Born in Philadelphia on June 12, 1940, he was the son of Dr. Britton Chance, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics who had won a gold medal in sailing at the 1952 Summer Olympics. Raised in Mantoloking, New Jersey, he frequently sailed in Barnegat Bay and developed an early interest in identifying how to design boats that would be able to travel faster than existing standard designs. Chance attended the University of Rochester and Columbia University, though he never earned a degree.
After working for naval architects Ted Hood and Raymond C. Hunt, he went into business for himself in 1962, establishing Chance & Co., which designed craft in a wide range of sizes from racing shells to America's Cup competitors.
Chance redesigned the yacht Intrepid, winner of the 1967 America's Cup which then won the 1970 America's Cup. In the mid 1980s he was called upon by Dennis Conner to be part of his design team for the Sail America Foundation, and along with Bruce Nelson and David Pedrick they brought three new designs to the team, the last of which, Stars & Stripes 87 won the cup back for America. The victory proved short lived, however, as a few months later the team from New Zealand put up a challenge for the America's Cup with the 90-foot yacht KZ 1. Chance was again called upon to aid in the design of the defender, Stars & Stripes (US 1), a catamaran sailed by Dennis Conner to retain the cup in the 1988 defense.