Jack Sutphen, who served as Dennis Conner's sparring partner for multiple America's Cup campaigns, died March 24 at the age of 95. Until his final day, Sutphen — with a sparkle in his eye — could still weave stories from his amazingly full life.
Originally from the Northeast, his final home was just steps from the San Diego Yacht Club, according to Scuttlebutt.com.
Sutphen began his America's Cup career in 1958 as a sailmaker with Ratsey & Lapthorn on City Island, N.Y., according to the website of the Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame.
He was with the Weatherly campaign that year. In 1974, Sutphen was with the Courageous campaign, as was Dennis Conner. Sutphen had made a name for himself racing against East Coast legends Cornelius Shields and Arthur Knapp out of the Larchmont Yacht Club. When Conner brought together his own Freedom Syndicate for the 1980 Cup, he needed someone to skipper his trial horse in a two-year campaign and believed that Sutphen had great credentials.
Thus began a pattern of many successive campaigns, including the great Freedom triumph of 1980, the U.S. defeat in 1983 and the monumental comeback in 1986-87 in Australia. It was out of Hawaii and Fremantle that year that Sutphen sailed daily with the backup crew on the trial horse to Stars & Stripes as Conner worked toward regaining the Cup. Sutphen's crew was labeled "The Mushrooms," because it was kept in the dark and could be pulled out and "canned" at any moment.
"There was a great spirit on that boat," Sutphen recalled on the website. "I think we made Dennis and Stars & Stripes better." This support continued through several subsequent campaigns. He was with nine America's Cup campaigns from 1958 through 2000, seven with Team Dennis Conner.
"The passing of Jack Sutphen is a huge loss for the sailing community,” Conner said on Scuttlebutt.com. “He was a sailor's sailor, from Frostbite dinghies in Larchmont to maxis or 12 Meters worldwide. Wherever Jack went, he left his mark with friendships and respect. Jack had a big impact on the America's Cup from 1958 thru 2003. Sailmaking, sailing, coaching or just being a friend, he will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to know him (I feel especially blessed). Jack enjoyed a wonderful life thru his involvement in sailing. We should all be so lucky!”