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Home - click to go directly to any underlined subject (updated December 15, 2017)  
   

Olin Stephens
Olin Stephens

December 8, 1958

“I have just had a phone conversation with George O'Day, who is very anxious to get going on two new boats to be built of Fiberglass, which he would like to have built according to our designs.

The smaller boat he has in mind would be a Junior Ocean Racer.."

So begins the story of the Dolphin 24. Fifty-nine plus years ago Olin Stephens dictated an internal memo, copies to – Bill Shaw, DHS (Drake Sparkman), RS, Jr (Rod Stephens) and GGW (Gil Wyland, Sparkman & Stephens' chief engineer.) That memo describes a phone conversation he had with George O'Day. I call this memo the Dolphin 24 Birth Certificate. I found it as a tissue carbon copy in the back of the Dolphin 24 technical file at S&S’s offices on 5th Avenue in New York. To see the full text of the memo (click here).

My Dolphin, Marionette, pictured on the website cover page at Mystic Seaport in July, 2004 at Sparkman & Stephens' 75th Anniversary celebrations, and here on the left in her slip at Niantic Bay YC, in Niantic, Connecticut, is Hull #12 built in1960 by Marscot Plastics for George O'Day and Associates, Inc (O’Day Corporation) in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her particular hybrid construction typifies the period - a guy with good hands on know how but no boat building experience, bought a bare fiberglass hull, used a borrowed trailer to truck her to his backyard in Southport, Connecticut, and there under a tarp, over the next several months, built a quality wood boat on that hull. The mid 1950s to mid 1960s was when fiberglass made its often painful way on to the off shore sailboat scene. Entrepreneurs with little cash, big dreams and a rudimentary business plan saw the potential for a large emerging market ready for affordable small auxiliaries that could race and cruise off soundings. Top designers, with their traditional deep pocket clients, were wary of the often unreliable new fiberglass technology, with possible negative effects on their reputations, and uncertain future royalties based on imagined sales to a new, yet to be proven customer group.

In the mid and late 1950s, the new Midget Ocean Racing Club (MORC) was giving racing skippers of modest means not only their own rule under which their smaller boats could race, but the opportunity to tinker, revise, re-engineer and reinvent their ‘one design’ boats to make them faster, and still take their families out to the islands off the New England coast in safety.

And nearly 60 years our Dolphin can still win races as this 2008 trophy at left attests! Marionette was 1st both days in her class, and had the best corrected time in the entire 132 boat fleet in the Around Block Island Race. And, she won again in 2010! And in 2012!! And in 2015!!!

Marionette has also twice won the S&S Association Global Challenge Trophy (at right) for the best performance by an S&S designed yacht. In 2009, she finished 2nd to the legendary Dorade.

And, its not all about racing - this really incredible video will go right to any Dolphin lover's heart. Click here to go there

Many of the stories about these early days of fiberglass are covered in Dan Spurr’s Heart of Glass - Fiberglass Boats and the Men Who Built Them, International Marine, 2000. This book was a key resource in developing this website. Here I want to describe, and with the help of others, find out more about how Dolphins played their small but important role in these tumultuous days. In the process I wanted to find out how my Dolphin made its unique way through a 50 year maze to end up in my barn with a new life. Dolphins move around in pods so Marionette wants to have other Dolphins join with her and share their experiences describing how they got their new lives. We want to help lost Dolphins find their way to new lives through the restoration and renovation efforts of their owners.

To help get this project off the ground, on February 6, 2007, I interviewed Olin Stephens (98 years young at the time!) at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire. He allowed me to digitally record our conversation, and when my technical expertise permits, audio excerpts will be on this site. This was a life experience for me.

Olin Trohpy Wall

Olin, on the sofa in his Hanover, NH living room filled with mementos and awards received during his long life of achievement, surrounded by numerous piles of technical literature and current projects. Here he is accepting my wife’s world famous homemade strawberry jam as an appreciation gift for this unforgettable experience he gave me.

The small silver ‘pot” in the center, inscribed to the ‘all amateur crew” of Dorade on winning the 1931 TransAtlantic Race. Olin was 23, winning by over 2 days elapsed time against mostly larger boats, in a boat he designed and skippered, with his father and brother in the crew. This put Olin and his firm on the track to becoming the outstanding marine architects of the last century.

At the gracious invitation of Harry Morgan and Bruce Johnson, I spent several hours on March 6, 2007 going through Sparkman & Stephens' old Dolphin 24 files in New York City. Unfortunately, much had been destroyed years before in an errant mission to streamline their filing system. Among the various internal correspondence I found a quote that will warm any Dolphin owner’s heart. This from the man who, at 21, founded the leading marine architectural firm of the last century. Olin Stephens to James (Sham) Hunt, Sales Mgr, O’Day Corporation, May 12, 1965:

..we have always thought of the Dolphin as one of our best designs…”

I had the opportunity to visit with Olin again on January 7, 2008 to give him an update on the web site, and to review with him very early drafts of a Dolphin 24 book based on this site. He has many leather bound books in his library based on one designs he created, or on his winning yachts, so it is only fitting that there be a Dolphin 24 book as well. Click here to see a report on that visit. Olin passed away on September 13, 2008 at 100 years young. He will be missed.

I have spoken with many of the players of that era who are still with us. Without exception they were more than willing to share their memories. I thank them for their help. A partial list of these people from the early website days is shown on the acknowledgements link. A side note - rationalizing the sometimes conflicting memories of 50+ years past can be a challenge, and one of the fascinating aspects of this project.

Dolphins are always born again, doing new and interesting things. “Big Dot”, at left, immediately comes to mind. Little known to most Dolphin owners she, under the patient guidance of her skipper Doug Graham, won her division, and was second (!) overall in the 1996 Transpac Single Handed Race.

And, Natine, a Falcon 24, a Dolphin close cousin, safely carried her single handed skipper, Mattieux Abiven, from New Zealand to the Caribbean, and later, Mattieux and his brother sailed her across the Atlantic to Brittany, France.

Then there's Charlie Nogel's Kiwi, Yankee Dolphin #107 He sailed her from San Francisco to Hawaii, the Marquesas, Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, and back to San Francisco by way of Hawaii!

Dick Beals, on the right, with his Yankee #146, Think Big, is a story that is exceptionally moving.

These and other selected Dolphin stories are collected and indexed in a special section, called Stories. See the link on the left of the screen, or click here to go there

Update April 16, 2017 - one of the stories you will find there is about the 2017 Dolphin 24 New England Championships being held as part on the Camden Classic Cup regatta July 27-29 in Camden, Maine. Click this link to go there http://dolphin24.org/ccc2017.html

Life is not 100% dedicated to developing and maintaining this kind of website, and this will always be an ongoing work in progress - patience on both sides of the monitor is needed. The links at the left will be updated as information comes in and as time permits. So that you don’t waste your time check the What's New Section for the last time we changed something. It will point you to the related subject matter. It is also a chronological index, from the first day the site went up on the web, March 26, 2007, to the present date.

There are three Roster sections - alphabetically by name, and by hull numbers, plus a dedicated roster for the New Zealand built fixed keel cousins - the S&S 24 and the Falcon 24. The links on those Rosters will take you directly to the Dolphin you may be seeking.

Readers will be interested to know how many Dolphins have been 'found' of the 301 built. At this date we have 231 confirmed "found" Dolphins, of which 14 are no longer with us. For more on this ongoing effort check the Number of Boats Found in the History Section. (updated)

There are three indexed sections of interest - History, Technical, and Stories, mentioned above, which can be found by clicking on the links at the left of this page. You may sign up for our email/newsletter list - which will not be shared with third parties without your approval. There is an archive of past newsletters in the Home Section - click here to go there. At the top left of each page is a Search button. This is a link for a Google technology search engine that will search just the site, or the web. Just type in your keyword.

A Forum for the exchange of information of mutual interest is up and running Webmaster Note - on December 13, 2017 we 'locked down" the Forum to resolve technical problems - patience. One day we may have a members only link - if and when we can determine if we have any reason to have such a section. Maybe, if there is interest, we can form a real Dolphin 24 Association. This will depend on finding many more of the present and past Dolphin owners out there. So please spread the word.

There is a FOR SALE page where Dolphin owners can list their boat. This is free - all we want is to help find new homes for our Dolphins. As of this date 155 of the boats listed have been sold.

A quick note to Mermaid 24 owners and former owners. We know what you are - you are wood Dolphins! S&S told us so. You are invited to this party. Also, we invite all Shaw 24 owners because we have DNA test results confirming the role Trina and her designer Bill Shaw played in the Dolphin’s conception. And, this invitation applies also to the 55 or so fixed keeled Dolphin offspring from New Zealand, the S&S 24 and the Falcon 24.

I hope you enjoy the site. And, I need your help to make it better. I want your Dolphin restoration stories, your pictures, technical tips, racing/cruising stories, any historical anecdotes, and your comments. We started up the site with the several Dolphins we knew about then - at this update, we have 255 (the 231 'found', plus 28 we know something about but have not yet found, e.g., Dick Bertrum's hull #1 of which we have some great pictures but have no idea what happened to her. As of this date we over 10,000 pages(!) of stuff up on the website. On January 24, 2011, we announced the 'acquisition' of the Domain names Dolphin24.com and Dolphin24.net. Clicking on those domain names take you right to Dolphin24.org - so we can't be missed. On March 26, 2017 we celebrated our 10th Anniversary! And, of course, the Dolphin 24 has her place on Wikipedia.

Many of the contributions to the website, especially in its early days, came from Dolphin owners and others who were actually there in the early Dolphin days of the late '50s and early '60s. Some of them are not Internet friendly and could not easily see the results of their contributions. This, and a commitment made to Olin Stephens on that January 8, 2008 visit, led to our Dolphin 24 Website Book, 432 pages published in late 2010. A single book could not possibly include all the website content, so the book had a unique 'Chapter 11" that allowed buyers to download and insert additional pages from the website, or their own files, and thereby 'personalize' their copy of the book.

Your patience will be needed as Dreamweaver is a demanding piece of website software, and it is generationally unfriendly. One of the things I have found out is that it is almost impossible, at least for me, to lay out the photos and text for all the possible monitor configurations - small screen, large screen, wide screen, etc. So the lay out is set up for what looks good on my equipment. I hope it works for your set up.

Contact me at RonBreault@cs.com

Ron Breault, Old Lyme, Connecticut

Ps. Another reason to build this website is to continue the work that Jim Huxford did years ago with his Dolphin 24 website. Jim passed away in 2002 and took most of his site with him. We had been wandering in the wilderness since.

 
   
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