Carl Schumacher, 1951-2002

Racing designer, competitor, and, for Sailing World, a frequent Boat of the Year judge

The sailing world lost a talented naval architect and gentle, competitive sailor when Carl Schumacher died of a heart attack on February 5, 2002, at home in Alameda, Calif. He was 52 and is survived by his wife Marilyn, daughter Sutter, and son Evan.

Schumacher grew up in Newport Beach, Calif., sailing Sabots before moving to Northern California during his teen years. He apprenticed as a designer with Gary Mull–and later collaborated with him and others as part of the Golden Gate Challenge design team that produced Tom Blackaller’s radical forward-rudder 12-Meter in 1987. Schumacher hung out his own shingle in Alameda, Calif., 25 years ago and produced 50 performance-oriented designs, which individually and as a group had a far-reaching influence on sailboat design and sailboat racing.

His production designs included the Express 27, 34, and 37, the Olson 911S, Capo 26, Synergy 1000, and Alerion Express 20, 28, and 38. Winning custom Schumacher designs included Quarter Ton champion Summertime Dream, 38-footer Wall Street Duck, the fast 50-foot racer/cruiser Heart of Gold, and IMS racers such as the 54-foot Swiftsure II and the 39-foot Recidivist.


Schumacher loved to race, whether to Hawaii in a lightweight flyer or around San Francisco Bay in his Mercury. When combined with his knowledge about boat design and construction–both in the custom and production arenas–Schumacher’s strong sailing skills made him a well-rounded judge and boat tester for Sailing World. Last fall, while pushing a small catamaran as hard as he could, he inadvertently pitch-poled it and came up grinning.

Schumacher served for eight years (non-consecutive) as a judge for Sailing World’s Boat of the Year awards, and typically was the quiet voice that brought focus to any discussion that needed it. In years he didn’t judge, he often had designs entered in the competition, and several times his boats emerged as winners.

Those of us who got to sail and work with Carl Schumacher are feeling a great and untimely loss. His passion for the sport and insight into what makes a sailboat good or not will be missed, as will his contributions to Sailing World. But even more so, we’ll miss his keen intellect, his gentle, competitive nature, and the way he always listened, giving you his undivided attention.


At the family’s suggestion, donations in Schumacher’s memory may be made to support the Encinal Yacht Club junior sailing program, 1251 Pacific Marina, Alameda, CA 94501.


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