Olin Stephens: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Published on December 9th, 2015

by Sonja Carberry, Investor’s Business Daily
Youthful obsession filled the sails of yacht designer Olin Stephens II. When he wasn’t steering his family’s 16-foot dinghy off Cape Cod, he was diving into industry publications, soaking up stories from experienced sailors, and poring over his own sketches and drafts.

2015-11-24_9-35-04The whole time, Stephens (1908-2008) was charting a course.

“For years I had prepared for this time when I could do a design intended for what I wanted to do most, serious off-shore racing,” he wrote in his autobiography, “All This and Sailing, Too.”

The moment arrived in 1929, when the unproven, eager 21-year-old draftsman got the chance to design the boat of his dreams.

Dorade, Stephens’ 52-foot racing yacht, was different. Its smaller size, narrower beam and different rigging system parted ways with older, heavier and less nimble oceangoing boats.

And left them in her wake.

Dorade, manned by Stephens and brother Rod, enjoyed an impressive string of triumphs, starting with 1931’s Transatlantic Race and Fastnet Race.

That year’s sweep prompted a rare New York City ticker-tape parade for the yachtsmen.
Stephens’ Keys

Considered the forerunner of modern ocean-racing yachts, Dorade made Stephens a much-sought-after naval architect.

He went on to design more than 2,200 cruising and racing yachts — including boats that won eight America’s Cups from 1937 to 1980.

Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and IBM’s Tom Watson came to Stephens for their boats.

“He was internationally respected,” John Rousmaniere, author of “The Annapolis Book of Seamanship” and a Stephens friend, told IBD. “His business was exceptionally demanding. He had to deal with some very strong egos.”

The naturally shy Stephens remained unaffected.

“In a business dominated by big egos and forceful personalities, he was the exception,” said Matt Brooks, current owner of Dorade. “He had more winning boats than anyone else in the 20th century, but he wasn’t one to brag or rest on his laurels.”

Dorade, similarly, hasn’t rested.

After passing through several owners, she underwent a meticulous restoration in 1997 by Italian businessman Giuseppe Gazzoni.

At age 89, Stephens once again walked her mahogany decks. “For me, the most satisfying and exciting experience has been to see Dorade brought back to life,” he wrote.

Stephens would not live to see Dorade, captained by owner Brooks, win the 2013 Transpac — a 2,225-nautical-mile race from Los Angeles to Honolulu — 77 years after Dorade’s 1936 victory.

“Over the past five years, we’ve demonstrated that Dorade is as ocean-worthy as she has ever been by repeating the races that she won back in the 1930s, and in each case bettering her performance dramatically,” Brooks said. – Read on

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