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A Yachting Legend

Posted Thursday, 2 November 2017

Imagine a father coming into a bit of money. His sons are sailing mad – one likes to design boats, the other to build them. Now this extra cash is available, he decides to let his dropout twenty one year old kid design him a radical ocean racer. His younger son gets to supervise the build at one of the best-respected boat yards in the country. An indulgent father and his two kids, working together on an exciting project. A nice start in business for the youngsters. But this is no ordinary boat. It turns out to be a turning point in yachting history.

It’s not only a winner, but it’s beautiful, and different. Skinny like a day racer, rigged more like a day boat than the husky blue water boats of its time. Contrary to the predictions of the old salts, it doesn’t fall apart, and proves very seaworthy. Some of its unique features become generic on yachts to follow. The young designer and builder shoot to global status in their respective fields, and remain there for the rest of their long careers.

The boat named after a fish slips through the water very quickly, ably guided by the brothers and their crew. It builds a racing record that has never been equalled, before retiring from the spotlight and slipping into relative oblivion. Some seventy years later, it is restored and begins to race seriously again. Racing the same international offshore races over again, it astounds by not only bettering its original time for all races, but finishing at or near the head of the fleet on corrected time. She is now the world’s most successful ocean racing yacht ever. Can you imagine today’s crop of motor-sailing maxis even existing at the turn of the twenty-second century?

You may have already guessed that this icon is the mighty Dorade. Her current custodians are a San Francisco couple who brought the now eighty-seven year old classic to Australia in July for a campaign including the Brisbane to Keppel Island race and Hamilton Island Race Week, in the lead up to her tilt at this year’s Hobart race.

Anyone interested in yachting history, or indeed beautiful boats, will have a unique opportunity to see Dorade while she’s in the Derwent, and to inspect those famous ventilators. Dorade vents are now ubiquitous, but this is where they started. And if you’re considering whether to encourage your kids to follow their passion, remember the Stephens brothers Olin and Rod. Their Dad’s faith in their abilities propelled them to worldwide fame and a lifetime of incredible job satisfaction. Who could ask for more?

- by Petrea McCarthy

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