Jack Sutphen once joked about how a “bitter pill turned into good medicine.”
“Looking back, one of my worst days changed my life in such a positive way,” Sutphen recalled of that day in Newport, R.I., in 1974 when he was removed from the crew of America’s Cup defense candidate Courageous to make room for an aggressive young helmsman named Dennis Conner.
It’s not unusual in sailing that such a move leads to bitterness. Instead, it led to a friendship of more than three decades between America’s Cup legend Conner and Sutphen, who died in San Diego on March 24 at the age of 95.
In 1979, Conner invited Sutphen to join him in San Diego as a trial horse skipper and aide to the Freedom campaign that resulted in a successful America’s Cup defense a year later. That was the first of seven America’s Cup campaigns that Sutphen assisted Conner.
“The passing of Jack Sutphen is a huge loss for the sailing community,” said Conner. “He was a sailor’s sailor from Frostbite dinghies in Larchmont (N.Y.) to maxiboats of 12 meters world wide.
“Wherever Jack went, he left his mark with friendships and respect. Jack had a huge impact on the America’s Cup from 1998 through 2003 as a sailmaker, a crewman, a coach and a friend.”
Sutphen was 62 when he and his wife, Jean, who passed away in 2000, moved to San Diego from his native New York in 1980 to become a permanent member of Conner’s team. Sutphen assisted Conner in the losing Liberty campaign of 1983 and the victorious Stars & Stripes campaign in Australia in 1986-87 that led to the three America’s Cups sailed in San Diego.
“I think the first Stars & Stripes campaign in Australia was the highlight for everyone who ever worked with Dennis,” Sutphen once said. “It was Dennis at his greatest and the America’s Cup at its peak.”
Sutphen was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 2005.
In addition to assisting Conner, Sutphen was a tireless volunteer at San Diego Yacht Club up to his final days. He was considered an expert in the complicated rules of sailing and served as a judge in a number of international regattas.
(Source: Google News: U-T San Diego. View the original story here.)