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Love and Legacy: Inside Sutphen World Champion Powerboats

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A spirited father-and-daughter duo, Richie and Meri Sutphen, hope to relight a fire under their venerable V-bottom brand. Photo courtesy/copyright Sutphen World Champion Powerboats.

Dominant in offshore racing’s Production V-bottom classes during the 1980s, Sutphen World Champion Powerboats LLC gradually drifted—like the classes that made the brand a household name among the racers and their fans—into obscurity during the 1990s and 2000s. Demand for company founder Richie Sutphen’s conventional V-hull offerings dropped even further with the rise in popularity of stepped V-bottoms, and the recession of 2008 accelerated the Cape Coral, Fla., company’s decline.

As it happened, Sutphen was perfectly positioned for a major slowdown. He owned the tooling for his 31-, 34- and 40-foot models, as well as the facility in which he built them. He had no debt to lenders or vendors. He could wait out the recession and the tough years that followed it and return to building boats when the market improved. Or, with what he estimates to be 1,000-plus custom boats to his credit, the 75-year-old builder could sit back and enjoy retirement.

And had Meri Sutphen, his 40-year-old daughter, not decided get involved, he might have done just that. “When I started to show an interest, that relit his fire so to speak,” said Meri, who has been watching her father build boats since she was a child. “I have come on board part time to learn everything and build alongside him, build the business and bring it to the forefront. Sutphen has been a name for a long time. We want people to know that we are still around.”

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