July/August 2014 Issue 219: Stormy weather


When hearing the phrase “stormy weather,” you might think of Lena Horne crooning the ballad from 1933. For those familiar with the history of yachting, however, the phrase calls up the magnificent yawl, Stormy Weather, designed and built by the young Olin Stephens and his brother Rod.

Stormy Weather was so magnificent that Olin — who designed more than 2,000 vessels in his career — said it was his favorite, surpassing even Dorade, Brilliant, and all the America’s Cup boats. It was Stormy Weather that made the yachting community accept that 25-year-old Olin was not just a flash in the pan.

The design of Stormy Weather was a result of the great success of Dorade. The Cruising Club of America (CCA), responsible for handicapping sailboats, decided that Dorade, designed with only a 12.5-foot beam, was a rule beater and not “wholesome.” So CCA increased its handicap.

As a result of that ruling, Stormy Weather was 20 percent beamier than Dorade but otherwise similar. Both were the deep narrow boats that Olin loved. When John Alden saw Stormy Weather he said, “In my opinion, a better design would be impossible to achieve.”

Under the supervision of young Rod, Stormy was laid up at Nevins Shipyard in City Island, N.Y., in 1933 and was completed in four months. While the vessel was being built, it was still not named and was only known as Mr. X. Stormy was built of Philippine mahogany on steam-bent white oak frames, 12 inches on center. Its spars were hollow spruce with a three-spreader rig and double-running backstays and tiller steering. Although built with a Gray Marine gas engine, Rod pulled the engine in 1935 for the trans-Atlantic race. Stormy Weather was 53 feet, 11 inches LOA, with a length on deck of 39 feet 9 inches, a beam of 12.5 feet, drawing a deep 7 feet 10 inches.

Her greatest victory was in the trans-Atlantic Newport-Bergen Race in 1935 where she placed first and then went on to win the Fastnet with Rod as captain, repeating what he had done with Dorade previously.

The boat’s owner was Philip LeBoutillier, the president of Best & Co. stores. According to stories, LeBoutillier was at the Manor Club in Montauk, N.Y., when he heard a young unknown named Lena Horne singing the song. He was so taken that “Mr. X” became Stormy Weather.

Rod was a meticulous skipper and celestial navigator. Let’s join Rod and the crew on Stormy Weather bound for Norway in 1935, at a DR of 39° 25’ N by 23° 15’ W. Rod takes an evening site for an LOP of the planet Mars on July 10 (we’ll use the 2014 Almanac). Height of eye is eight feet and the Hs is 34° 15’.

A. What time is civil twilight?
B. What is the Ho?
C. After plotting, calculate the estimated position.

(See answers on next page)


A. 21:35:48 GMT
B. 34° 10.9’
C. EP is 39° 30’ N by 23° 12’ W

By Ocean Navigator