Rod Stephens was known as the consummate seaman and racing sailor. His racing career started in 1931 when he and his brother Olin won the trans-Atlantic race by two days with DORADE. When the brothers returned to the United States after that victory, they were given a ticket-tape parade down Broadway, the first time that had ever been done to celebrate a sailing victory.
Rod served on the afterguard of RANGER in 1937, where he was in charge of all sails and gear and was responsible for having things ready when wanted. It was during his first America’s Cup series that Rod began to develop his reputation as a problem solver, which meant frequent trips to the masthead or boomend, usually at awkward moments. Rod generally saw the turning marks before anyone else, as he carried glasses around his neck constantly to see if anything had fouled aloft- Always innovative, always active, he was often seen aloft on yacht masts, either by Bosun’s chair or going up, hand over hand.
While his brother Olin was the design genius at Sparkman & Stephens, Rod was the expert when it comes to the design of rigging, fittings and making things work.
Known for his muscle and agility, Rod Stephens was always ready to go aloft to clear a halyard. His admirers were inspired to refer to him as “Rod God”. He later sailed on COLUMBIA in 1958 and was the navigator on CONSTELLATION in 1964. Rod Stephens’ sailing excellence was put to the supreme test during the Cup trials in 1964. Halfway through the summer trials, AMERICAN EAGLE held a commanding 21-0 lead. Rod Stephens is credited with noticing small mistakes that the crew of American Eagle began to make. He also noted that CONSTELLATION gained slightly on each tack, leading to a series of tacking duels that help defeat AMERICAN EAGLE by 6-1 in the final trials. CONSTELLATION went on to trounce SOVEREIGN in the Cup series of 1964.