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Rod Stephens (updated June 15, 2020)  

Rod Stephens, who passed away in 1995 at 86 yrs old, was 16 months younger than Olin, and very involved in athletics - captain and quarterback of his unbeaten high school team - and playing basketball and baseball as well. Olin, on the other hand, spent his time reading history and teaching himself how to design boats. They were both good students in high school, and they sailed whenever they could - on western Long Island Sound from Larchmont YC where they were members, and on Barnstable Bay on Cape Cod, and out of Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard where their father had rented summer homes. As kids they decided that whenever they sailed together Olin would take the helm and make tactical decisions while Rod's high energy level made him gravitate to handling the foredeck, trimming, making the boat go fast, and generally making sure everything worked. This picture of Rod is from Frank Kinney's book "You are First".

Rod crewed on many competitive boats and was very much in demand by S&S's best racing clients. He was 'the best sail trimmer ever' said one high profile skipper. He could climb the mast or forestay to fix things, or look for the breeze. He was S&S's go-to person for the rig, deck layout, construction details, boat and builder inspections, and sea trials.


He was creative, inventing the now famous Dorade Box, the standard for classic ventilation, and was a driver in getting the DUKW's (Duck) - the amphibious 2 1/2 ton Army truck - to become an important contributor to the World War II effort. He received the United States’ highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, for his contributions in his design and engineering of the DUKW.


Like Olin, Rod neither smoked or drank. He loved playing his accordian for the crew as he is doing here on Ranger with Mike Vanderbuilt steering - this picture from the Rosenfeld Collection.

Rod was also a top skipper and tactician in his own right. In 1932 he skippered Dorade in the Bermuda Race finishing 1st in Class. He was the skipper when Stormy Weather won the 1935 Transatlantic Race. In his own boat, Mustang, an S&S designed New York 32, he won Class B in the 1952 Bermuda Race, and was 2nd in Class on 2 other occasions.

The following is a picture of Rod and Mustang from All This and Sailing Too.


Webmaster Note: On July 23rd, 2008, DFI (Dolphin Field Investigator) Chris Becker advised that, after a long and fruitless search for a Dolphin he could sail now and and restore as he went along, he had settled on a Tartan 27. His email, (edited) in response to a follow up made by your webmaster regarding his Dolphin hunt, is below. He has our "sympathy" as well as good wishes. A Tartan 27, after all, is a Dolphin's bigger brother (sister?)

Chris has made a number of interesting contributions to this website including a link to Rod Stephens and the book Rod was writing when he died. He only completed about 100 pages. They can be read online, or downloaded in a PDF format if desired. See the link at the bottom.

July 23, 2008

I am not out of the loop yet. I am alive and sailing.

After the boat at Browns died for me and have looked at the others, I decided to get a Tartan 27 in Beverly Mass. It was the best boat for the money on the East coast, knowing that I could take a step down later.

I am still putting the boat back into shape in accord to what I feel it needs. This may take a few months or into the winter. In the meantime, I can sail and I can work on the boat at any time. It does both things for me now.

I still keep an eye out for the Dolphin 24 activities. In fact, I know where the green boat is moored near Larchmont. I plan to get a package together and sail by him and leave it for his review and action. The prime action is for him to contact you. If I see the boat out sailing, I will get the sail number which I think is 71. Webmaster Note: This boat is Charlie Drew's beautifully restored "Arion", orginally "Yankee", the first boat built by John Shumaker, founder of Yankee Yachts. That may not be it. I am not very sure of that part. I had the pleasure of seeing the boat in the yard for the whole winter. I was able to get answers and dimensions of things that I wanted to know about, without going to Brown's Boat Yard.

The concept of the Dolphin 24 is a perfect thing for me. The key thing is that it goes on a trailer with ease at Larchmont. That means, one morning and the boat is out or in the water and moved back. That is a key money thing too.

I am planning to keep the Tartan in the water for the winter. I want to sail and to work on the boat at the same time. There is a lot of work getting the correct sails in place and getting the settings too. That takes time, as you know. I still think that the Dolphin 24 should sail faster and better with less room below. That is my take now.

I hope that you enjoy the Rod book. I had the pleasure of knowing him and have sailed on Mustang. When I read this book, I can see him talking. I have to say that I agree with about 98% of what he says in the book. The other 2% are minor areas. The material in this book should be required reading for all sailors. I suggest that you go on the SO&SO website and down load the whole "type plan'' section. I think that there are parts of that you should integrate into your work. The check lists are the same for a DO-24 as for Palawan and upward. These are good for both a new boat and an old one being updated and brought back into spec with SO&SO norms.

Will be keeping in touch with you.

With warm regards,
Chris Becker


December 23, 2008


December 11, 2011. Wikipedia has a good summary of Rod's accomplishments. Here it is

Roderick Stephens (From Wikipedia)
Roderick (Rod) Stephens, Jr. (1909–1995) was one of American's best known and respected sailors. In 1933 he became Associate Designer, later promoted to President, of Sparkman & Stephens naval architecture and yacht design firm, a company founded in 1929 by his brother Olin Stephens and Drake Sparkman.

Born in New York City in 1909 Rod Stephens and his family moved to Scarsdale, NY. He graduated Scarsdale High School and attended Cornell University. In 1928 Rod Stephens left Cornell University to join the well-respected Henry Nevins boatyard in City Island, New York. He held an honorary Master of Arts (postgraduate) awarded jointly to his brother Olin in 1958 by Brown University to "a rare team of designers of yachts, ships and amphibious vehicles.

He was a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, the New York Yacht Club, the American Yacht Club, a former Commodore of the Cruising Club of America and a winner of its Blue Water Medal, a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (U.K.), a former Commodore of the Storm Trysail Club, a former Commodore of the Off Soundings Club—North American Station, a former Post Captain of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, an honorary member of the United States Naval Academy Fales Committee, Chairman of the New Ship Committee of the Sea Education Association, a member of Mystic Seaport Museum, and the National Maritime Historical Society's WAVETREE Foundation.

He received the Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian award, for his contributions during World War II in his design and engineering of the DUKW ("duck") military amphibious vehicle. He was the first mate aboard Dorade for her 1931 Trans-Atlantic and Fastnet Race triumphs, repeating those victories as the skipper of Stormy Weather in 1933.

In 1937 he was in the afterguard of the J-Class Ranger for her successful defense of the America's Cup. In 1958 and 1964 he served in the afterguard of the Sparkman & Stephens designed 12-metre class yachts COLUMBIA and Courageous for two more successful defenses of the America's Cup.

In addition to the above notable racing, he cruised and raced hundreds of thousands of miles throughout the world as the chief inspector for S&S and he had the final word on numerous details.


A Postscript. In a follow up review of Mo-Dean's, (Yankee #237) page, a couple of old, late 1970's era, Sparkman & Stephens letters turned up in the archives. One was a letter to former #237 owner Robert Gould of Springfield, Virginia from Rod Stephens. These were pretty poor copies and were 'filed' somewhere by your webmaster. The excuse - it was still early days of the website. This letter is typical of others from Rod indicating the depth of his involvement in day to day affairs of S&S - including the Dolphin. Here is a link to that letter





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