National Sailing Hall of Fame

National Sailing Hall of Fame Class of 2018

Meet the Class of 2018 Inductees.

The National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) celebrated its eighth class of Inductees today at Lauderdale Yacht Club (LYC), concluding three days of activities that included a symposium for junior sailors with Inductees and social events at both LYC and the city’s iconic Top of the Pier at Pier 66. The six Inductees, including three posthumous honorees, were celebrated for their impact on sailing, and bring to 71 the number of enshrined heroes of the sport. The National Sailing Hall of Fame continues to fulfill its mission by drawing attention and recognition to Americans who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing.

“The common thread this year is the blending of art and science in sailing; putting the two together to achieve excellence on the racecourse,” said Gary Jobson, President of the NSHOF in his preface to introducing the Inductees.

Inducted to the National Sailing Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2018: famed yachting cinematographer John Biddle; three-time Soling World Champion, Brazilian-American Olympian Vince Brun; and shipbuilder and naval architect William Webb. Additionally, three Inductees who were recognized with the NSHOF Lifetime Achievement Award: the late Greek-American shipping magnate and veteran offshore sailor, George Coumantaros; businessman, noted maritime memorabilia collector and 1992 America’s Cup winner, Bill Koch; and 1975 Star World Champion Ding Schoonmaker, who was not only instrumental in the founding of the US Sailing Center in Miami but also was a tireless advocate for the sport through his involvement with the national governing body, as well as the International Sailing Federation, now known as World Sailing, of which he served two terms as Vice President.

Well-known Brazilian-American sailor Vince Brun (1947-) was born in New York where his family lived for eight years before returning to their South American homeland when Brun was three years old. His parents were cruising sailors and Brun’s first sailboat was a converted rowing dinghy borrowed from the deck of their boat that was fitted with a mast built by his engineer father and a sail sewn by his mother. His sailing resume is replete with numerous world and national titles in a variety of classes – both as skipper and as crew –. including 1981 and 1983 Soling World Champion, 1986 Star World Champion, 1998 Melges 24 World Champion, crewing for Dennis Conner in his 1992 and 2003 America’s Cup campaigns, and 2000 Etchells World Champion.

“I have so many friends here, it’s incredible, and being inducted to the Hall of Fame, what an honor,” said Brun after apologizing for getting emotional. “Even more important to me is the journey to get me here. You know [it’s] the experiences, meeting all these people, sailing all these regattas. That’s the interesting thing about sailing. You meet people who are at the top of their industry and you meet other people who are just like a regular guy just like myself, a sailmaker, trying to make a living….we have the opportunity to share this experience that forever engraves on you.” ~ Vince Brun

Posthumous Inductee George Coumantaros (1922-2016), a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, spent his early life in Greece, until the outbreak of war in 1940 forced the family to relocate to Argentina. Upon moving to the US in 1947, Coumantaros founded the Southern Star Shipping Company which transported industrial steel, aluminum, coal, cement and petroleum internationally. In 1960, he established a flour mill in Nigeria, ultimately expanding into other food products and employing 12,000 people; his dedication to the economic and social advancement of the Nigerian community earned him great respect. In the 1950s, Coumantaros became an avid offshore sailor and promoter of the sport. Closely involved in the design of his yachts, he had a series of boats named Boomerang on which hundreds of young sailors gained experience that allowed them to compete in notable events such as the America’s Cup. Coumantaros competed in the famous Fastnet Race of 1979, and in the Newport Bermuda Race a notable 26 times in 52 years. After crossing the Bermuda finish line first a remarkable five times, he achieved a life-long goal when he won overall honors in 1996. Coumantaros donated his last Boomerang to the US Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, N.Y.) for use by midshipmen as a training vessel.

“The Induction of my father George Coumantaros, is a tremendous honor,” said son John Coumantaros. “His biggest achievement in sailing was winning the coveted Lighthouse Trophy. Today, being inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame elevates him posthumously, and everlastingly, to the pantheon of great sailing gods. Dad ran an amazingly successful maxi boat campaign for nearly two decades and watched as his Boomerang family – and the team that brought so much success – grow and have families of their own. For him sailing was not only a way to be out in the elements competing successfully, it was also very much the fellowship of being in a group, a team, a family, of like-minded people, with a common goal in hand doing something they really enjoyed together.”

Inductee Bill Koch (1940-) is also a recipient of the NSHOF Lifetime Achievement Award. The Kansas born Koch, founder of a multinational coke and Sulphur products company, was an atypical entrant competing for the 1992 America’s Cup, having only taken up sailing in the mid-1980s. However, Koch, who earned undergrad, graduate and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, assembled a team to study the science behind boat design and the resulting research delivered a fast boat. Koch’s approach to selecting the crew that would race America3, which he would drive, was not to focus just on sailing skills but also the ability to work as a team. After winning the Defender Series, Koch defeated Italian challenger Il Moro di Venezia to win the 1992 America’s Cup.

“What I’m doing now, I’m an obsessive collector and what I’m collecting is as much America’s Cup items as I can – up around 10-25,000 items [so far] – and so I want someone to put together an America’s Cup museum,” said Koch, who closed his acceptance comments with an emotional toast to his long-time friend and competitor George Coumantaros: “there are good ships, there are wood ships, and ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friend ships and they will always be.”

Inductee Ding Schoonmaker is also a recipient of the NSHOF Lifetime Achievement Award. While he has sailed many classes, it is the Star class with which Schoonmaker is most closely associated, as both champion and dedicated supporter. He started sailing as a youngster while summering in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, and at age 16, he was asked by Miami sailor Jack Price to crew for him in a Star. Schoonmaker is quoted as saying “he immediately fell in love with the boat.”

In 1951, crewing for the legendary Bahamian sailor Durward Knowles, Schoonmaker won his first Bacardi Cup in Havana. Schoonmaker would go on to win the high-profile Star class event, as a skipper, an additional seven times (1953, 1964, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1976 and 1977). Schoonmaker’s involvement in Olympic sailing started in 1952 when a second-place finish in the Star U.S. Olympic Yachting Trials earned him the position of reserve helmsman at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki; he would repeat that role at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. The highlight of his sailing career came in 1975 in Chicago where he won the Star World Championship in a fleet of 73 boats. He is a 12-time Star Continental Champion and the 1971 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year.

“My greatest achievement in sailing, and lasting legacy, was the US Sailing Center in Coconut Grove,” said Schoonmaker. The location opened in 1985 with only a boat storage area, a ramp and two hoists; a year later an office trailer was added. In January of 2003, the US Olympic Sailing Center Miami – one of only 18 official US Olympic Training sites sanctioned by the US Olympic Committee – dedicated a permanent building. “Over the years, the facility has brought thousands of world class sailors to the waters of Biscayne Bay for competition and training. Today the center is thriving with hundreds of sailors from around the world coming to train or practice or compete. What an honor.”

Induction Date:

November 10-11, 2018


Lauderdale Yacht Club
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

  • John Scott Biddle

  • Vincente “Vince” d’Avila Melo Brun

  • George Stavros Coumantaros

  • William “Bill” Ingraham Koch

  • James Martinus “Ding” Schoonmaker

  • William Henry Webb

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