The high-performance marine industry lost one of its most recognizable names with the death of Richie Sutphen, Sr., the 76-year-old gentleman behind Sutphen World Champion Powerboats, LLC, in late December 2017. Sutphen built more than 900 V-bottoms from 17 to 40 feet—many of which found their way onto the offshore racecourse—during the years. While their heydays happened during the 1980s and 1990s, the brand retains a loyal following among former and current Sutphen owners.
Sutphen World Champion Powerboats built more than 900 V-bottoms since it was founded in the mid-1970s.
Now, with six months of distance from the loss of Sutphen, his daughter, Meri, and wife of 45 years, Christine, are pondering where to go with brand, which is based in Cape Coral, Fla. Even prior to the company founder’s passing, they had been eyeing the restoration market.
“We always put that out there,” said Meri. “A lot of our boats are up north, and it can be a challenge for owners to get them down our way. But the winter is perfect, and if they can get them here we can make sure the work is done right.”
Long before Sutphen died, the family had been looking at the outboard-engine-fueled center console market and in the years prior they had built a 27-footer powered by a Yanmar diesel engine. While that model never took off with consumers, Meri believes it could be a winner with a single outboard engine—and her father actually had reworked the boat for that power application prior to his passing.
“With a single (Mercury Racing) Verado 400 I don’t see why it wouldn’t run in the 60- to 70-mph range,” she said. “I think it would price out with that power at $125,000 and up, depending upon electronics and options.”
Sutphen also said shes considering completing a 36-footer her father had “on the table,” and that the boat could be ordered with either stern-drive or outboard power, as could the company’s 31-footer, which has historically been its biggest seller. The company also built a new deck plug for its 40-footer last year, and the tooling is just an order away from completion.
At this point, she and her mother are in the exploration stage as they’ve been left with a company that, while not currently a market darling, has a significant legacy and following.
“I can see us building a handful of boats a year depending on what the market dictates—we need to hear from our existing customers and our potential new customers to see what they might want,” she said. “We have never been about mass production. We’re a custom builder. No two Sutphens are exactly the same.
“I don’t see us building 30 to 40 boats a year—that’s just not my mentality,” she continued. “If someone wanted to do that, it’s a discussion we could have. But I wouldn’t want to bite off more than I could chew.”