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David Grenfell Cluett
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Birth: Jan. 13, 1926
New York
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA
Death: Nov. 1, 2009
Palm Beach County
Florida, USA

David Grenfell Cluett, former naval aviator, competitive off-shore racer, yacht designer and manufacturer, died at 83 on Nov. 1 [2009] of complications from a respiratory ailment as a resident of Palm Beach, Florida.

In his sailing career, he earned many awards and trophies. When he was only 16, he captured the honors at the 1942 National Lightning Championship regatta, out sailing the country's best at that time.

Then, as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, he won the Robert M. Thompson prize for two consecutive years as the top sailor of the Brigade of Midshipman, and was captain of the Navy sailing team.

Mr. Cluett completed flight training in the Navy in 1952 and became a naval attack aviator flying from aircraft and jeep carriers with an anti-submarine squadron during the Korean War. As an all-weather qualified instrument pilot, he helped pioneer the art of landing heavy attack aircraft at night on the Navy's smallest Carriers. Later, after many squadron accidents and loss of aircraft, the Navy decided these carriers were better suited for helicopters.

On discharge from the Navy, he turned his attention to racing and designing sailing yachts. One of his early designs was a high speed 25 knot trimaran that won the National Multi-hull championship in 1957.

With Cluett and Company Inc., his yacht building enterprise based in Greenwich, Connecticut, he produced the International Class series of high quality wooden cruising-racing boats employing shipbuilding yards in Holland and Germany to do his construction. These yachts won and placed in many major inshore and offshore races for many years.

Later Mr. Cluett was a part of a small group of yachtsmen who with Bill Tripp designed and built the first successful fiberglass racing-cruising yachts called the Block Island 40s.
The first ever fiberglass boats to sail in the 1958 Newport to Bermuda Race were Block Island 40s. All five finished among the top 12 boats in a fleet of 132 boats. Cluett was navigator of "Seal" the first fiberglass boat in the history of the race to cross the finish line in Bermuda, placing fifth.

Mr. Cluett retired from competitive sailing when he moved from Greenwich, Connecticut, to Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 70's, but he continued a life of cruising the eastern seaboard and the Caribbean, with his family in his Hinkley 47 yacht, ESPIRIT VI, for many years after.

Mr. Cluett was born in 1926 in New York City to William Gorham Cluett and Virginia Small Cluett. His father was associated with Cluett Peabody & Co., Inc., the well known clothing manufacturer and developer of Arrow shirts and collars and the patented Sanforizing process, of Troy, New York.

His grandfather, E. Harold Cluett, had been chairman of the company and a nationally prominent U.S. Congressman from Troy around the time of the First World War.

Mr. Cluett grew up in Cedarhurst, Long Island, New York, and attended Trinity Pawling School of Pawling, New York, and Severn School of Severna Park, Maryland.

Although only 17 and still in school at the time, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve summer program for anti-submarine patrol in 1943 when German U-boats were known to be operating off Long Island Sound and New York Harbor.

Soon after World War II, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated as an engineer and commissioned officer in the Navy in 1949. While at the Academy, he survived an aircraft crash at sea during a training exercise on the U.S.S Kearsage due to a catapult failure.

Mr. Cluett is survived by three children from his first marriage in 1949 to Gloria Noel Prudden; Caryn Cluett Gregg now of Berkeley, California, Christina Gorham Cluett of Santa Barbara, California, and David Grenfell Cluett, Jr, of Greenwich, Connecticut.

After their divorce in 1967, he married Jean Daniels of Greenwich, CT and retired to Palm Beach. For many years, they spent winters in their vacation home in Provodenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands.

Mrs. Jean Cluett, his wife of 39 years, predeceased him in 2006.

Mr. Cluett had been member of the New York Yacht Club since 1961 and a member of the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, the Off Soundings Club and the Beach Club of Palm Beach, Florida.

In addition to his three children, he is survived by a sister, Barbara C. Williams of Inverness, California, four grandchildren and three step-children.

A graveside service will be held at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich, Connecticut, at 12 noon on November 10 and will be followed by a reception at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Class of '49 Naval Academy Fund 7249, U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, 291 Wood Road, Beach Hall, Annapolis, Maryland 21402-1254.

Published in GreenwichTime on November 6, 2009 
Family links: 
  William Gorham Cluett (1903 - 1975)
  Jean Daniels Cluett (1934 - 2006)
Putnam Cemetery
Fairfield County
Connecticut, USA
Created by: Martin Weybright
Record added: Apr 13, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 108417438
David Grenfell Cluett
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Jan Franco
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

- Martin Weybright
 Added: Apr. 13, 2013

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