The son of a coal merchant, Olin Stephens was born in 1908 and although he was brought up in New York, he spent his summers with his brother Rod learning to sail on the New England coast. A burgeoning passion for sailing and sailing boats took him to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but after a term the 19-year-old Olin left and took his career onto a more practical path, joining a working yacht design company. It was a decision he would never regret.
Sparkman & Stephens was formed towards the end of 1929 - when Olin was just 21. Within a year the partnership - which consisted of Olin and his brother Rod, alongside the yacht broking Sparkman family and James Murray - had designed the ocean racer Dorade that won the 1936 Trans-pacific race. It was the calling card that brought the design team to the attention of the big players in the America's Cup and by 1937 Sparkman & Stephens were drawing the elegant J-Class designs which culminated in Ranger, the defender of the 1937 America's Cup.
Ranger successfully defended and began a Sparkman & Stephens association with the America's Cup that was to last until the early 80s, though the J-Class giants and on into the new 12-Metre class, with famous names like Columbia, Constellation, Freedom, Intrepid and Courageous Mono pic on boat - Intrepid
Olin Stephens lived his passion for yacht design through one of the most exciting eras in the sport of sailing. From yachts as ships to yachts as hi-tech machines embracing space technology, from the days of paper and pencil to the advent of computer technology and velocity prediction programs, Sparkman & Stephens straddled the gap over science and art.
In September 2008, Olin Stephens passed away, aged 100, and the sailing world mourned the loss of one of its true heroes. He will be remembered as legend to whom many current yacht designers pay tribute as an innovator and original thinker.