Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT /

Ding Schoonmaker - Profile of Star Champions

Interview with Ding Schoonmaker
By Mark Reynolds, Mar 20, 2003  

Ding Schoonmaker pictured with Mike Dorgan at the 1997 Masters Regatta

Star World Champion, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, 12-time Star Continental Champion and ISAF Vice President - Ding Schoonmaker was instrumental in the construction of the new US Sailing Center in Miami.

Reynolds: What boats have you raced?

Schoonmaker: X Dinghy, Herreshoff - Watch Hill Class, Thistle, Flying Dutchman, Soling, Finn, Laser and Star

Reynolds: When did you first become involved in Olympic class sailing?

Schoonmaker: 1952 -- my crew and I finished second in the Star Trials.

Reynolds: How did you get involved with the Star?

Schoonmaker: Olympian Jack Price from Miami asked me to crew for him in a Star in 1949 and I immediately fell in love with the boat. From the beginning I liked the class organization, the accomplished sailors who raced the boat and the challenge to win.

Reynolds: In 1964 you sailed the trials in both the FD and the Star what was that experience like?

Schoonmaker: We gained experience in both classes, but in hindsight concentrating on one class would have been better.

Reynolds: Tell us about the 1971 Pre-Olympic regatta, didn't you win every race?

Schoonmaker: Yes. It was in Kiel where it blew very hard the entire week. Joe Duplin sailed with me and thanks to him we won every race.

Reynolds: What are some of your most enjoyable sailing accomplishments?

Schoonmaker: In the Star: racing for the Bacardi Cup - both in Havana and Miami; racing in Puerto Azul, Venezuela, for the South American and World Championship, some of the best racing ever; Nassau at the Spring Championships; Cascais, Portugal for the Europeans; and Bermuda Race Week in the Finn and Soling.

Reynolds: What has been the highlight of your sailing career?

Schoonmaker: Winning the 1975 Star World Championship in Chicago.

Reynolds: What was the feeling within the class then about not being in the up coming (1976) Olympics?

Schoonmaker: I don't remember anyone commenting or complaining about the loss of Olympic status.

Reynolds: What are your thoughts on some of the contemporary challenges facing the Star's relationship with the Olympic governing bodies?

Schoonmaker: Getting ISAF and the class to agree that class rules will be observed in World Championships. Hopefully a solution can be found to achieve this goal.

Reynolds: When did you first decide to work with US SAILING and what motivated you?

Schoonmaker: In 1969 I was asked to join the Board of NAYRU as the area D representative. The sport had given me so much, I wanted to give something back.

Reynolds: It's really exciting to have the new US Sailing Center in Miami open. When did you first get involved with the site (sailing center)?

Schoonmaker: We first discussed the possibility of a sailing center in 1980. Five years later we opened with a boat storage area, a ramp and two hoists. A year later an office trailer was added. A U.S. Olympic Training Site, the permanent building was dedicated in January 2003.

Reynolds: What is your vision for it?

Schoonmaker: The vision we have is for a facility where sailors can store boats, race and train on Biscayne Bay, and class associations can organize and run regattas.

Reynolds: Are there any "phase two" plans for the future?

Schoonmaker: At this time there are no phase two plans.

Reynolds: I know you've sailed with many famous sailors in the Star over the years, who are some of them?

Schoonmaker: Malin Burnham, Peter Bromby, Joerg Bruder, Joe Duplin, Hal Haenel, Durward Knowles, Buddy Melges, Lowell North, Jim Reynolds.

Reynolds: What are the biggest issues facing sailing today?

Schoonmaker: Keeping grass roots and club racing active for those who enjoy recreational sailing. Also, we need to encourage young sailors to remain in the sport.

Reynolds:How has Olympic class sailing changed since you first became involved?

Schoonmaker: It is much more intense since coaches and financial assistance have become an integral part of an Olympic campaign.

Reynolds: Obviously sailing has changed over your fifty years of competitive racing, what do you see as the best change and the worst?

Schoonmaker: One of the best changes is modern technology. One of the worst is the high cost associated with Grand Prix racing.

Reynolds: What do you see as the long-term challenges facing the US Olympic Sailing effort?

Schoonmaker: Unfortunately, for some of the affluent nations, the Olympics has become an arms race. Increased funding will be required to stay ahead in this arms race for our sailors to remain competitive

Reynolds: Do you think the Olympics should be oriented towards youth?

Schoonmaker: Not necessarily. Talent and ability win medals. Sailing is a sport you can compete in for many years.

Reynolds: Where would you like sailing to be fifty years from now?

Schoonmaker: Like it was 25 years ago. Promote fleet, club and recreational sailing and racing.

Reynolds: What advice can you give us on protection from the sun?

Schoonmaker: Load up on a good sun screen, SPF 30 or higher; wear Solumbra sun protective clothing and wear a hat or cap that will protect your ears and neck.

ding schoonmaker