Olin Stephens (1908 – 2008) was, without doubt, the most successful yacht designer of the 20th century. From the 1930s, through to the 1980s, he was responsible for some of the most beautiful, most famous and most successful yachts ever produced. He will always be remembered for his influence on the America’s Cup – in 1938 he co-designed ‘Ranger’ which defended the Cup in 1938. Stephens went on to design 8 of the 9 successful America’s Cup defenders between 1938 and 1980.
Olin Stephens and his brother Rod went into partnership with Drake Sparkman, a yacht broker, in 1929. His fourth design was ‘Dorade’, designed for his father. Dorade won the Transatlantic Race and then a windy Fastnet, in 1931, before returning to New York. Olin Stephens was in demand as a designer. After WW II, Stephens work expanded internationally and he produced many successful one off racers and production boats. His brother, Rod, had been in the company from the start and was responsible for much of the rigging design. By the 1960s, the company had expanded considerably, with many talented staff ‘on the books’.
The first drawings for the Freya 44 Class (S&S Design 1930) came off the boards in the Sparkman & Stephens Offices in New York in 1968. This design is essentially an enlarged version of the highly successful Gaia / Swan 36 (S&S Design 1710). The design features a separate keel and rudder and the initial design featured trim tab on the after end of the keel. The trim tab was controlled by a smaller wheel within the steering wheel which was to be seen on the inboard profile if one looks carefully but is more apparent on the construction plan. The trim tab was dispensed with shortly after the first boats were constructed. The boat was designed to rate under C.C.A., R.O.R.C. and also as a two-tonner. The design initially had a drawings for a wooden mast, but I am unsure whether any boats were actually built with this.
The Freya is very similar to the Swan 43 (S&S design 1973) which was designed at the same time and the Swan 44 and 48, which were drawn later (first boat launched in 1972).
A number of boats were built to this design by Cantiere Benello of Italy. Construction is of fiberglass using sandwich construction and an Airex core. The boat was introduced in 1968.
The Freya 44 was designed at a time when ‘cruiser / racers’ were just that – cruising boats that could be raced with great success. However, this led to a number of different layouts – due to either racing or cruising being the priority.
The place of the Freya 44 can be seen below in the progression below, from the earliest of these designs, the Swan 36, through the Freya 44 and Swan 43, both designed at the same time. The final design below, the Swan 48 was the first of the S&S Swans to have the distinctive ‘blister’ coachroof, tapering down to the the level of the foredeck. he Swan 36 was designed a few years before the Freya 44 and Swan 43, with the Swan 48 following in the early 70s. Interestingly, German Frers was senior draughtsman at the S&S design office when the Freya was drawn, although it is not clear if he had any input into the Freya design. The plans that I have were draughted by Howard J. Pierce and Mario Taraboccia. Howard Pierce started work as an administrative assistant with S&S in 1952 and last worked there in 2001. he was the archivist for S&S. Mario Taraboccia worked in S&S from 1960. Mario was from Yugoslavia and was known as Olin’s ‘right-hand-man’. He did most of the drawings for the S&S 12 metres Intrepid, Courageous, Constellation, Enterprise and Freedom, from the 60s through the 70s. Olin Stephens almost never “drew” (meaning actually drew the iteratively faired lines drawings for building) for his boats. Talented draughtsmen in his office actually laid down the lines from Olin’s “sketches” or initial lines plans. Olin would carefully examine their work though and have final say on the design. He is ALWAYS considered the “designer” of all those excellent boats. Other well known designers who worked in S&S were Halsey Herrashoff, Gary Mull, Johan Valentjin and Bill Tripp.