Yacht designer loses fight with leukemia

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Michael William "Bill" Langan, a noted yacht designer who drew the lines for America's Cup competitor America II during a 20-year stint at Sparkman & Stephens Yacht Design and was the founder of his own yacht design firm, died on New Year's Eve at the age of 55. He had battled leukemia for two years.

Born on June 9, 1955 in Greenwich, Conn., Langan began to hone his passion for sailing on Long Island Sound at age 10. He was proud to have participated in 20 consecutive Newport Bermuda Races - his first at age 15. He would eventually serve as the race's technical director and he competed in most of the major ocean sailing races around the world.

After a student internship at Sparkman & Stephens, he joined the design department there in 1978 as chief draftsman. Two years later, Olin Stephens named him chief designer, the position Stephens himself held for 50 years. Langan's early work with S&S included project management of the 12 Meter yacht Freedom that won the America's Cup race of 1980.

In preparation for the 1987 America's Cup challenge, Langan was chosen as designer for the America II campaign sponsored by the New York Yacht Club. He later decided to concentrate the firm's business on luxury sailing yachts over 75 feet. Langan was responsible for more than 300 individual designs during 20 years with S&S.

"At S&S, Bill had the unenviable task of succeeding not one, but two legends; Rod and Olin Stephens," former S&S designer Bill Lind posted in tribute to his former colleague. "With his characteristic drive, thoughtfulness and deprecating sense of humor, Bill ran S&S with great success before starting his own firm. He was very graceful under pressure and had a knack of making difficult tasks look easy. A natural leader, Bill was one of the best men you would ever be fortunate to meet."

In 1998 he fulfilled his own dream by founding Langan Design Associates of Newport, R.I. With Langan at the helm, the firm completed more than 40 designs of large luxury yachts ranging from the IMS maxi Sagamore to Eos, a 305-foot three-masted schooner.

A memorial service is to be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Jamestown, R.I. There will be a reception at the Conanicut Yacht Club after the service.

Click here to read an obituary from Newsday and one from Scuttlebutt.