Richard Irving "Dick" Stearns III

September 4, 1927 - January 25, 2022

Evanston, Illinois

Richard Irving Stearns III, known as Dick around the waterfronts of the world, was a highly skilled racing sailor with an impressive resume as a contributor and innovator in sailing.   He and his crew Lindsay Williams won the International Star Class World Championship in 1962 against 73 boats in Portugal. In 1964 the pair earned a Silver Medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in the Star Class. In 1963 Stearns and crew Buck Halperin won a Gold Medal in the Pan American Games.  Closer to home Stearns won two Tartan 10 North American Championships and competed in 53 Chicago to Mackinac Island Races.  In 2000 the Mackinac Race featured the Millennium 600-mile contest from Port Huron to Chicago.   Stearns and his crew won the race on corrected time aboard his 35-year-old Cal 40.

Dick Stearns was dedicated to helping many other sailors improve their skills serving as a coach and a member of the U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee for three Olympic quads (1968,1972, 1976). He was a coach for each of those Games. During that time span the United States won 10 medals in 15 classes. He served on the Board of the Chicago area Sea Scouts for 25 years.

Stearns purchased Murphy & Nye Sailmakers in 1952.  Over the next 32 years his company pioneered the use of synthetic sails making faster and more durable sails than the traditional cotton sails used at the time.  One major innovation was the use the of the “crosscut” sail using Dacron and Orlon fabrics.  Murphy & Nye was a dominant sailmaker in one-design classes.

He and two of his crew, Gary Comer and Buck Halperin founded the Lands’ End company. Initially, the products they sold were mostly equipment for sailboats. The Lands’ End catalog was a must read on every sailor’s shelf.  Eventually, the company shifted into a large clothing supplier. Dick Stearns was a skilled airplane pilot. Legend has it that he could fly before he could drive a car.  He flew planes well into his 80s. In 1966 the International Yacht Racing Union hosted a test regatta for a new keelboat for the Olympic Games. Stearns sailed a brand-new boat, the Etchells 22. He won almost every race, but the Soling was selected. The Etchells continues today as one of the most competitive classes in the world.

As a competitor, innovator and contributor Dick Stearns served the sport of sailing with distinction.  His legacy will be appreciated for many years into the future.  He was soft spoken and a deep thinker who came up with good ideas and made sailing a better sport.

Gary Jobson

Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy

Engaging Sailing’s Next Generation

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