The morning paper today brought the sad news of Olin Stephen’s passing. I did not know him, but for a dabbling yacht designer and lover of a classic set of lines, there aren’t many greater pinnacles. Truly a luminary. I’ll let the obit do the talking:
Mr. Stephens said he thought beautiful boats sailed better, and his designs — more than 2,000 of them — were considered unparalleled in their grace and good looks. He achieved renown in the early 1930s as the young designer of several notable racing yachts. In 1937, the Stephens-designed Ranger won the America’s Cup competition, marking the first of eight victories in the prestigious contest with boats of his creation.
He won a second America’s Cup competition when the race resumed after World War II. Among his winning boats were Columbia (1958), Constellation (1964), Intrepid (1967), Courageous (1974) and Freedom (1980)…
Sparkman and Stephens enjoyed almost immediate success by winning the 1931 Trans-Atlantic race aboard the Dorade, a Stephens-designed 52-foot yawl. The Dorade, with Mr. Stephens at the helm, beat its nearest rival by two days in the race to Plymouth, England. The boat then won the Fastnet, England’s premier ocean race, and a string of other contests.
The Trans-Atlantic victory, capped by a welcome-home ticker tape parade, launched Mr. Stephens’s long career. His boats continued to win races in England and the United States throughout the 1930s, and commissions from wealthy yachtsman unfazed by hard times kept the company afloat during the Depression.
Before the Dorade, ocean yachts were usually built along the lines of the lumbering fishing boats of the time. Mr. Stephens’s boat was light, breathtakingly slender and, in the view of traditionalists, dangerous-looking. It became the racing-yacht prototype for the next several decades.