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Finesterre, Sparkman & Stephens design #1054 (updated January 26, 2018)


Finesterre begat TRINA who begat the Dolphin 24.

Designed by Sparkman & Stephens, Finisterre is arguably the top off shore racing sailboat of the 20th century. Launched in 1954, Finesterre was built by a legendary craftsman, Seth Persson in Old Saybrook, Connecticut for legendary racer Carleton Mitchell. Finisterre was 1st in Class and 1st over all in 3 consecutive Bermuda Races (1956, 58, 60) a feat never equaled since. This rather small, 38' LOA, beamy, bronze centerboard yawl combined speed (especially in light air), seaworthiness and comfort, was a great racing boat in all conditions, and in her owner's words "..it was as a cruising boat that I felt Finisterre was truly a success." She was comfortable, easy to sail shorthanded, her shallow draft made gunk holing possible. Carleton was a remarkable sailor and yachting writer who passed away in July, 2007 at 96. Soundings Magazine's October, 2007 had a very good article about him which we have permission of the magazine to reprint. Click here to go to it.

Webmaster Note January 21, 2012. Later in his career Carleton became interested in power boats. In 1960, the same year he won his 3rd consecutive Bermuda race with Finesterre, he raced with Dick Bertrum as navigator on Moppie - the boat famous for winning the Miami Nausau Race.For an interesting, Dolphin related side trip - click here.

Sparkman & Stephens has a link about Finistere - click http://sparkmanstephens.blogspot.com/2011/03/design-1054-finisterre.html

The 1960 Bermuda Race started in light air but it is memorable for its Force 8/9 gale with hurricane force gusts recorded. Many boats went to survival mode, hove to, laying a-hull with bare poles or running off dragging lines astern. Through it all Finisterre carried sail and never stopped racing under her #3 jib, deeply reefed main and full mizzen with sheets eased slightly to keep moving through heavy seas.

Finisterre had many other racing successes notably in the S.O.R.C. in 1957 and 1958 when she won the Miami-Nassau Race both years. In light air she excelled despite her heavy displacement. Olin Stephens modestly credits the skill and experience of her owner and skipper, and her loyal hard driving crew, for this record of racing success.

When Bill Shaw chose Finisterre for a boat whose characteristics he could use as a model for his Shaw 24 he knew he could not put Carleton Mitchell at her helm, so the basic design characteristics inherited from Finisterre had something to do with the fact that hull #1, Trina, won 17 consecutive races! This caught the attention of George O'Day and he told Olin he wanted a fiberglass 'junior ocean racer' along Trina's lines. Click here to see the Dolphin birth certificate.

Below is the accommodations plan for Finisterre. Carlton had wanted a comfortable boat, with amenities below, because he intended to cruise extensively as well as race. In his words "..it was as a cruising boat Finisterre was truly a success"

In the interests of full disclosure - while S&S was very successful with beamy, shoal centerboards like Finesterre, Olin Stephens said, in his autobiography All This and Sailing Too:

"Personally, I was never enthusiastic about the type despite the work it brought to our office. I never felt free of the recognition that capsize was possible, and I always tried to advise new owners that beamy shoal hulls could go over and stay over, wheras there was really no possibility that the deeper full-keel type could do the same thing unless it was completely flooded"

A friend of his, Harvey Conover, was lost in a Gulf stream storm. Neither him nor any sign of his boat, Revenoc, a close cousin of Finisterre, were ever seen again. Olin goes on to say of this loss: "Collision or structural failure could have been the cause, but I might be happier today if Harvey had been in a full-keel boat."

Webmaster Note January 30, 2017 Olin's friend, Harvey Conover, has another interesting connection to our Dolphin 24 story http://dolphin24.org/WhiteMist.html


November 20, 2013. The following is a (Google) translation (minor edits) from the Sparkman & Stephens Italy website http://www.ssci.it/finisterre.htm

Finisterre, found after many years, is now in excellent condition, and sailing in the Adriatic, bought by an owner who loves and cares for her as if she were a daughter.

Finisterre unfortunately met the end of so many wooden boats, and with the advent of modern technologies and materials, was soon forgotten. She was lying on the apron of a yard in sunny Florida, and one can only imagine the damage that the sun of these latitudes caused when, in 1997, a friendly and passionate Venetian gentleman, who has been trying to get news of Finisterre, saw an ad in a magazine, that the proposed sale to little more than a figure of affection. Without even going to see her, after a short negotiation by telephone, he completed the purchase and carried her to Italy, where, taking on enormous challenges, began the slow and costly restoration work, helped a lot also from the same Carleton Mitchell, who provided photographic material and information in order to bring the boat back to its original form.


January 30, 2017. In a conversation today with Steve Corkery, who worked at S&S in the early 1950s, and the first Commodore of the Midget Ocean Racing Club, told me that the lead S&S designer on the Finisterre project was Al Mason. Click here to see his bio.


January 26, 2018. The S&S design evolution for a long keel, shallow draft, centerboard is covered in an interesting article by Henry Fuller (Galatea) who currently owns White Mist. Click this link to go there. http://dolphin24.org/WhiteMist.html





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