Just about any avid sailor knows the name Olin Stephens. That's because many famous yachts, like the America's Cup boat called the Intrepid, were Stephens' design. Friends of the distinguished boat-maker say he was an old-fashioned gentleman.
"You could talk to him about everything. We talked about politics, about everyday life, but most of the time we talked about boats," said Horst Richter, a friend.
Richter met Stephens in 1991. The Dartmouth professor needed an expert to lecture in his technology of sailing class.
"I claimed at some point in my class that-- when I introduced Olin Stephens, I said to my class we lost the America's Cup after Olin Stephens retired, because he retired in 1980 and in 1983 we lost the America's Cup for the first time in over 150 years or so," Richter said.
Stephens designed eight America's Cup winners between 1937 and 1980.
After he retired from the competitive side of sailing, he lived in Vermont, and then New Hampshire and shared his knowledge with students at Dartmouth.
Channel 3 News interviewed him at a class in 1997.
"Even when I was very young, I was interested in designing boats and I drew boats and studied the magazines and that sort of thing," Stephens told us.
Richter said, "As I learned from one of his sailor friends, Olin Stephens never needed to look into the sails. He just watched the waves and he would be faster than everybody else."
Stephens also helped design Lightning class boats which compete on Lake Champlain and around the world. And even through his name echoed across oceans, his character remained grounded.
"He was a famous person, but still he was modest in his dealing with other people," Richter said.
Stephens' memory will live on in the mind of sailors and students alike, and there is a physical legacy as well, because many of the boats he helped design are still being sailed today.
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