Deceased , Modern

James DeForest

Bishop Sr.

1934 - 2018

James “Jim” D. Bishop Sr. has been a champion of the Corinthian spirit of yacht racing for nearly seven decades. Has been hailed as a leader and revitalizer of fleets and classes in everything from Interclubs to International One Designs (IODs) to J/44s.

Introduced to the sport at the age of 14, Jim began sailing Luders 16s in Niantic, Connecticut. After Hurricane Carol destroyed his boat, his friend Dan Miller decided to buy an Atlantic and Jim started sailing Atlantics. At that time, all Atlantics were made of wood but soon the “miracle material” of fiberglass was used in a couple of Atlantics in 1954. The top two Atlantics that year were both fiberglass and Jim finished 3rd. Jim understood change was in the wind.

Jim began sailing in the company of Corny Shields and Arthur Knapp in the IOD fleet. Corny had also seen the impact the fiberglass Atlantics had on the fleet, and he banned the use of this new material in IODs. Eventually, the ban was rescinded when Corny asked Jim to build a fiberglass IOD as a test. They integrated the fiberglass boat into the rest of the fleet by rotating different skippers into and out of the “special” boat during the IOD World Championships in Marblehead. The fiberglass boat generally finished in the middle of the pack, proving that the fiberglass version could be built in such a way that it was competitive, but without a performance advantage on the race course. Jim’s goal was to keep a “cap on the arms race” in yachting.

Another cost-containment aspect of the IODs that interested Jim was the fact that the class had an interesting approach to the purchase of sails. IODs used sails ordered together as a fleet but purchased individually by fleet members. Owners were allowed only one sail per year, and the type was determined by the class (spinnaker, main or jib). Individual purchases were not allowed at all. The typical rotation allowed for a new suit of sails every three to four years. For the rest of his life, Jim has continued his love affair with the IOD class. In fact, he is now a member of the IOD Hall of Fame, along with Arthur Knapp Jr., John Burnham, Russell Coutts, and National Sailing Hall of Famers Corny Shields, Ted Hood, and Bus Mosbacher.

Besides his leadership in the IOD class, Jim became heavily involved in frostbiting and the Interclub class. Seeing that the class was deteriorating, Jim personally bought 12 old ICs from Kings Point and had them all restored. He then sold them (at no personal gain) to the fleets in Marblehead and Larchmont, where the frostbiting programs are still going strong to this day.

After thousands of miles and many victories in the 1970s and 80s, Jim became one of the first owners of a new class of yachts being built by the Johnstones –the J/44. Many, including Rodney Johnstone himself, consider a key to the J/44’s longevity (beside its design) has been Jim’s decision to take the class-owned sails concept that he had seen in the IODs and take it further for these larger yachts: The J/44 Class would purchase the sails through member contributions, and then the class-owned sails would be rotated among boats at every regatta. In some regattas, sails were rotated every day to make sure things remained equal. Logs were also kept on each sail’s use to average out the usage.

According to his nominator, Jim’s pursuit of the Corinthian spirit and leadership in maintaining the relative accessibility at all levels of the sport – from Interclubs, to IODs to J/44s – should be held up as an example to the sailing community in terms of boatbuilding, fleet management and dedication to the growth of the sport itself.

From Rodney Johnstone, the designer of the J/44:

Jim singlehandedly established a modern Corinthian regatta culture and standard for the J/44 Class (and for sailboat racing in general) which included everything from exchanging one-design sails between races to setting up a bar at various events on the dock after racing so that all the J/44 sailors could laugh or cry over the postmortems. Jim is unique among the thousands of owners of our J/Boats for his total dedication to sailing, organizing, and promoting one-design racing on the J/44.

From Tom Whidden:

Without a doubt, Jim is one of the most “professional amateurs” I’ve come across. By that I mean that even as a Corinthian sailor, Jim has pursued his passion for yacht racing in such a way that he has not only garnered countless trophies and accolades as an individual, he has –uniquely –combined that focus and energy with efforts to improve the health and advancement of the overall sport.

Accomplishments and Honors

  • OD Hall of Fame.
  • Recipient of the John B. Thompson Award for Campaign Excellence.
  • Recipient of the Ned Anderson Award for Outstanding Service to yacht racing in Long Island Sound.
  • President of Long Island J/44 Class since 1990.
  • 1970 – bought 12 old Interclubs, had them restored and sold them to yacht clubs to reinvigorate the class.
  • Built the first fiberglass IOD to test the ability of wood and fiberglass to coexist competitively.
  • Boat of the Week Block Island Race Week, 1999.
  • Sailed approximately 16 SORCs and sailed 23 Newport Bermuda Races, 16 as skipper.
  • Represented the U.S. four times in the King Edward Gold Cup Match Race in Bermuda.
  • Won J/44 North American Championship five times.

Cruised extensively in the Caribbean, Firth of Forth, Ireland, Norway and the Atlantic coast of the U.S.

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