For those of us who sail yachts designed by the firm of Sparkman & Stephens, the publication of Lines by Olin Stephens, the most influential yacht designer of the 20th century, is a momentous event. Anyone who truly loves sailing yachts to would feel privileged to look into the artistry of an individual who has so thoroughly set the standard of sailing design excellence for more than half a century.

In print for the first time are the lines — the actual three-dimensional draftsman’s representation of the hull shapes — of some of the greatest sailing yachts of the 50 years from 1930 to 1980. Included are drawings for Dorade, Stormy Weather, the New York 32, Baruna, Bolero, S&S 34, Running Tide, Intrepid, Yankee Girl, and many others. Each drawing is accompanied by a commentary on the design by Olin Stephens reflecting the significance of the design, its place in the evolution of design thinking, and the performance of the completed vessel. There are some brief insights into things that didn’t go so well but which lead to other developments and improvements.

Communicated as well is something of Olin’s personal sense of love for the boats he created and the team at Sparkman & Stephens which worked so diligently and creatively to bring these magnificent sailing vessels to life. Good Old Boat readers know many designers passed through the doors of Sparkman & Stephens on their way to excellent careers of their own.

Throughout the pages, the reader will find a clarity of vision about what makes a good boat. The narratives are rich in the lessons learned as yacht design moved from a purely intuitive venture to an ever more quantitative undertaking, all the while building on what was proven in the heat of competition and the test of the oceans.

If there is one shortcoming, it’s that it doesn’t have twice as many boats and drawings, but then Olin says these are his favorites; that, in itself, should be instructive enough.

This is a beautifully produced large-page volume. The full plans including the lines of the hull and offsets, the interior layout plan, and the sail plan are included. If you are a particularly ambitious student of yacht design, this is perhaps the only time you’ll get to see the actual design specifics of Freedom, Courageous, or Flyer. If you are a sailor with an appreciation of the aesthetics of sailboats, this volume will give you a unique glimpse into the creative mind of the best of the last century’s designers and artists who, at the age of 94, is still having an influence in the world of yacht design.

Lines: A Half Century of Yacht Designs by Sparkman & Stephens, 1930-1980 by Olin Stephens II, (David R. Godine Publishers, 2002; 228 pages)