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An Overview of Dolphin 24 History (updated June 2, 2016)

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The economic, social and technology changes going on in the middle and late 1950's were the forces that led George O'Day and Olin Stephens to their conversation on December 8, 1958 and Olin's internal memo - the 'Birth Certificate" - that marks the official beginning of the Dolphin 24.

Those forces continued and grew in the 1960's as fiberglass technology worked out its bugs, competitors improved and multiplied, and sailors demanded bigger (more head room?) racer/cruisers - and could increasingly afford them. Although the O'Day Dolphin 24 established and sustained its reputation as a high performance 'Junior Ocean Racer' under MORC and other racing rules, its sales stumbled for reasons not yet fully understood, and then caught a favorable shift when Yankee Yachts took it over in 1967.

From its history, and their own experience, Dolphin owners know they have a good boat worth investing their time and money to restore and maintain. It has a great reputation, it looks good, and it performs. One of the major off shore regattas on the east coast in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's, was the Off Soundings Club Spring and Fall Series. This consisted of four races, two each Spring and Fall held in the waters off Block Island and Montauk, NY, often with 200 or more yachts competing. In 11 of the 16 years from 1965 to 1980, in the very competitive 45-50 boat Division B that included the MORC boats, six different Dolphins won the combined Spring and Fall annual results Koch Trophy for top performing boat eleven of those sixteen years. For a listing of click here.

Speaking from your webmaster's own personal experience, that of TransPac single handed winner Doug Graham and his Big Dot, and South Pacific cruiser Charlie Nogle and his Kiwi, we confirm she is a safe and seaworthy boat. Marionette has a great PHRF rating certificate and, well sailed, is hard to beat - especially in light air and downwind.

In 2008, Marionette won both of the Off Soundings Spring Series races in her division, and had the best corrected time in the entire 132 boat fleet for the Around Block Island race. And she won this event again in 2010! And in 2012!! And in 2015!!! For more on this click here.

Marionette won the Sparkman & Stephens Association's Global Challenge Cup in 2011 for the best racing performance anywhere by a Sparkman & Stephens designed boat. Trophy photo at left.

Webmaster Note: June 2, 2016 - Marionette won this award again in 2016.

Click here to go to that story.

Fiberglass technology (required reading is Dan Spurr's book Heart of Glass - Fiberglass Boats and the Men who Built Them) began in the late 1930's, got a push during WWII as a technology that could help replace or substitute for scarce metals in many applications. It was painfully commercialized in the late 1940's through the mid 1950's, and exploded on to the boating industry in the late 1950's and early 1960s. One of its major advantages was lost cost production and this is what made the Dolphin 24 one of the the first successful racing auxiliaries on the east coast. Good racing sailors who raced dinghies like International 14s and Fireflys, or crewed on rich men's larger wood boats, were for the first time able to buy a well designed, fast and offshore capable racing boat that they could also use to take their families out to the off shore islands for a weekend or summer vacation. Within 2-3 years other boats would come along - the Cal 24 and the Tartan 27 - that more successfully addressed this market. But in the early 1960's and for several years after, the Dolphin 24 was the 'Junior Offshore Racer" that cleaned up in Long Island Sound and Buzzards Bay, and established the reputation that it still holds -  a fast, seaworthy, good looking small racing auxiliary.

Dyke Williams, long time owner of hull #1 of the Bill Shaw designed Shaw 24s, Trina, has been following the Dolphin 24 scene for many years. In 2005, he wrote an extensive boat  review article for the Sept/Oct issue of Good Old Boat Magazine entitled The Yankee Dolphin. This is required reading for Dolphin owners. Thanks to Dyke and Karen Larson, editor of GOB, you can click here to read it.

A rapidly growing middle class with more leisure time, a new technology and an exciting sport made wood boat builders with entrepreneurial spirit jump into this new fast growing market. They were problem solving risk takers and many did not make it financially. A glance at this 1947 - 1959 sales chart from the American Engine and Boat Manufacturers, found in a recently acquired copy of Yachting Magazine's 1960 Boat Show issue, explains their enthusiasm. But they built our Dolphin, and it is still here today. They are an important, and colorful part of its history.

There were 3 major builders of the Dolphin 24 - O’Day Corporation's subsidiary, Marscot Plastics in Fall River, MA, Yankee Yachts in Inglewood, CA, and Pacific Dolphin in Anaheim, CA. In addition, O’Day/Marscot had at least 2 subcontractors, Lunn Laminates in Port Washington/Huntington, NY, and F.L. Tripp & Sons in Westport, MA. (Click here to go to the other builders' page)

The number of Dolphins built, and by who, is fairly well established after 1967. In the early 1960's O'Day contracted out production of complete boats, as well as supplied kits of parts to both boat builders and individuals. How these boats were accounted for is not clear. To find out more about more about this click here. The last known production built boat is the rediscovered Grand Finale, Pacific Dolphin # 300 built in 1978. If the players stayed true to a sequential number scheme that makes 300 boats. Then, in June, 2011, we heard about Monika - click here to see her story.

And, we found out that the Dolphin 24 has a fixed keel cousin, the S&S 24/Falcon 24 built in New Zealand. Approximately 55 boats were built. Click here to read that story.

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November 28, 2012. The actual introduction of the Dolphin 24 to the market is an interesting subject. Norris (Norrie) Hoyt was the owner of Telltale, an early Marscot/O'Day Dolphin, and also an author, photographer, and avid sailor. In his 1987 book, Addicted to Sail, published by Norton, he talks about a meeting he attended with George O'Day and Bob Baker, a well known and accomplished model maker, about building a model of the Dolphin 24 that he needed for a boat show. The date is not clear from the text.

The Dolphin 24 birth certificate, dated December 8, 1958, indicates that Olin Stephens was going to get preliminary drawings done within a couple of weeks for Geoge O'Day's review, with the idea that they could be available in a 'more finished condition' for the Motor Boat Show. The final drawings were issued on April 16, 1959 so the Motor Boat Show that Olin was referring to, and that George O'Day says he needed the Bob Baker model for, must have been (?) the January, 1959 New York Boat Show. In the Addicted to Sail book, Norrie Hoyt writes:

So, it seems that George introduced the Dolphin 24 at the January 1959 Motor Boat Show using the Bob Baker model, got his minimum number of orders and proceeded to tool up to build the boat. This took a while - the story about Hull #1, and where and when it was first shown is covered here. But it seems that the real Dolphin 24 hull #1 may have been this model - Here is the excerpt from the book in which Norrie Hoyt describes George O'Day's reaction to the model

The full excerpt describing these events can be seen here.

Webmaster Note: Dolphin owners are quite accustomed to the 'Pretty Boat!" comment from passing sailors. George's choice of words was significantly reinforced some 50 years later in this short story. Click here to go there.

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