Adventurous Use of the Sea: The Cruising Club of America

Olin J. Stephens II  (1908-2008)

Embodying the Cruising Club of America

Olin Stephens was a champion in the field of naval architecture. His designs won seven America’s Cup competitions and most of the major ocean races, including the Bermuda, Fastnet, Transatlantic, and Transpacific Races. He also designed cruising boats that made passages recognized by the CCA with Blue Water Medals.

Despite his many successes, Olin was a man of noteworthy modesty. Here, for example, are the opening lines of his autobiography, All This and Sailing, Too (published by Mystic Seaport): “I was lucky. I had a goal. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to design fast boats.”

Olin was a good friend of Mystic Seaport, serving on its board of trustees for 41 years. One of his early designs was Mystic Seaport’s beautiful schooner Brilliant.

Rod Stephens, Olin Stephens, and Drake Sparkman review plans for the New York 32, 1936.
View full-size image

Reviewing plans for the New York 32

Rod Stephens (left), Olin Stephens (center), and Drake Sparkman review plans for the New York 32 at Sparkman and Stephens, 1936.

Mystic Seaport, Rosenfeld Collection, 1984.187.73905F
1931 Transatlantic Race Trophy
For winning the 1931 Transatlantic Race in the yawl Dorade, Olin Stephens received this silver bowl.
1931 Transatlantic Race TrophyView full-size image

Transatlantic Race Trophy, 1931

For winning the 1931 Transatlantic Race in the yawl Dorade, Olin Stephens received this bowl originally presented to King William III by silversmith Sam Hood in 1699. The inscription reads: “1st Prize/Trans-Atlantic Race/1931/ Given by the Cruising Club of America/ and the Ocean Racing Club/ of Great Britain.”

1933 Fastnet Race Trophy
After winning the 1931 Transatlantic Race, Dorade went on to win the Fastnet Race. And, she won the race again in 1933.
1933 Fastnet Race TrophyView full-size image

Fastnet Race Trophy, 1933

After winning the 1931 Transatlantic Race, Dorade went on to win the 615-mile Fastnet Race. She won the race again in 1933, receiving this trophy. The inscription reads: “1933\ Fastnet Race\ First Prize.\ Won by Dorade”.

North American Boat Designers Hall of Fame award
North American Boat Designers Hall of Fame: In recognition of a lifetime of excellence and achievement in the art and science of boat design, 2005
North American Boat Designers Hall of Fame awardView full-size image

Lifetime Achievement Award

“North American Boat Designers Hall of Fame/Hall of Fame inductee Olin Stephens/
In recognition of a lifetime of excellence and achievement in the art and science of boat design/Presented by Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology/and the Landing School of Boatbuilding & Design/February 17, 2005”

Mystic Seaport photo

A Cruising Club of America member, Olin Stephens was the most successful yacht designer of the 20th century.

Brilliant lines
Brilliant represented Olin Stephens’s interpretation of owner Walter Barnum’s desire for an ultrasafe
ocean sailer.
Brilliant linesView full-size image

Brilliant plans

The schooner Brilliant represented Olin Stephens’s interpretation of owner Walter Barnum’s desire for an ultrasafe ocean sailer. Designed in 1932, her deep seaworthy lines have kept Brilliant sailing safely for more than 80 years. Since 1953, she has served as a sail-training vessel for Mystic Seaport.

J-boat Ranger
Olin Stephens collaborated with the noted naval architect W. Starling Burgess to design the Super J” Ranger, winner of the 1937 America’s Cup competition.
J-boat RangerView full-size image

Ranger

Olin Stephens collaborated with the noted naval architect W. Starling Burgess to design the Super J” Ranger for the 1937 America’s Cup competition. The 87-foot Ranger, with her 150-foot mast, was the tenth and last J Boat built in the 1930s. She easily defeated T. O. M. Sopwith’s Endeavour II with four straight victories during the Cup races off Newport.

Loki lines
The 28-foot yawl Loki (1947) was both a successful competitor in the Bermuda Race and a distant-water cruiser whose transatlantic exploits were celebrated by the CCA.
Loki linesView full-size image

Loki

Designed for Gifford Pinchot in 1947, the 28-foot yawl Loki was both a successful competitor in the Bermuda Race and a distant-water cruiser whose transatlantic exploits were celebrated by the CCA.

Mystic Seaport, Daniel S. Gregory Ships Plans Library, Sparkman & Stephens Collection, #41.619.2
Dorade lines
The 52-foot Dorade represented 22-year-old Olin Stephens’s ideal for a deep, sharp, and sturdy ocean racer. She has been called the most successful ocean racer of the twentieth century.
Dorade linesView full-size image

Dorade plans

Built in 1930 as just the seventh Sparkman & Stephens design, the 52-foot Dorade represented 22-year-old Olin Stephens’s ideal for a deep, sharp, and sturdy ocean racer. Within her first seven years she won the Transatlantic, Bermuda, Fastnet (twice), and Transpacific Races. She has been called the most successful ocean racer of the twentieth century.

Six-meter Goose
Having raced 6-Meter sloops in the 1920s, Olin Stephens designed several exceptional ones in the 1930s. The best was the 37-foot Goose.
Six-meter GooseView full-size image

Goose model

Having raced 6-Meter sloops in the 1920s, Olin Stephens designed several exceptional ones in the 1930s. The best was the 37-foot Goose. Launched in 1938, she quickly proved herself a speedy boat to windward in international competitions with four-boat teams.

Model by Scott Chambers. Mystic Seaport photo.