Elected in 1994
“For advancing knowledge and research in naval architecture, particularly in the outstanding design and technology of sailing yachts.”
BY J. NICHOLAS NEWMAN
OLIN STEPHENS died on September 13, 2008, five months after celebrating his 100th birthday. During his long career he was the preeminent designer of sailing yachts. He was regarded with great respect and affection by naval architects and sailors throughout the world.
Olin was born in New York City on April 13, 1908. He and his brother Rod learned to sail small boats during their childhood, and this experience molded their careers. Olin attended MIT in 1926–1927 but his formal education was interrupted by jaundice, and he chose to work thereafter without further academic study. He quickly achieved recognition and professional success, based on his astute intuition and industry.
After a short apprenticeship working with naval architects in New York, Olin formed a partnership with the yacht broker Drake Sparkman. At the time Olin was only 20 years of age, with the responsibility for all design work. After his 21st birthday the firm Sparkman and Stephens was incorporated. It became known throughout the sailing world as “S&S”. Olin’s first designs included a fleet of day sailers which are still racing on Long Island Sound, a small ocean-racing sloop in which he placed first in his class in the 1929 race from New London, Connecticut to Gibson Island, Maryland, and several boats in the highly competitive international Six-Metre Class.