News archives and regatta histories are filled with the name Edlu, a 1934 Olin Stephens-designed yawl that proved to be the breakthrough yacht of its era and a dominating force along the East Coast for more than a decade.
Edlu surpassed all the designer’s expectations. It was built for cruising, but when the starting gun went off, Edlu took off like a racehorse, easily out-distancing its lighter, narrower, racing-designed sisters.
Edlu was commissioned in 1934 by businessman and philanthropist Rudolph Schaefer at the then-extravagant cost of $25,000. The boat was named Edlu for his daughters Edmee and Lucy, and received international acclaim for its speed and grace of lines.
Stephens retired in 1980, but in his long life, he has overseen the design of more than 2,000 yachts, including eight America’s Cup defenders. His boats scored victories in the Fastnet Race (7), the Whitbread Round the World Race (2), and the Bermuda Race (11) — the Grand Slam of yacht racing. He is now 96 and still making regular visits at rendezvous and regattas.
Edlu won the Bermuda Race in its first year, 1934, and in Stephens’ own opinion, it may be his most beautiful and successful design. The boat’s legend was built from a string of fast passages and legendary racing successes.
Today all great Stephens designs are compared to Edlu, as it has unwittingly become the benchmark for his legacy, and one of the finest racing/cruising machines ever to lay down a lee rail. When the great American yachts are mentioned — Dorade, Stormy Weather and Brilliant — there is the inevitable comparison.
Where is it now? Today the classic wooden yawl is sailing under the name Orion and has sailed the waters of San Diego for 16 years. In a year when Sparkman & Stephens celebrates its 75th anniversary (2004), their famous benchmark will celebrate Edlu’s 70th.
The boat moved to the West Coast in 1958 as Wynfred, sailed out of Newport Beach under the name of Roban, and in 1961 it was sold again and moved to San Francisco, where it continued to feed the legend of S&S-designed boats. It was here it received the name Orion.
In May legendary designer Stephens paid Orion a visit to offer his own brand of birthday wishes. He sat behind the helm and reminisced with Keith Korporaal, the boat’s current owner, about the beauty of his older designs, the inspirations for his yachts, the magic of wood in the hands of a designer, and his lengthy and legendary career.
“I was sailing on my boat, Dorade, that first year with my brother, in the Bermuda Race, which in my opinion is the greatest sailing race ever,” Stephens remarked. “I had to suffer the humility (and pride) of watching Edlu roll out her reefs one morning at first light and come from behind to beat us. She was extremely well built, as is evidenced by her long life and solid history. I give most of that credit to her builder, Henry B. Nevins, and to my brother, who was a stickler for detail.”
Orion’s owner is holding a contest to locate old photos, historical information and anecdotes from those who sailed on his boat or raced against it during any of its four personalities — Edlu, Wynfred, Roban or Orion. Participants will be invited to sail as his guests during the birthday celebration throughout 2004.
For more information on Orion,
visit www.orionsailing.com, or call