Michael William Langan, better known in the yacht business as Bill Langan, the founder of Langan Design Associates, died on December 31, after a battle with leukemia.
Langan grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, along the shores of Long Island Sound. That body of water inspired his lifelong passion for sailing. His sister, Margaret Langan Moore, is quoted in an obituary in the Long Island newspaper Newsday as saying, “Sailing was his thing from the beginning. It was just what he wanted to do. He loved the water.”
Indeed: Langan personally designed, collaborated on, or oversaw the creation of more than 340 yachts. He did so first under the tutelage of the late Olin Stephens, with whom he worked at Sparkman & Stephens from 1978 into the 1990s. In fact, he co-designed Freedom, the 1980 America’s Cup winner, with Stephens. Langan further designed the three America II yachts for the 1987 America’s Cup.
Langan also thoroughly enjoyed participating in sailing races. He won the Fastnet in 1993, for example, and raced in the Sydney to Hobart and Bermuda events, among others. It’s no surprise, then, that Langan chaired the Cruising Club of America Technical Committee for more than a dozen years. While there, he helped develop the Offshore Rating Rule, the widely used velocity-prediction ocean-racing handicap rule.
Langan left Sparkman & Stephens in 1998 to start Langan Design Associates, penning or overseeing more than three dozen yacht and megayacht designs. The names are well known: Cassiopeia, MitSeaAh, Itasca, Timoneer, Victoria of Strathearn, Eos, the Tartan line of production sailboats and Legacy line of production powerboats… the list goes on.
It is because of all of these achievements that the International Superyacht Society (ISS) presented Langan with the ISS Leadership Award in October of last year. The ISS Leadership Award is bestowed each year to a person or business exhibiting devotion to the industry over a long period of time. Further, the devotion has resulted in significant contributions that have helped the superyacht community grow and thrive worldwide. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the board of directors for ISS.) In his introduction to the award presentation, David Arnold, the publisher of Robb Report, stated, “Leadership ought not to be confused with showmanship. Ever the consummate professional, Bill does not seek the spotlight; rather he represents real substance, tackling complex challenges and succeeding magnificently. He is a naval architect among naval architects, contributing over his career in innumerable ways to the genuine betterment of our overall industry.” In reference to the latter, Langan was instrumental in starting ISS and establishing its annual Design Awards.” Arnold further added, “Bill Langan is one of those exceptionally rare individuals who—by his long association with ISS and his rightly being honored with this prestigious Award—is likely to enhance the stature of the Award and elevate the very ideals of the Society he helped create.”
Langan had recently undergone treatment for leukemia when the award presentation was held and was unable to attend. But he was notified ahead of time and expressed his deep appreciation.
Langan is survived by his wife, Candace, and two children. Funeral services will be held this Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, Rhode Island. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Langan’s name to The Jimmy Fund, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 10 Brookline Place West, Brookline, MA 02445-7226.