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Richard Sutphen Passes: Third-generation boatbuilder stormed the offshore world in the 1980s

February 1, 2018
richard sutphen
Richie Sutphen with a trophy Sutphen Powerboats

Richard “Richie” Sutphen Sr., founder of high-performance boat brand Sutphen World Champion Powerboats in 1967, died on December 27, 2017, in Cape Coral, Florida. He was 76 years old.

Sutphen grew up in the family boatyard on Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. His grandfather, Henry R. Sutphen, founded Electric Launch Company, later called ELCO, in Bayonne, New Jersey, to build high-speed launches for the British Navy during World War I. The company built electric launches and yachts until 1941, when it was contracted to build PT boats for the U.S. Navy. Following the war, ELCO was sold, and Samuel P. Sutphen, Richard’s father, opened the yard on Lake Hopatcong.

“Here is where I come in,” wrote Richard Sutphen in an article on Sutphen Powerboats, “because we lived at the business after school and weekends. My job was to sweep the floor, clean off the glue from under the hull, or hold a backup dolly for the riveters. And because I was already under there, you picked up the dropped screws and nails. You got to listen to grumpy old men, but I loved it, and the payoff was you learned the right way from the bottom up. As time went on and my skills improved, it was the building, designing and testing of the total project; that’s what I wanted to do. Our boatyard became known for the go-fast boats, for tuning and changing the shape of bottoms, props, shaft angles, engines, etc. In 1964, with the knowledge of fiberglass plug and mold building, Sutphen Marine started its first 18-foot V-hulls. Then came the 17-foot low profiles, building about 300 boats in New Jersey.”

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Sutphen Powerboats
A Sutphen boat Sutphen Powerboats

Sutphen moved his company to Florida in 1974, and in 1977, he introduced its first fiberglass 30-foot offshore performance model and dominated production V-bottom offshore racing in the 1980s.

“Our competition at the time in offshore was Magnum, Cigarette, Scarab and Signature,” wrote Sutphen. In our first year of competition, we won every race in the Production class, which was the most competitive class, and the rest is history. The records speak for themselves with over 250 offshore wins, plus world and national championships.”

Sutphen World Champion Powerboats will continue to operate under the guidance of Richard’s daughter, Meri.

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