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The world's most successful yacht to compete at AHIRW 2017

by Rob Mundle on 3 May 2017
The classic yacht, Dorade, seen here racing off Antigua in the Caribbean, will be competing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2017. Dorade Team
The world’s most successful ocean racing yacht over the past nine decades; the famous 16-metre long American yawl, Dorade, is to compete at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2017.

No yacht in the long history of the sport has won more of the world’s major races, nor covered more offshore racing miles, than Dorade. She has collected first place trophies for the Fastnet Race out of England, the Bermuda race, the Transpacific Race between Los Angeles and Hawaii plus many more.

All success, spanning more than eight decades, has come in the northern hemisphere, so Dorade’s owners, Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy, have now decided it is time to give their yacht the chance to be a winner in southern hemisphere events.

Dorade was designed in 1929 by 21-year-old Olin Stephens and built at a cost of $28,000 under the supervision of his younger brother, Rod, at Minneford Yacht Yard in New York. When she emerged from the shed for her launching in 1930 observers were shocked by what they saw. The hull shape had her looking more like a day-sailing six-metre class yacht rather than an ocean racer: she was certainly a far cry from the traditional American schooners of the day.

The design featured a deep keel with external ballast, a remarkably narrow beam of 3.1 metres, and a generous sail plan spread across a yawl rig. The method of construction was also different: the hull frames were steam-bent rather than sawn. Rod Stephens also received additional acclaim at the time when he unveiled the unique on-deck ventilators on the yacht. This concept, still used today, became known as a Dorade Box. It permits the passage of air into and out of a cabin while keeping rain, spray and sea water out.

Just months after being launched, Dorade was acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic following wins in the TranAtlantic and Fastnet races. This remarkable achievement resulted in the Stephens brothers and the Dorade crew being treated like heroes when they returned to New York. They were even given a ticker-tape parade along Broadway.

From that moment, yacht design across the world was transformed; Olin Stephens had taken naval architecture from being an art to a science while Rod had shown new ways to build a light and strong hull. The Stephens brothers were soon recognised as two of ocean racing’s most gifted innovators; praise that led to them playing significant roles in the development of America’s Cup yachts as well as ocean racers over ensuing decades.

Dorade was fully restored at an Italian yacht yard 20 years ago and has been maintained in superb condition since. After contesting this year’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, which is scheduled for August 19 to 26, the yacht will head south to Sydney and be prepared for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

The entry list for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2017 continues to grow at a record rate. The 100th entry should be lodged within a week.

German luxury carmaker, Audi, is returning for the 12th year as principal sponsor, demonstrating the brand’s continued commitment to high quality, competitive offshore racing and a benchmark onshore social calendar that is as inclusive as it is exclusive.

All information relating to AHIRW is on the regatta website.

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