I had anchored for the night at Chesapeake City after a long solo-sail up the Delaware from Cape May. The next morning, I raised the anchor and swung Temujin, my Tartan 34C, back out into the C&D Canal for the remainder of the trip from Lake Ontario to Baltimore. I was pleasantly surprised to behold the sailing yacht, Bolero, tied to the pier at Schaefer’s Canal House, her 73-foot black hull and varnished trim sparkling in the morning sun. I stuck my coffee mug into the pedestal cup holder and swung the wheel to starboard instead of port to get a longer look as this classic beauty. The sight of this newly restored “grande dame” of sail was captivating.
I felt nearly the same way when I opened Franco Pace’s photographic tribute to the designs from the board of Olin Stephens II and the firm of Sparkman & Stephens. The first impression on opening the pages is one of astonishment at the aesthetic power and beauty of the sailing yachts presented in these pages.
The pictures of each of the S&S creations, which include Dorade, Stormy Weather, Finesterre, Ice Fire, and Kialoa, are accompanied by an informed, insightful and caring narrative by John Lammerts van Bueren, an accomplished sailor and yachting historian.
The narratives provide a history of each boat from its original owners through the years to the present owners and the current whereabouts of the boat. It’s good to know that Dorade is in excellent hands and still sailing with grace and speed. My favorite part of the narrative is the story, seemingly right out of The Great Gatsby, about Philip Le Boutillier in 1934, who heard a song by Harold Arlen being sung at The Manor on Long Island and told the young singer that she had just named his new boat which was about to come down the ways at the Nevins Yard on City Island. The song, Stormy Weather; the singer, Lena Horne.
Included in the volume is a pictorial and narrative description of the restoration process undertaken under the watchful eye of Federico Nardi of Cantiere Navales del’Argentario in Italy which brought Stormy Weather back to glittering life. Franco Pace’s photos of Stormy Weather charging through the shimmering Mediterranean are worth the price of the book.
What is even more astonishing about this book is the realization that these are not pictures of old boats that are rotting away after years and years of use and neglect. On the contrary, these are action photos of magnificent sailing yachts, which have been lovingly restored to original condition by dedicated owners and skilled craftsmen. Most of the yachts in this volume must be considered, from an aesthetic perspective, American national treasures. However their restoration seems to be occurring more in Europe than in the U.S.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the volume opens with a remarkable forward concerning the design process by Olin Stephens. His discussion of the intricacies of yacht design is revealing and informative; but what makes it even more compelling is that it is accompanied by photos of a very young bespectacled Olin standing on the decks of boats such as Ranger and Dorade, his first offshore design, which won the transatlantic Race when Olin was just a lad of 23.
Franco Pace, whose yachting photographs are world renowned, has produced two other volumes focusing on the work of William Fife and Charles Nicholson. I guess I’ll just have to get those also for my collection.
Sparkman & Stephens: Classic Modern Yachts with Franco Pace Photographer and Text by John Lammerts Van Bueren. Foreword by Olin Stephens II. (Woodenboat Books, 2002; 160 pages)