If your plan is to roll up to the bar and lay down a Dolphin 24 story, yours better be up to the competition: This Sparkman & Stevens 24-foot racer-cruiser, built for George O’Day back in the heyday of the 1960’s Midget Ocean Racing Club circuit, is long-considered a classic yacht. Yes, the design dates from 1958, and these boats are rated in the Classic Class under Camden Classic Cup notice of race. They were also among the first mass-produced boats to be built of modern materials. In this case, fiberglass. The design spawned a species of something like 300 easy-to-sail, yet fast and weatherly, center-boarders, some that would set the bar for speed and blue-water voyaging.
The liturgy of Dolphin wins and epic sailing stories are as if Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope both owned and wrote strictly about all the Transpac victories and passages to Tahiti and Bora Bora and Block Island. In fact, so many Dolphins exist, that the genus now divides down into “schools” of these boats: Yankee Dolphins, Pacific Dolphins, Marscot Dolphins and Dolphins made of wood. A clever trick for a boat O’Day specifically meant to build in fiberglass! (We’ve never seen a wooden Laser. Have you?)
One a look at Olin Stephens near-perfect drawing shows why the Dolphin is such a dream to sail. She’s moderately light for her time, at 4,250 pounds. Your SUV weighs more. And she can flash ample canvas: The sail area-to-displacement ratio is around 18.2, and conservative by today’s standard, but she’s not at all under-canvased. These boats offer many combinations in sail power: symmetrical spinnakers, multiple jibs and overlapping genoas and everything in between. And keep in mind she only draws 2’ 10” with the center-board up. Meaning for the brave and the physical, she will push her hull speed with a skilled crew; her balanced helm is easy on the hand.
This year’s Camden Classics Cup features not one, but two lovely Dolphin class boats. “Dolphin” and “Marionette.” Both have marvelous tales to tell. Let’s tell them.
Marionette was the 12th boat built. And legend has it, she started off as a bare fiberglass hull, when an engineer named Phil Zerega towed it off in a trailer to Southport, CT and finished her off in wood. And calling her the name “Teal” when all was said and done.
The current owner refitted her back in 1995, where Marionette has continued to turn heads, and take home the racing silver, ever since. Major wins in class in are found at Block Island, the Sparkman & Stephens Association Global Challenge and at the Camden Classic Cup.
This classic Ben Mendlowitz photo captures what this boat is all about, beating to weather in Eggemoggin Reach.
Dolphin’s backstory is surprisingly hazy for this usually-well documented class. 6 boats currently share the name, but this Dolphin is an early O’Day boat, probably hull #4. Usually we work hard to keep our owners details out of things. But this Dolphin is being raced this year for a most-marvelous reason: In the memory of good buddy.
Here’s the whole story:
“Dolphin” spent most of her life on Long Island Sound, and retired to Maine, when Ed purchased her. Ed sailed her on Casco and Penobscot Bay for many years. I would sail with Ed when I came back home from Wyoming, where I was living. “Dolphin” has been housed in a barn for the last nine years due to Ed’s other commitments (Lobstering and Real Estate), which took most of Ed’s time. When I moved back home Ed and I talked about getting her cleaned up and start to sail her again. I bought “Dolphin” from Ed late last summer, with plans of fixing her up over the winter together. Unfortunately, Ed passed away Sept 12th. I promised myself I would get her in the water this year to race her in Ed’s memory with a crew of our friends. I am going to restore “Dolphin” to her original grandeur and sail her around the coast of Maine, with my wife and three daughters. Building on all the great memories I have of a very dear friend and making many more memories with my family, always with Ed in my thoughts.
Boats are not only ships of our dreams, they are vessels for our memories as well. All the best to Ed Glover and his family. Our thoughts are with you.