Eight Bells: Jeff Spranger
Published on August 7th, 2018
Geoffrey Hart Spranger, 85, of Middletown, RI passed away unexpectedly on August 2, 2018 at Newport Hospital following a brief illness. The only son of the late Joseph William Spranger and the late Ruth Marie (née Berger) Spranger, Jeff was born in East Providence, RI on November 25, 1932.
Growing up in the Edgewood neighborhood in Cranston, RI, he would go on to study at Brown University where he majored in English, graduating in 1955. While an undergraduate, he was a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity and the Brown University sailing team, for which he served as the team’s president from 1954-55. He later earned his Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Brown in 1967.
Jeff’s lifelong love for sailing took seed at a young age when he was a member at Edgewood Yacht Club. Jeff and his father built a Snipe in 1950, and named it Hot Stuff. The Snipe was his pride and joy, and in 1954 he sailed her to the Narragansett Bay and Edgewood Yacht Club championships, before losing the boat to Hurricane Carol.
Following his graduation from Brown in 1955, he was hired as an English/Sacred Studies teacher, sailing coach and dorm master at St. George’s School in Middletown, RI, where he remained on the faculty until 1971. He was the head sailing coach for his entire tenure at the school, and his dedication to the sport was recognized with his induction into the St. George’s School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. He also became involved in the Interscholastic Sailing Association, a commitment which spanned more than 50 years.
In 1958, he purchased Herreshoff Class S-Boat #52 which he re-christened Berserk. Jeff successfully raced Berserk for the next ten years, winning the class championship in 1968.
In 1971, Jeff left teaching at St. George’s School to become an associate editor at the fledgling Sail magazine, where he stayed until 1979 when the editorial offices moved. He then accepted the job of editor for a small, chatty newsletter called The Practical Sailor, steering that publication until 1987. In his final working years, Jeff was the sales room manager at Jamestown Distributors, retiring in 1998.
The highlight of Jeff’s racing career was being a member of a Newport to Bermuda Race crew in 1964 on Burgoo, a 37-ft Pearson Invicta, which was the lowest rated boat in the fleet, but finished first in fleet on corrected time.
Another high point in his life was his reporting on racing for the America’s Cup, first as a reporter for the Newport Daily News in 1964, 1967 and 1970, and later as co-publisher with Barbara Lloyd of the America’s Cup Report in 1980 and 1983. This work made Jeff perhaps the most informed reporter of this premier racing event for 20 years. In addition to his writing, Jeff lent his insight and accuracy to his on-the-water broadcasts for WADK radio.
Jeff’s last boat was Scratch, a one-off Bristol 33 custom yacht which he intermittently spent ten years building from just an empty fiberglass hull. Launched in 1979, Jeff spent the next 40 years both cruising and successfully racing Scratch in numerous fully-crewed races as well as shorthanded races with his wife, Betsy McClintock.
Over the years, Jeff participated in several Newport to Bermuda races, a Caribbean 1500 race, five Marblehead to Halifax races, and numerous Off Soundings races on his friend Bob Read’s Pearson 39 yawl Nepenthe.
He spent more than 25 years managing/assisting with the race management of the Bermuda One-Two, Offshore 160 Challenge, and New England Solo/Twin Championships – three short-handed racing events co-managed by the Newport Yacht Club Offshore Committee.
Jeff’s affinity for the water, sailing and racing was second only to his love of the written word. This included reporting on America’s Cup racing, covering a wide variety of topics while at Sail magazine, and his advocacy for his vision of product testing, industry watchdogging, and boatowner advocacy while at The Practical Sailor. His love for the sport of sailing, for fair and wellrun racing, and for nearly every boat afloat, was passionate and undeniable.
Jeff is survived by his wife of nearly 24 years, Betsy (Mary Elizabeth) McClintock, his two children Susan E. (Spranger) Axelrod and Joseph W. (Josh) Spranger, five remarkable grandchildren, numerous family members, and a host of friends, colleagues and crew mates. He will be sorely missed by all.
There will be a Celebration of Life on Friday, September 21, 2018 from 4PM to 6PM at Newport Yacht Club, 110 Long Wharf, Newport, Rhode Island. Burial will be private. Donations in his memory may be made to Brown University Sailing c/o John Mollicone at www.brown.edu/Athletics/Sailing_Club/contact.