Class of 2017: Bill Martin

Published on August 23rd, 2017

The U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame selected eight people in 2017 to join the 57 previously-recognized individuals who have been enshrined since the first class in 2011.

Among this group to be officially inducted on September 24 is avid sailor Bill Martin (Ann Arbor, Mich.), who is one of two Inductees being recognized with the NSHOF Lifetime Achievement Award. This tribute is provided by 2011 inductee Gary Jobson:

If you want to know Bill Martin, play basketball with him at midnight. He will play with great intensity and yet have a smile the whole time. Bill is the consummate “work hard – play hard” sailor who has had a spectacular career as a competitor, but more importantly helped improve sailing at the highest levels.

As a racer he has won the prestigious Chicago to Mackinac Race on his Santa Cruz 70 footer, Stripes, and has raced a wide variety of boats from small dinghies to large offshore yachts. Bill saw the need to improve the governance of sailing. In 1981 there were three cases of cheating in offshore racing. Martin led the effort to expose the practice of illegal yacht measurement and improve the regulations of the sport.

After serving on the Board of Directors of US Sailing, the governing body of the sport in the USA, he was elected President (1988-1991). He later became acting President of the United States Olympic Committee at a time that a major overhaul of the American Olympic program was needed. He was awarded the General Douglas MacArthur Award for his service, and he was presented with the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Award, US Sailing’s highest honor. Later he served as the Athletic Director of the University of Michigan for eight years.

In 1968 he founded the First Martin Corporation, a diversified real estate company. Martin has chaired a bank and served on behalf of the state of Michigan on the Detroit Financial Review Commission. He is also a long-time member of the Fales Committee, which oversees the sailing program at the United States Naval Academy. Bill Martin is always sought out by leaders in sailing for his wise council.

During the trials to represent the United States and the Bayview Yacht Club at the Canada’s Cup in 1984, Martin and his crew had long days racing on Lake St. Clair off Detroit. The racing was not enough. Martin and his young crew played some spirited basketball late into the night. His wife, Sally, two sons, and grandchildren still spend lots of time on the water. In 2004 Martin was overall winner of the Chicago to Mackinac Race and just one week later, won the IRC Offshore Championship. Each event awarded him a Rolex watch.

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