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Published on Sep 15, 2008
Olin J. Stephens II, America's preeminent yacht designer of the 20th century -- died September 13, 2008 -- five months to the day after celebrating his 100th birthday.
Widely recognized as the most respected, admired and accomplished yacht designer of the 20th century, Stephens once said, "I was lucky: I had a goal. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to design fast boats." And this is exactly what he did. He began his career at the age of 19 working as an apprentice for successful 6-meter yacht designer Phillip Rhodes. On November 11,1929, the 21-year-old Stephens joined forces with well-known yacht broker Drake Sparkman and Sparkman & Stephens, Inc. was formed. The naval architecture and yacht design firm's first major design -- a yacht named Dorade -- won the much-publicized 1931Trans-Atlantic Race. She then went on to win the 1936 TransPac, finishing first in class and first overall. A new era of yacht design had begun.
Stephens' name is most often associated with the prestigious America's Cup Race. In 1937, he collaborated with W. Starling Burgess to design the Super-J, Ranger, which was later selected to defend the Cup after only seven races. Sparkman & Stephens went on to design many of the most revered 12-Meters that raced for the Cup, including Columbia, Constellation, Freedom, Intrepid and Courageous. In 1993, Stephens' and his winning designs were honored when he was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame.
Stephens designed more than 2,000 boats throughout his career, many of which still grace the water today. After eight decades of brilliant work, he has left a lasting impact on the maritime community. His numerous designs, contributions and commitment to the worlds of yacht racing and cruising are cherished, as is he.
This video is a tribute to his life and legacy.
Learn more about Stephens' life and career in his autobiography, All This and Sailing, Too.