Philip Richard Marriner, expert yachtsman and beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend, passed peacefully surrounded by his family on May 8, 2017, in Milford, Conn. He was 90 years old.
Phil was born April 18, 1927, in Flushing, the only child of Eva Bach Marriner and third son of William R. Marriner.
His childhood was spent wintering in Flushing and summering at both his Grandfather Bach’s summer compound on Nassau Point and his parents’ 100-acre estate in upstate New York. His playgrounds were the Peconic Bays, Long Island Sound and Copake Lake, where he learned to sail. Sailing became his joy and his life’s work. In 1939 Phil got his first racing sailboat — a Comet he named Bluebird. When gasoline shortages during World War II curtailed trips to the summer homes, he was invited to sail at Bayside Yacht Club. He took the bus there every day and began his racing career on Little Neck Bay, from where he sailed to also compete at Larchmont and Manhassett Bay yacht clubs. He amassed a great many trophies and was constantly featured in the sports pages of the major New York newspapers.
When he was 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Corps to serve in World War II. He was waiting to be summoned to active duty when he met his true love and future crew, Jeanne Patricia Wentzel, at a high school dance. They enjoyed a whirlwind courtship until he was called up in April 1945. After the war was over, Phil helped test captured Japanese planes until his honorable discharge in August 1946. He then attended Hope College in Michigan to major in history and play basketball, two more of his passions. After a successful basketball season, during which he sustained knee injuries, Phil came back east and enrolled in Hofstra University, from which he received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Administration. He married Jeanne on June 11, 1949, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Flushing. The reception was at the Bayside Yacht Club.
While finishing his MBA, Phil commenced work at the high-tech Airborne Instruments Laboratories in Mineola. Phil and Jeanne made their home first in Westbury (where their daughter, Gayle, was born), and then Centerport (where their son, Blake, was born), up the hill from Centerport Yacht Club, their home away from home where they successfully raced Comets, Stars and Thistles and started the Penguin Frostbite fleet. Phil also commenced his long-distance racing career at this time in the infamous Storm Trysail Race of 1962 — the first of his many stormy offshore races.
In 1963, Phil and Jeanne purchased their first summer home at the mouth of Deep Hole Creek in Mattituck and joined Mattituck Yacht Club and Old Cove Yacht Club, where many of Phil’s childhood friends raced and their children learned to sail.
When a major sail fabric company was looking for someone with management abilities to liaison with sailmakers and sailors and develop Dacron sail fabric, Phil was the obvious choice. The first day on the job he was off to Newport to consult with the America’s Cup Australian team. This career move initiated a geographic move to Woodstock, Conn., on Roseland Lake, where Phil taught his children, used to the predictable, steady Sou’westers of the Peconics, the patience needed for the fluky wind shifts of lake sailing.
During the 1967 Annapolis to Newport Race, Phil had to solo skipper the second-smallest boat in the fleet, with the help of his navigator, after his entire crew got violently seasick during the brutal three-day Nor’easter that sank the smallest boat and saw 34 boats drop out. Coming in second, and missing first by seconds to a boat twice his boat’s size, an exhausted but jubilant Phil received a special citation, simply and truly inscribed, “Great Sailor.” After this notorious race, he was asked to manage Hard Sails, a sail-making loft headquartered on Long Island. He synthesized his high-tech aviation knowledge with his sailing and sail cloth knowledge and, with the help of Jerry Milgram from MIT, pioneered the use of computers in sail design. Between this quantum leap in sail making and the public relations efforts of his wife, Jeanne, Hard Sails became one of the top sail lofts. During those years, the family wintered in an 1860s sea captain’s house in Laurel and made the five-mile move to the Deep Hole Creek cottage for the summers until they purchased their Salt Lake Village house at the mouth of James Creek in Mattituck. At that time Phil bought a Ranger 23 to initiate his family into the world of the MORC (Midget Ocean Racing Circuit) and named her FUN. And it was fun, racing and winning, together as a family.
In the mid-70s, Phil moved to Guilford, Conn., to manage Kenyon Marine, a sister company of Hard Sails that manufactured marine hardware. A couple of years later Phil was asked to come back into the sail fabric world by Howe and Bainbridge in Boston and he and Jeanne made the move to Wellesley, Mass.
In the mid-80s, Phil retired to the Salt Lake Village summer home after being invited to consult for a French textile firm in Lyon, where he and Jeanne were feted and then went on their own tour of France. Upon their return to his beloved bays, a brown tide struck and Phil now acted as Jeanne’s support system in her successful efforts to save the bays. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at their home on the bay in 1999. In 2003, Phil felt the urge to revisit his childhood home upstate and he and Jeanne moved up to North Chatham and spent 10 years re-exploring the majesty of upstate New York and forming many new friendships. At the end of 2013, these two made Phil’s final move to West Haven, Conn., to be closer to their children.
Phil is survived by his wife, Jeanne; his daughter, Gayle Marriner-Smith, and son-in-law, Christopher Field Smith, of Mattituck; his son, Blake Richard Marriner, and daughter-in-law, Diane Milazzo Marriner, of West Haven, Conn.; his grandsons, Eric and Gregory Marriner, and granddaughter-in-law, Maria Marriner; his Siamese cat, Timothy; and his fox terrier, Lyra.
A celebration of Phil’s life will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 15, in Mattituck at the home of Gayle Marriner-Smith and Chris Smith.
Donations in Phil’s name may be made to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Marine Program’s Scallop Project or The Church of the Redeemer memorial garden in Mattituck.
This is a paid notice.