We would like to join the rest of the sailing world in wishing happy birthday to Olin Stephens, who turned 100 yesterday (April 13).
Stephens, who was born in the Bronx in 1908, once said "I was lucky. I had a goal. As far back as I remember, I wanted to design fast boats." And that’s what he did. After exactly one semester at MIT, he apprenticed to several designers, including Phil Rhodes. In 1928, at the age of 19, he partnered up with a yacht broker named Drake Sparkman and, a year later, Sparkman and Stephens formally hung out their shingle. In addition to Olin and Drake, the five partners included Olin’s brother Rod, Drake’s brother, James, and James Murray.
Stephens’ first big success was the lovely yawl Dorade, which launched in 1930 and pulled a clean sweep in the 1936 TransPac — first to finish, first in class and first overall. Stephens went on to design many more spectacular yachts, including the ’37 America’s Cup winner Ranger and — count ’em — seven more A-Cup winners in a career lasting more than 50 years. In all, Stephens designed more than 2,000 boats.
Stephens, who lives in New Hampshire, retired from designing in the 1980s but continues to remain active in the creation and refinement of rating rules. He also continues a keen interest in racing and yachting in general.
Happy birthday to a man who truly deserves the title ‘living legend’!