Hall of Famer Passes Away at 87
BRISTOL, R.I. (January 20, 2021) – US Sailing is saddened to learn of the recent passing of World Champion and National Sailing Hall of Famer, James “Ding” Schoonmaker who passed away on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at the age of 87.
“Ding has been a tremendous friend to US Sailing over the years,” said Cory Sertl, President of US Sailing. “He was an amazing contributor to the sport on many levels especially his support of US Sailing Team sailors who compete internationally. He has been a personal friend and supporter of all of us who volunteer for the sport. Ding will be greatly missed by all who had the honor of knowing him.”
Schoonmaker earned his first sailing victory in 1944 at the age of 11 off Watch Hill, Rhode Island. He has spent his summers in Watch Hill and winters in Florida over the past 85 years. At the age of 19, he placed second in the Olympic trials in the Star class and was named the team’s alternate in Helsinki. He earned that honor again in 1964 at the Games in Tokyo. Along the way, Schoonmaker won North American, South American, Western Hemisphere and European Championships, including the 1975 Star World Championship.
In 1968, he was asked to join a committee working on class measurement and development issues for the International Yacht Racing Union (IRYU). He was a board member of the US Yacht Racing Union (now US Sailing) and would serve on several international committees. He was elected to serve on the Board of IRYU (now World Sailing) for 14 years (1986-1994 and 1998-2004). For his distinguished career, he was awarded the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Award, US Sailing’s highest honor, in 1988 and the Beppe Croce Award, World Sailing’s highest honor, in 2011.
Among his philanthropic work was creating the US Sailing Center in Miami. He worked closely with the US Olympic Committee to establish Miami as an official US Olympic Training site. In his honor, the 2021 West Marine US Open Sailing Series event in Miami this week will be named the James “Ding” Schoonmaker Memorial Regatta.
He also established the World Youth Sailing Trust to help aspiring sailors in emerging countries and the US Sailing Foundation in 1990.
-Source contributions by Gary Jobson.