The 52′ classic sailing yacht Dorade won the Transpacific Yacht Race this year. A Transpac win is worthy of admiration for any modern boat. But what makes this winning boat interesting is its impressive, long history and unmatched pedigree. Dorade was designed in 1929 by Olin Stephens, one of the most recognized names in American sailboat design.
Dorade won the Transpac – then called The Honolulu Race – in 1936. For over 83 years since its launch Dorade has been active in major ocean races including The Transatlantic, The Bermuda, Fastnet, and no less than fourteen Swiftsure races (Victoria B.C.). Having several owners over the years, it has had a long active history. In 1978 Dorade was owned by the Mystic Seaport Museum, but was put back into service again when Antonio Gomez purchased the boat from the museum in 1978. From 1996-1999 it was owned by an Italian, Giuseppe Gazonni-Frascara. The yacht was restored in 1997 by the shipyard, Cantierre Navale Dell’Argentario.
The boat’s designer, Olin Stephens, was a living legend until his death in September, 2008. Stephens lived to be 100 years old and was No. 1 on the New York Yacht Club’s seniority list, having been a member for over 78 years. Dorade’s Transpac wins in 1936 and then again 77 years later (beating many modern boats) in 2013 is a testament to Stephen’s early command of boat design. Early in his career, Stephens teamed up with Drake Sparkman to form the famed Sparkman & Stephens naval architecture and brokerage firm. Sparkman & Stephens designed and sold many of the great sailboats we are familiar with today: the America’s Cup J-class yacht, Ranger, the popular Dolphin 24, and designs for many of the world’s luxury yachts like Nautor, Hallberg-Rassy, Hinckley and Tartan.
The historic yacht’s performance belies its age. In the 1930s Dorade was entered in – and won – several of the world’s most prestigious races. The boat was advanced in hull design, an obsession of Olin Stephens. But it is probably best known for the innovative vent system that allowed air to flow through the boat cabin without letting in ocean spray. To this day, modern yachts of all types have “Dorade Boxes” installed on their decks.
Dorade’s current owners, Brooks Levy and his wife Pam Rorke Levy, are on a grand tour to relive the yacht’s formidable years. Dorade has been refitted for ocean racing with the goal of re-entering many of the races it won in its early years. Many are concerned that the Levy’s are racing what many consider to be an important part of maritime history. Others are cheering on Dorade, a yacht with a celebrated and relevant history.