Which GSC yachts were Sparkman & Stephens?

Amongst the entrants for the Global Solo Challenge (GSC), you may have noticed a yacht to be skippered by Dafyd Hughes, an S&S 34.

One of the smallest yachts in the fleet that will set off on the circumnavigation next year. This yacht is only 34 feet in length, but it was designed by the great designer Olin Stephens of the American Company Sparkman & Stephens.

We go back to 1929 when a young Stephens designed Dorade (in the photo above), his first ocean-going yacht design. Launched in 1930, in that year, this yacht came second in the Bermuda Race. It then went on to win the following year’s Transatlantic Race and, for good measure, whilst it was in Europe, the Fastnet Race as well.

The point I am making is that at the time, Dorade was considerably smaller than the rest of the fleet and won that Transatlantic Race in real and corrected time by a margin of days, despite people at the time saying it was too small and too fragile to enter the race, so please do not ignore Dafydd’s yacht in the upcoming GSC, as it may be a strong contender. Read Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s words in support of Dafydd Huges’ campaign.

Dafydd Hughes’ Bendigedid on a hard stand.
Dafydd Hughes’ Bendigedid – S&S34.

Stephens went on to be involved in the design of the J boat ‘Ranger’ of the 1930s, and then personally designed eight out of the nine winning America’s Cup boats between 1937 and 1980.

The S&S 34, a masthead sloop, was first built in 1969 with the first boat launched called Morning Cloud. This new yacht’s owner was Sir Edward Heath, who, at the time, was the leader of the British Parliamentary opposition party, and who went on to become British Prime Minister.

Black and white photo of Morning Cloud.
Morning Cloud.

Morning Cloud with Heath as skipper won that year’s Sydney to Hobart race.

Heath went on to own four Sparkman and Stephens yachts (all called Morning Cloud) and with Morning Cloud II, he was involved in winning the 1971 Admiral Cup for the British team.

Stephen’s philosophy on boat design is best invoked in his own words, “In any design, the most important factors of speed seem to be long sailing lines and large sail area, with moderate displacement and small wetted surface. Then comes beauty, by which is meant clean, fair, pleasing lines. Though, per se, beauty is not a factor of speed, the easiest boats to look at seem the easiest to drive.”

One further anecdote from the Sparkman & Stephens story is about a yacht called Santana, a 55-foot boat designed by them. The series of early owners of the yacht were predominantly actors, until 1945 when it famously came into the ownership of Hollywood megastars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who owned her from 1945 until 1957.

An article on S&S yachts in Yachting World from 1969.
An article on S&S yachts in Yachting World from 1969.

Bacall is quoted as saying “The only cause my husband Humphrey Bogart ever gave me to be jealous was not of a woman but a boat – a racing yacht called Santana.”

Stephens in his long life designed or was involved in the design of over 3000 boats.

Stephens passed away in 2008, aged 100 years, and will be remembered as one of the greatest yacht designers of the twentieth century. The firm he founded with Drake Sparkman continues to this day from its base in Newport Rhode Island.

By the Global Solo Challenge

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