John Bledsoe Bonds

December 16, 1939 - June 8, 2010

Meridian, Mississippi

John Bonds was a passionate sailor and student of the sport who spent his life helping to the make sailing safer. After graduating from Rice University in 1962 he was commissioned the next day as a U.S. Naval Officer. Between 1984 and 1988 Captain John Bonds was the commanding officer of the Naval Station in Annapolis, Md. and commodore of the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron. After retiring from the Navy he served as Executive Director of US Sailing from 1988 until 1994. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in history and became a professor at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C.

During his time at the Naval Academy he oversaw the acquisition of a new fleet of 44-foot sloops and upgraded the sail and seamanship training programs in the Navy and at the academy. US Sailing President, Bill Lynn, recruited Bonds to be the association’s Executive Director. He had joined US Sailing’s Safety at Sea Committee in 1981 and his work on the committee and at the Academy impressed Lynn. During his time at the academy and at US Sailing Bonds developed the Quick Stop maneuver for rescuing a sailor who had fallen overboard, and he pioneered the development and acceptance of inflatable life jackets. During his watch, attendance at Safety at Sea Seminars grew and eventually became mandatory for any sailor aspiring to race long distances. Bonds also worked to make sure that the use of electronic communications on both racing and cruising yachts became standard practice.

Bonds raced frequently and was a noted navigator and on-board cook. He was a highly respected race official and senior judge at many of America’s most important regattas. With an experienced sailor like John Bonds in charge, racing sailors knew the racecourse would be perfect, and protest hearings would be fair. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard the tall ship, Stad Amsterdam in 2005 Bonds served as a watch captain. Forty members of the Storm Trysail club had chartered the vessel for the crossing. Listening to John Bonds tell stories about serving off the coast of Viet Nam or racing to Bermuda were entertaining and enlightening.

Margaret Podlich, John Bonds’s daughter, remembers sailing with her father, “He taught me to always be prepared. We did a lot of adventure sailing growing up. He knew he did not have the best crew with young kids on the boat. We talked through maneuvers and evolutions, and made sure we had the right equipment, and that we knew how to use it, to be prepared.”

— Gary Jobson

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