The sailing world was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of sailing scion James M “Ding” Schoonmaker II on January 19, 2021.
“Ding,” as he was affectionately known by everyone from Spanish Royalty to the young sailors he helped mentor and train, had a lifetime of sailing accomplishments both on and off the water.
In his beloved Star Class, his honors included World Champion, 12-time Star Continental Champion, European Champion, North American Champion, South American Champion and seven time Bacardi Cup Champion, here in his favorite waters of Biscayne Bay.
Ding’s sailing career started in 1951 as a crew for Sir Durward Knowles. Beyond the Star he was also a championship level sailor in the Flying Dutchman, Finn, and Soling classes. Ding was a member of the US Olympic teams competing in Helsinki in 1952 and Tokyo in 1964.
Giving back to the sport he loved, Ding rose to the upper echelons of numerous sailing organizations and racing support groups including as a Board Member of the US Sailing Association, and as a Vice President of World Sailing for many years.
Ding’s lifetime achievements and as well as his racing excellence in our sport was recognized in numerous awards including the sport of sailing’s highest honors with US Sailing’s highest award, the Nathanael Herreshoff Award in 1988, and in 2011 the Beppe Croce Award by World Sailing, its highest honor. More recently Ding was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Maritime Historical Society and in 2018 he was inducted into the US Sailing Hall of Fame.
Locally, Ding was renowned as the most storied and recognized face of sailing at his beloved Coral Reef Yacht Club where dignitaries, Olympic hopefuls, and the youngest of sailors would seek out his ever-present smile and words of encouragement, knowing from his accomplishments that anything would be possible with hard work and access to his magical playground of Biscayne Bay. Ding made those dreams possible for generations of American sailors through his tireless effort and substantial financial contributions to the US Sailing Center-Miami, an Olympic training site which he envisioned, helped design, and build into a world-class training facility from a sliver of land at the south end of Miami’s David Kennedy Park.