John Marshall is the perfect example of a sailor who used his brilliant technical mind to develop a practical approach to winning sailboat races. His unique skill of blending the art and science of sailing helped him win the America’s Cup three times—once as a sailor, and, twice, as a coordinator of the design team. Dennis Conner remarked that Marshall “is the guy who talks the same language as the eggheads and the jocks.”
Marshall played a major role in nine America’s Cup campaigns, including Freedom’s successful defense in 1980 as a mainsail trimmer, and, his greatest victory, as design coordinator for Stars & Stripes’ successful challenge in 1987 in Australia. In 1988, he earned his third Cup victory as the design coordinator for the Stars & Stripes catamaran. For the 1995 and 2000 Cup cycles, he was the chairman of the PACT/Young America syndicates.
He has excelled on both short-course racing and long-distance contests. Marshall was a champion collegiate sailor and he won a Bronze Medal in the Dragon class in the 1972 Olympic Games as crew for Donald S. Cohan.
Marshall earned his A.B. degree in Molecular Genetics from Harvard College in 1963 and he subsequently studied at the Rockefeller Institute and the Stevens Institute of Technology. His education as a scientist was a major asset as he spent most of his career making boats sail fast by overseeing projects that improved sail, rig, and hull design. He spent 21 years at North Sails; as its President/CEO from 1983-1987, he oversaw productive advances in sail design and construction.
In 1989, Marshall formed the Partnership for America’s Cup Technology (PACT), which supported U.S. campaigns for the 1992 defense of the Cup. During that time, he also chaired a panel of yacht designers that developed the America’s Cup Class, the formula-rule that was used for five Cup series from 1992 to 2007.