Stormy Weather - Soundings Online

Stormy Weather

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Illustration by Jim Ewing

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Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather.

Lena Horne was playing the Montauk Manor resort and singing the sultry 1933 song when New York yachtsman Philip LeBoutillier overheard the lyrics. It was inspiration. At last, he had the name for the yacht 25-year-old Olin Stephens was designing for him: Stormy Weather.

Sparkman & Stephens design No. 27 was an ocean racer, the second in what would be a series of bluewater sailboats — beginning with the groundbreaking Dorade in 1930 — that revolutionized offshore sailing yachts. Dorade, with her narrow beam and yawl rig, had proved wildly successful in her first year of racing, but Stephens believed Stormy Weather would be even better. Longer than Dorade by 2 feet and with 2 more feet of beam, she would be able to handle considerably more sail.

The 54-foot yawl was built by the Nevins Yard in City Island, New York, and launched in May 1934. “Her lines show her to be beamy and powerful, but very easily driven and, therefore, fast,” noted one observer. It was a prophetic analysis. With Olin’s brother, Rod, at the helm, Stormy Weather crossed the Atlantic to win the grueling Newport-Bergen race, then stayed on to win the prestigious Fastnet. And she won by a lot. The British press hailed her as the “champion deep-sea yacht of the world.”

It was the beginning of a long career under a number of owners. Stormy Weather crossed the Atlantic 30 times and was good enough to finish sixth in the 1995 Fastnet, six decades after her first victory. Stephens, regarded as America’s foremost modern yacht designer, produced seven America’s Cup winners, but Stormy Weather was one of his favorite designs. He was able to race the boat one last time in 2007 — at age 98.

Today, Stormy Weather works as a charter yacht based in Antibes, France (www.stormy-weather.co.uk).

January 2015 issue