The above image was taken at the 1995 Johnson 18 Nationals, the heyday of the class. Three years later, Johnson Boatworks closed its doors and ceased production of these lovely water-rockets.
Then began the dark ages. The class molds languished under the care of Catalina Yachts. With only 100 hulls produced and a decentralized national sales model Johnson 18s were scattered and fleets were sparse. Interest in the class wained due to lack of production, which in turn decreased the likelihood of Catalina offering fresh models.
By 2005 the Johnson 18 fleet at Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis, MD was down to three boats. They were in danger of losing storage rights at SSA's waterfront facility. It was decided that something needed to be done. An owner's contact list and online community was created and local Johnson 18 owners were tapped to compete with SSA racers. For the first time since 1995 Johnson 18 sailors from all over the country were comparing notes and exchanging strategies.
In 2007 the idea for a perpetual cup and yearly multi-day regatta began to take shape with the main goal of raising awareness of the Johnson 18, as well as to encourage long distance participants.
A firey bird rising from the ashes of a nearly defunct class, the Phoenix Cup marks the revitalization of the Johnson 18 class who, due to its participants' sheer grit and determination, refuses to fade from existence.