“I was lucky: I had a goal. As far back as I can remember I wanted to design fast boats.” And that’s exactly what Olin Stephens (b. 1908) did, starting at 19 as an apprentice with a successful 6-meter designer of the time. By 21, he’d joined forces with Drake Sparkman and began creating legends, starting with Dorade in 1930. In 1937, in collaboration with Starling Burgess, Stephens designed the Super-J, Ranger. The last of an impressive breed, Ranger was also fast; she was selected to defend the Cup after only seven races.
The Cup began again 26 years later and Stephens had used the time well, designing everything from amphibious assault vehicles and 110-foot patrol craft for WWII to timeless boats such as Baruna, Vim, Brilliant, Stormy Weather, Northern Light, _ and _Nyala. His experience with 12-Meters such as Vim-designed and built in the 1930s yet barely eliminated in the defender trials of 1958-made him a central figure in the America’s Cup until 1980, when he designed the last 12-Meter to successfully defend the Cup, Freedom, in 1980.
Stephens has also been a central figure in the development of rating rules from the CCA, to IOR, to IMS, in which he still serves in an advisory capacity. To this day, Stephen’s designs grace the waters of the world and provide a link to a bygone era. From Finisterre to Brilliant, Freedom to Nyala his designs are cherished, as is he.