World Sailing is sad to report the passing of James ‘Ding’ Schoonmaker (USA), a former Vice President, at the age of 87 on 19 January 2021.
A hugely popular figure in the sailing community, and an all-round hero in American sailing, Ding, as he was affectionately known, was a long-time steward of the sport.
Ding was Vice President at World Sailing for 14 years altogether, serving initially between 1986-1994, before a second term from 1998 to 2004.
In 2011 he received World Sailing’s (then the International Sailing Federation) Beppe Croce Trophy, in recognition of his outstanding voluntary contributions to the sport, from then-president Goran Petersson (SWE) at the 2011 ISAF Annual Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
An extremely skilled athlete, Ding sailed a variety of classes while active, but is synonymous with the Star class in the USA.
He started out in the Star back in 1946, as a crew for Olympian Jack Price, and was immediately hooked.
In 1952, Ding finished second at the American Star trials to become reserve helmsman for the 1952 Olympic Sailing Competition in Helsinki, Finland, and was also reserve helmsman for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
He went on to enjoy the biggest successes of his Star career during the 1970s. Two silver medals in 1970 and 1972 preceded his Star World Championship title victory in 1975, together with crew Jerry Ford.
Ding’s on-the-water achievements also include gold medals from the Star North American Championship, European Championships, South American Championships, Western Hemisphere Championships and Bacardi Cups, while he also won bronze at the Soling World Championships in 1969.
His off-the-water record of service to World Sailing precedes his Vice Presidency and dates back to 1968, when he became a member of the Keelboat Committee, before moving on to the Centreboard Boat Committee in 1972 and Permanent Committee in 1978.
A National Sailing Hall of Famer since 2018, Ding’s other achievements during his distinguished career include winning the US Yachtsman of the Year in 1971, and the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Award, US Sailing’s highest honour, in 1988.
Among his philanthropic work was creating the US Sailing Centre in Miami, working closely with the US Olympic Committee to help Miami become an official US Olympic Training site, and establishing the World Youth Sailing Trust, to help aspiring sailors in emerging countries and the US Sailing Foundation, in 1990.
Cory Sertl, Vice President of World Sailing and President of US Sailing, said, “Ding was a true friend to all of us in sailing, generous with his advice and service to the sport.
“He will be missed by friends all over the world.”
World Sailing sends its condolences to Ding’s family and friends, in particular his wife Treecie.