John "JB" Barnitt is a highly accomplished sailor who has crewed on four America's Cup yachts and won international sailing’s oldest prize three times. What sets him apart from many other sailors is that he achieved this feat in three different types of yachts, winning the Cup in a 12-Metre, a Deed-of-Gift catamaran, and an America's Cup Class boat.
JB grew up in Minnesota, sailing Lasers and Etchells through the Wayzata Yacht Club on Lake Minnetonka. In 1979, when he was eighteen, he moved to Honolulu where he began sailing big boats through the Waikiki Yacht Club. Within just a few years, JB got his Grand-Prix start with sailing legend Lowell North on SLEEPER as part of the U.S. Admirals Cup team. That experience opened the door to racing with another sailing legend, Dennis Conner (ACHoF Class of 1992).
In the aftermath of the 1983 America’s Cup, Conner expanded his team for an ambitious comeback for the 1987 series. Conner recalls, “Lowell North recommended we take a look at John Barnitt as a possible mastman, and that suggestion led to one of the best finds of the entire campaign...I tend to trust my instincts about people and John was positive, committed, clean-cut, all-American. He was my kind of guy.” At just 24 years of age, JB joined Conner’s Sail America challenge in 1985 and served as the team’s mastman/sewerman aboard the team’s stable of 12-Metre yachts named STARS & STRIPES. In February 1987, he earned his first America’s Cup victory when STARS & STRIPES ‘87 defeated KOOKABURRA III in Australia to win the Auld Mug back for the United States. It was a stellar start for a remarkable sailing career.
With the Cup in the hands of the San Diego Yacht Club, JB remained with Dennis Conner’s team and he helped successfully defend the Cup in the contentious 1988 Deed of Gift match, crewing on the team’s advanced wing-sail catamaran STARS & STRIPES (US-1). For the 1992 defense, JB served as mastman on the new International America’s Cup Class boat for Team Dennis Conner.
Tom Whidden (ACHoF Class of 2004) reflects, “I was fortunate enough to sail in two successful Americas Cups with JB. I can honestly say that no team member worked and trained harder, sailed better, was more focused on a positive result and fit in better. JB’s skills were particularly evident in our dramatic victory in very difficult sailing conditions in Fremantle 1987.”
JB won his third America’s Cup in 2003 as starboard grinder with the Swiss challenger Alinghi, founded and led by Ernesto Bertarelli (ACHoF Class of 2016). ALINGHI (SUI-64) completed the America’s Cup season with a 31-4 overall record, beating Team New Zealand to bring the Cup to Europe for the first time in the trophy’s long history.
Despite no longer crewing on America’s Cup boats, JB remains connected to the world’s most prestigious yacht race. As Founder/President of Symmetrix Composite Tooling, he leads a team that builds full-scale master patterns and molds of the hulls and spars of the AC75 of New York Yacht Club American Magic.