Last weekend the Redondo Beach yachting community held its opening day ceremonies with many Marina del Rey officials present, but in addition to the annual traditions, the day also held a special unveiling for a Marina del Rey boat building company called MG Marine that has just celebrated the construction of its third brand-new Martin 242.
The boats are new, but the design isn’t. The 242 is a fast 24-foot keelboat that is well regarded amongst racers for its agility and ease of handling.
They are the most popular one-design fleet in the Marina del Rey area and have been for some time. For nearly 20 years they have consistently had their own start for the Sunset Series race and participation has grown through the years.
In the 1980s, Marina del Rey racer Jim Durden brought the first Martin into the community and has been a devout advocate and pioneer in making the class the largest racing fleet the Marina has to offer.
While the popularity of the boat has dipped and risen through the years, it stabilized in 1999 when sailing champion Mike George and his wife Denise, also a respected sailor, bought a 242 and began racing the local circuit. Mike was a two-time Cal 20 national champion and a MORC International Champion in the Merit 25, with a rÈsumÈ full of associations with major nationally recognized boat builders.
Once the Georges entered the fray, the racing began to heat up, and the Martin 242 became a sought-after boat. Sailors love to race in one design fleets because all the boats are exactly the same, circumventing problems regarding handicap systems, and it’s generally thought of as a more pure version of the sport.
With Mike George’s endorsement, local racers began to join the 242 fleet, making it arguably the most competitive one design class in the area.
“The boats are so equal that we have been sought after by the Adams Cup, which is on the national level and we did the Mallory Cup when King Harbor hosted the finals,” said Durden. “We had the top sailors from all over the country competing aboard Martins in the Mallory.”
As the fleet size and demand for the boat grew, Durden and the Georges tried to meet it by searching the country for more Martins that they could rebuild and enter into the fleet. But there came a point when there were no more boats to be had and the next logical step for the fleet to continue to flourish would be to take on the task of manufacturing new Martin 242s for the fleet themselves.
The molds had worn out many years before, but Durden had a longtime relationship with designer Don Martin and Martin gave his blessing to creating new molds and reviving the 242.
“He didn’t have much faith in anyone’s ability to do it until we approached him,” said Mike George. “He felt that if it was going to happen, we were going to be the ones who were going to be able to do it.”
And they did. With Mike’s experience in the manufacturing field and Jim and Denise’s collective boating knowledge, determination and energy, the team has now produced three brand-new Martin 242s with the expectation of making many more.
“The Martin is easy for a builder to build,” said Durden. “It’s so methodically designed and well thought out. It’s a builders dream.”
While, as Durden says, the boat is manageable for a small facility to produce, the team has had to overcome a steep learning curve in order to produce boats that adhere to the rigorous and precise demands that one design fleets require.
With Don Martin’s occasional guidance, MG has produced boats that are extremely clean, and identical. The group is optimistic about the growth and success of the Martin 242 fleet.
“The first short-term goal is to build a small fleet in King Harbor and a much bigger fleet in Del Rey,” said Denise.
“Eventually we would love nothing more than to have fleets up and down the coast, then we could have Pacific Coast championships and those kinds of regattas and maybe even worlds eventually.”
It seems that Durden and the Georges entered into the boat building business more out of a devotion to their passion, than to forge an enterprise. Through necessity and demand they entered into a new realm, but it just may be that same devotion and passion that will manifest into a solid boat manufacturing company.
“We’re really passionate about our fleet,” said Denise. “We love the competition and it really attracts a good breed of sailor.”