Reknowned America’s Cup sailor Robert “Bob” Connell, a marine surveyor with Patton Marine, died of a heart attack in Miami on April 17. He was 72.
Mr. Connell was born on April 7, 1940, in Manhasset, New York and grew up sailing, according to an obituary from his family. He crewed on five America’s Cup 12m boats between 1958 and 1977, including champions S/Y Constellation and S/Y Intrepid. He competed in other international sailing races, including the Bermuda Race.
Dick Enersen, president of Offshore Productions, met Mr. Connell in 1964 when both crewed on S/Y Constellation.
“In those days we didn’t get paid, we did it because we loved it,” Enersen said. “And it was a way to get girls. We were young and strong and could stay onboard,” he said of he and Connell’s sailing skills. “It took no time at all to become friends with Bobby. He was low-key, low-pressure and he could do anything onboard.
“After racing America’s Cup, your stock goes up. Bobby was in tremendous demand as a sailor along the East Coast. I don’t know how many Bermuda races he did.”
Mr. Connell also served as navigator on a record-setting Miami-New York powerboat race, a 1,257-mile adventure featured in Sports Illustrated magazine in 1974. The team beat the previously held record by nearly nine hours.
Mr. Connell was known for his quiet self-confidence, selfless nature and, in his own words, his ability to “make boats go fast.” Sports Illustrated described him as “built like a brick lighthouse,” and his sturdy frame and massive forearms made him an excellent grinder on the boats he crewed.
“Anyone who ever sailed with Bob would want to be with him the next time around,” said Daniel “Putter” Brown, who sailed on Constellation with Mr. Connell. “He was remarkably aware of his surroundings. Before others saw that a sail was about to luff, Bob was trimming it, and when an accident was about to happen, he moved quickly to cure the problem.”
In the late 1970s, Mr. Connell co-owned Newport Offshore, a shipyard and yacht builder, including four America’s Cup 12m boats: Clipper, Defender, Spirit of America and Liberty. For the last 18 years, he worked as a marine surveyor for Patton Marine in Miami.
Mr. Connell is survived by his wife, Pamela Swan Connell; his children, daughter Tacy Connell, son Brooke Connell and wife Kristen, and stepson David Dunn; brother Andrew Connell, and wife Ellen; sister Susan Murphy; mother-in-law Selina Hobart; and four grandchildren, Lily, Kingsley, Skye and David. He is pre-deceased by his stepson Bradford Dunn.
A memorial service will be held in Rhode Island this summer. In lieu of flowers, donations in Mr. Connell’s memory can be made to US Sailing, P.O. Box 260, Portsmouth, RI, 02871 or by calling +1 401-683-0800.