In 1972 I was Sailing on “Charisma” a 56 foot S&S. A wonderful powerful boat. A Hurricane (Agnes) crossed the course to Bermuda. We had 70 knots over the deck at the finish.
The Transatlantic race to Spain started in Bermuda and was in stark contrast as the course crossed two high pressure zones. The boat that won sailed the isobars. I had argued the point to no avail aboard “Charisma” as it meant sailing at right angles to the course. Less than 24 hours after finishing we set out for Sardinia; for what would be the first Mediterranean Championship; winning every race with Bill Ficker steering.
The America’s Cup showcased foiling under sail; something no one can ever unsee. Foiling is the new standard. Swing keels are also a standard in the search to reduce wetted surface.
It is hard to imagine that “Charisma” was once the standard for speed under sail. Construction with aluminum lent itself to very strong boats that could be easily altered. “Charisma” was perhaps the penultimate IOR boat.
For ease of altering a boat nothing can beat aluminum. Carbon fiber is however in a class by itself for strength to weight ratio; making today’s yachts lighter and stronger than ever.
Dorade is wonderful boat that has found a loving owner. But she was too narrow when she was first conceived and it is a flaw she will carry all of her life. Her early success was just as likely due to the skill of those sailing her as well the departure from traditional design. She still causes people to pause when her name is mentioned.
Rod Stephens’ book “Lessons from the Sea” is available in pdf from Sparkman & Stephens. As most of you are aware Rod and his brother Olin were not only very influential but a dominate force in yachting as we knew it. Their influence is still present today, but sailing has taken a path that neither of the brothers approved.
Both wonderfully charming men they reflected the best of our times. Rod was definitive in his ideas, while Olin would politely disagree, not wishing to offend, but unmoved in his opinion in the end.
Olin Stephens turned 100 years old in April of this year. He touched so many lives during his lifetime; mentored many many yacht designers, and brought joy to many many yacht owners. The list of his accomplishments is so very long, as well. He designed 7 America’s Cup defenders, and was involved in several more.
He is pictured with Alan Hanover, the present owner of “Columbia” the 1958 defender. Alan proudly announced in 2000 that he intended to restore “Columbia” to her original shape, adding approximately 4 feet to the stern . Olin responded quietly:”Why would anyone do such a thing?” After the restoration was complete, Olin conceded that the boat really did look better.I sailed with Olin on a number of boats and our lives crossed for other reasons as well as I lofted and built a number of his designs.
Jim McCurdy is pictured with Olin aboard “Carina” one of Jim’s designs, in 1971 in Cowes, England.