Wednesday, February 13, 2008

History Meets History

Jack Sutphen rode in the tickertape parade on New York's Fifth Avenue when Team Dennis Conner brought the Cup home from Australia. Dare I risk suggesting there's a new generation of sailors out there who cannot imagine that such a thing as a ticker tape parade for sailors could have happened in the USA? Or that a winning America's Cup team was invited to the White House?

I haven't had a chance to ask Jack Sutphen if he knew "Myron," who was a one-name institution around San Francisco Bay almost in the way Jack's friend "Dennis" is a one-name institution worldwide. Maybe I can find out, come Saturday, when Jack drops into the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito: History meeting history.

Jack Sutphen started out as an East Coast guy (it doesn't get much more East Coast than Larchmont Yacht Club's junior program), but I think of him as San Diego because that's where I first found him, driving 12-Meters as a sparring partner for Conner. His first of nine America's Cup campaigns was 1958—that was the revival year after WWII—and now Jack is an author, coming 'round for a book signing.

Myron? Well, he was Myron. Frisco Bay to the core. Aced the woodshop class at Polytechnic High ("By the time I had finished my bookends, that guy had built a boat." Prescott Sullivan). Damn fine first-fiddle with the symphony until he quit that for a 95-year-lucid life of designing, building, measuring, fixing, and sailing sailing sailing boats. Did he own one pair of wrinkled khakis or twenty pair identical? Kind of like a character in Faulkner: so individual that he carried all of the life of the galaxy inside him. That, and the fact that Myron's yard remains as a time capsule that could never be replaced, tells us why the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center has to succeed in its mission of preserving the art and craft of traditional boats.

Yes, children, there was a time when you could walk into a builder's yard, and it smelled good, like wood and warm sawdust and—oops, let's not step over yonder where they're slapping on the lead-based paint or it will spoil our pretty picture—but the picture is pretty, isn't it . . .

Photo by Rod Bauer

Jack Sutphen's Messing About in Boats for 80 Years is a series of reminiscences. It's not a writerly attempt to blow your socks off. But it's a read, and there are some of us (you know who you are) who just have to have these works because nothing else speaks to this point or that. Here's Jack . . .

He was working as a sailmaker for Ratsey & Lapthorn when the 1958 season revived Cup competition for the first time since World War II, and he worked for the Weatherly campaign that year. In 1974, the Courageous campaign brought him together with Dennis Conner, and thus began a collaboration that continued through the grandest and hardest of times. A perennial champion in the PCCs—the Pacific Coast Class—Jack is 90 now and entitled to lay back and quit. So, instead, he wrote a book.

Yep, that's Jack.


The record price for a single bluefin tuna, sold in Japan, in dollars: $55,706

Paid by a Hong Kong sushi restaurant owner. Think, declining supplies (a 90% reduction?) and tighter controls (tighter controls soon enough, or not?).

Dang, I like tuna.


"Russians, Chinese, communists, capitalists, blacks or whites are all the same to me. I'm a soccer coach and I don't understand, nor want to understand, anything else. I'm going there to try to qualify Iran for the 2010 World Cup and I couldn't give a hoot about anything else."

Spain's celebrated soccer coach Javier Clemente explains exporting his labor. As translated and presented by Aljazeera

"I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time writing about such a terrible score, but I thought it pertinent to a decent account of the Laser Worlds. As if you needed more perspective: two North American guys, the most recent US College Sailor of the Year and the current Collegiate Singlehanded Champion, are both in Bronze fleet slogging it out in some decidely difficult racing for 100th place in the regatta."

That's US Olympic rep Andrew Campbell contemplating life from the mid-20's in the gold fleet of the 2008 worlds Down Under; words from his blog:


A cut and paste from the regatta site:

Defending world champion Tom Slingsby was declared the 2008 World Laser Champion after nasty southerly winds and whipped up seas forced Race Organisers to abandon all attempts at racing off Terrigal this afternoon.

Principal Race Officer Tony Denham and his crew made their way out to the race track this morning and waited for any sign that either of the two remaining races in the Finals could be sailed. At one stage around 1.30pm NSW time, the AP flag was dropped, but winds increased again and racing was abandoned.

Slingsby, who finished on 27 points, has won the Championship from Argentina’s Julio Alsogaray by two points, the Argentinean not having the opportunity to turn the tables. Javier Hernandez from Spain finished third with 39 points.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Slingsby in the boat park, where sailors were readying to make their way out to the race area. “It’s a weird feeling when they (race committee) pull up the AP flag – it’s a strange way to win a Championship, but I’m over the moon, especially to win on my local waters.”

And let's see:

American Brad Funk had a pretty good regatta at ninth, but lots of points out of first (27 vs. 79). Campbell finished at 29th with 125 points, pretty much where he had been when he wrote our quote.

Nothing's easy when it's not supposed to be easy. And I ask yet again, in part because it appeared so mysteriously at Myron's yard, can anybody tell us how this mystery Barient got there, looking as if she came from a certain of the great Twelves—Kimball