Sparkman & Stephens 30: Best Daysailer

The simplistic and graceful Sparkman & Stephens 30 is perfect for casual sailing, beer can racing, and much more.
Sailing World

Sparkman & Stephens 30

“Narrow and slippery” is how the judges described the S&S 30. Its top-down furling spinnaker could be tended from the expansive cockpit. Walter Cooper

Purpose: daysailing/PHRF racing
Recommended race crew: 3 to 4
Best attributes: overall look, high-volume
interior, easy handling
Price as sailed: $169,000

Record labels re-master classic albums for good reason: Great music is always great music, and with modern digital tools, great songs can be improved. The same is true of the Sparkman & Stephens 30, said to be one of the late, great Olin Stephens‘ favorite designs. In the 1930s, Babe (Design No. 97) had a notable ocean-racing career, and in his final years, says the design firm, Stephens revisited the design with intentions of building an updated version. With his passing, the firm carried on, but instead of the wooden version Stephens envisioned, they introduced a fiberglass production model that superbly connects the past with the present.

The judges had three other classic-styled daysailers to test this year, but in many respects, the Sparkman & Stephens 30 was untouchable. “The first thing I thought when I saw it was how much better it looked than it does on the drawing,” said Stewart. “The sheer comes up nicely from the bow, it’s got that narrow look, and the traditional stern gives it a nice touch.”


“It looked good sitting there at the dock, but when we sailed it, it had a great feel,” he added. “All the control lines worked really well. There’s not a lot of extra stuff anywhere on the boat, so it feels very clean and open.”

It’s billed as a daysailer, but it’s much more than that, said the judges. The interior is minimalist, with no galley or refrigeration, but with a lot of volume, long setees, and a proper enclosed head (with frosted Lexan folding doors). It’s more of a weekender and beer can racer [estimated 100 PHRF] than anything else. “The interior volume is amazing,” said Stewart. “The extra-long companionway and dodger setup allows you to stand inside the boat and look out. You can happily sit in the settees [while sailing], which puts the weight where you want it to be.”

Its high-aspect sailplan compliments the boat’s slender hull, and under full sail the boat leans on its waterlines, gracefully climbing upwind. A spinnaker on an optional top-down furler, and tacked to the stem, did wonders for the boat’s downwind performance. “Having the screecher out there is the way to go,” said Rich. “With that setup, even if you’re singlehanding it, you won’t be afraid to use it. This makes the boat much more user-friendly, and keeps wet sails out of the interior.”


The finish quality and overall construction were very good, noted the judges (it’s built by C&C Fiberglass Components, which also builds the J/70). With a simplistic, but efficient, layout inside and out, it’s the sort of boat you’d want to take out for a sunset sail or race, and then keep on sailing well past nightfall.

For more images of the Sparkman & Stephens 30, click here.
To read more about Sparkman & Stephens, click here.
To see the rest of 2013’s winners, click here.