Michael William Langan's sailing and yacht-designing career began on the Long Island Sound when he was just 10 years old.
As a boy, he spent hours reading National Geographic and Popular Mechanics, gleaning knowledge that would prove useful for the rest of his life; he competed in sailing competitions around the world and made a career of designing yachts.
Langan, a well-known figure in the Long Island sailing community who was recognized in October by the International Superyacht Society for his outstanding leadership, died Friday of leukemia. He was 55.
"Sailing was his thing from the beginning," said his sister, Margaret Langan Moore of Reston, Va. "It was just what he wanted to do. He loved the water."
Moore said that as a boy, her brother spent all summer sailing and all winter drawing pictures of sailboats.
Langan, born in Greenwich, Conn., spent 20 years working for Sparkman & Stephens, a New-York based yacht design and brokerage firm. He joined the company's design department as chief draftsman in 1978 and became chief designer two years later, named to the post by the firm's co-founder Olin Stephens himself.
Stephens, who died in 2008, was one of the most influential people in his field. Langan was honored to be recognized by such an accomplished figure, his sister said.
Langan had many high-profile achievements of his own: He worked closely with Stephens on the 12-meter yacht Freedom, which won the America's Cup race in 1980, and designed the America II campaign of three yachts that competed in the 1987 Cup challenge. After that, Langan led the firm's shift to luxury sailing yachts.
He fulfilled one of his greatest dreams in 1998, opening his own Langan Design Associates of Newport, R.I. His designs earned awards from ShowBoats International and the Superyacht Society, among others.
Langan, who most recently lived in Jamestown, R.I., designed or oversaw the design of more than 340 yachts.
His sister said colleagues called him a consummate professional. He had a good way with clients, holding dear their design secrets and their names.
Langan is also survived by his wife, Candace Register Langan, and children, Tom and Annie, all of Jamestown; his parents, Michael Joseph and Kathleen Holman Langan of Greenwich, and five other siblings.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Jamestown.