's she landed under the ownership of the prestigious Phyllis Brunson who launched L'APACHE's illustrious racing career.
DIAMOND HEAD Accolades and Notoriety
First place trophy in Class AA, Swiftsure Race - 1968 LINK
First Place in Class 1A, Victoria-to-Port Angeles Race - 1966
First to finish Swiftsure Race - 1958, 1965, 1969 LINK
First place winner, Interisland Race - 1951
Juan de Fuca Perpetual Challenge Trophy - 1964, 1965
First all-woman-crewed boat to compete in the Transpac Race - 1951
Participation in Transpac Race 1951, 1953, 1955, and 1961
First yacht to broadcast radio transmission in a race, Swiftsure, 1952
Overboard incident when Ted Sierks fell overboard in Transpac Race - 1951
Standing Record - First to finish in Swiftsure's slowest-elapsed-time - 1958
She raced with regularity in the Transpac between 1951 and 1961, competing with top-class West Coast yachts such as Dorade, Chubasco, Morning Star and Windward Passage. In 1951, L'APACHE gained considerable distinction when she was skippered by one of the greatest female racers to ever grace the sport of sailing, Peggy Slater. Peggy was a close friend of actor Humphary Bogart, and helped inspire him to buy his famous yacht, Santana. She was also a close friend of the owner of L'APACHE, Phyllis Brunson, and then went on to write a sailing autobiography about her career titled, An Affair with the Sea. That same year L'APACHE hit major headlines coast-to-coast when photographer Ted Sierks fell overboard, was lost at sea and then found and rescued 30 hours later. Newspapers across the country covered the story as it unfolded, culminating in a happy reunion for Ted and his family. L'APACHE went on to win the Interisland Race, a race most of the Transpacific competitors participate in following the Transpac.
That same year and following the Interisland Race victory, Seattle-based lumber tycoon, Max H. Wyman, (known for selling his yacht "Wild Goose" to actor John Wayne) partnered with Howie Richmond, bought L'APACHE and actively continued her racing career. On her return trip from the 1953 Transpac Race, the top of her main mast fractured. Upon arrival in Seattle she underwent a refit in which she was converted to her present yawl configuration, while additionally raising her cabin-top in the salon. She was re-christened "DIAMOND HEAD", a tip-of-the-hat to the Transpac racers who would round the Diamond Head Volcano Basin in Hawaii on their final approach to the finish line.
DIAMOND HEAD, now sailing out of Seattle, was an active racer during the years of Wyman's ownership participating regularly in the Transpac Race, the Swiftsure Race and others. Her debut in the Swiftsure made history as she was the first racing yacht to transmit radio communications to shore during a race, aiding in the exploding interest in the sport by granting bystanders minute-to-minute access to unfolding excitement in races.
Wyman and his partner kept DIAMOND HEAD actively racing through the decade of their ownership. Her contributions to the yacht racing industry as demonstrated by consistent participation and nail-biting dramatic showings in the Swiftsure, laid the foundations for popularization of the sport. Her presence and performance were so dramatic that DIAMOND HEAD acquired an admirer in one of her racing competitors, Henry Kotkins, a luggage tycoon owning the corporation which would become Skyway Luggage. He decided to buy DIAMOND HEAD and would go on to race her passionately for the remaining 51 years of his life.
Henry Kotkins was reputed to love DIAMOND HEAD above all. He re-entered her in the Transpac Race in 1969 and continued the advancement of her illustrious racing career, winning many trophies including first in class AA in the 1968 Swiftsure Race. Upon Henry's death in 2002, DIAMOND HEAD was passed on to Skip, Henry's son, who in 2005 carried out restoration work on her teak decks, main salon and other areas, while retiring her racing rig.
For the first time in her 80-plus years DIAMOND HEAD sat largely untouched until 2015 when classic yacht enthusiast and current owner Stephen Pennington, in partnership with Lee Stjernholm and Jeremy Zick, became charmed by her seductive classic lines and rich history. DIAMOND HEAD was purchased and brought back to service and yet again began drawing the attention of the public.
On a 4,000-plus-mile voyage from Seattle to the Caribbean side of South America the DIAMOND HEAD appeared in the "Freshwater News" regarding a severe storm along her journey, and made a month-long showing as a temporary exhibit at the public docks of Los Angeles Harbor, adjacent to the LA Maritime Museum, exhibiting her classic features and robust vintage to the public.
Currently, the DIAMOND HEAD is located in the harbor of the historic city of Cartagena, Colombia and will be heading to the Caribbean in the coming months to continue her epic lifelong quest to sail on!
In The News
Through the years DIAMOND HEAD (L'APACHE) has graced the news with regularity. Below is a timeline with clippings found on her doings.
1938 - June
1938 - September
1938 - October
1941 - April
1941 - July
1948 - June
Legendary racing captain Peggy Slater skippers L'APACHE in Transpacific Race
1951 - July
Peggy Slater Memorial Trophy
On January 5, 1991, the Southern California Yachting Association announced and dedicated the Peggy Slater Memorial Trophy, which is to be awarded annually to a female involved in the sport of sailing who best demonstrates outstanding contributions to the enhancement of women’s participation in sailing or individual achievement in the sport of sailing. This trophy, an antique binnacle, was a gift from Peggy Slater to her friend Joan Semper of Del Rey Yacht Club, and Joan donated it to SCYA for the creation of a trophy for this award.
Captaining the 1951 L'Apache transpac
Ted Sierks falls overboard from L'APACHE in the 1951 Transpacific Race
1951 - July
L'Apache - Transpacific Race 1951