John Knox Marshall

April 9, 1942 -

Santiago, Chile

John Knox Marshall is an excellent example of a sailor with a deep background in technology who combines his knowledge in a practical manner to improve the speed of his racing boats.   He has been racing since his earliest days in one-design boats and on long distance races.   Marshall won the International 505 Class North Americans before joining Don Cohan and Charles Horter aboard a Dragon for the 1972 Olympic Games.  The crew earned a Bronze Medal.  Two years later he was the mainsail trimmer for skipper Gerry Driscoll aboard Intrepid for the America’s Cup Defender Trials.  For the next America’s Cup, he trimmed the mainsail for Lowell North and Malin Burnham aboard Enterprise.   Three years later he teamed up with Dennis Conner aboard Freedom and successfully defended the Cup in 1980.  Marshall was part of the crew aboard Liberty in 1983 that lost the best of seven series 4-3 to Australia II.

It was a bitter disappointment, but the loss inspired Conner, Burnham and Marshall to mount a challenge to bring the Cup to San Diego, California.

John Marshall was the design coordinator and recruited ace naval architects David Pedrick, Bruce Nelson, and Britton Chance to come up with a fast boat.  Marshall and Burnham worked closely with the research firm Science Applications International to narrow the design parameters of the 12 Meter specific to Fremantle’s strong winds.  Stars & Stripes was remarkably fast in the powerful thermal winds that blew in from the Indian Ocean off Fremantle, Australia.  The crew trained in the heavy winds off Hawaii for two years.  They were well prepared for the strong winds in Australia.  The team became national heroes when Stars & Stripes defeated Kookaburra in four straight races.   Marshall led the design team again one year later to defend the Cup against a surprise challenge by New Zealand’s Michael Fay.   Marshall’s idea was to use a catamaran to defeat Fay’s 120-foot monohull.  On the water the race was no contest — the catamaran won both races of the Deed of Gift match by over twenty minutes. The matter ended up in the State of New York Court system.  After three rounds of litigation the Court of Appeals ruled that the catamaran was a legal defender and the Cup stayed in San Diego.

Marshall was President of North Sails for many years. During his tenure the company developed new sail fabrics and fast designs, eventually building the company into the largest sailmaker in the world.  After retiring from North Sails, he became President of Hinckley Yachts in Maine. He is an avid hunter and trains dogs. Marshall is also a pilot and understands the analogies between aerodynamics of sails and airplane wings. In recent years he has become a cyclist and passionate wildlife environmentalist.

Gary Jobson

Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy

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