The Harbor Report: The nicest guy on Newport Harbor

November 15, 2013|By Len Bose
  • Phil Ramser at last year's H 20 Holiday party.
Phil Ramser at last year's H 20 Holiday party. (Harbor 20 Fleet…)

If ever there was a person who should be our harbor's ambassador, it is Phillip Ramser. I have never met a more congenial person in this harbor. This is why I write this column — I get to pick up the phone and ask people like Phil if we could talk.

Phil was born in West Los Angeles, attended the local schools, went to college at USC and later served in the Air Force.

Phil's father, Hal Ramser, purchased a Kettenburg 46-foot PCC hull No. 5 by the name of Antigua. When Phil was 15, one of our harbor's local sailors, George Strong, asked Hal if he would like to put a group of sailors together and race in the San Diego Yacht Club's Lipton Cup. The crew included Darby Metcalf, Harry Bourgeois, Kenny Watts and Hilyard Brown.

"This was the very first race I had ever sailed in," Phil said with excitement in his voice, as if it was only yesterday. "I was assigned to the pit and was allowed to come on deck, to hold out the main out, on the downwind runs. We came into the last race at the leeward mark with inside overlap on Mr. Kettenburg and headed toward the finish. We tacked 24 times on that final leg to beat the San Diego Yacht Club."


The Lipton Cup has always been the most sought-after sailing trophy in Southern California, and Phil was on the winning crew in his very first sailboat race.

Phil was next introduced to the Snipe fleet by Metcalf. For most of the 1950s, he sailed locally and around the country following the Snipe fleet.

"We had a great time," he said.

In the '50s, Phil served in the Air Force, and upon his return home sailed Antigua for a number of years and did very well in our local offshore races.

After he sold Antigua, he moved into the Etchells 22-foot fleet and helped develop the fleet in Newport Beach and Europe.

"We sailed Etchells all around the world — Australia, England, Hong Kong and Scotland," he explained. "We would have boats built in Scotland and race these boats, then sell them, and we did this for about three years in a row. That's how the Etchells fleet started in Europe."

Somewhere, Phil found time to sail 5.5 meters in Europe with Tom Omohundro and Harry "Buddy" Melges before becoming commodore of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Just about this time, he purchased a New York 36 by the name of Vidiot and campaigned that through most of the '80s in our local PHRF fleet.

Taking a short break from owning his own boat in the early '90s, Phil played a role in developing the concept of the Harbor 20.

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