Some say sport can be a gateway to explore the world. Some individuals, such as Don Martin, have lived this creed.

Perhaps no other individual from this province in recent memory has travelled so widely in their chosen sport and done so in such varied capacities. A fixture in the BC sailing community for fifty years, Martin has literally sailed the world as a competitor, coach, mentor, judge, official, boat designer, boat builder, and event organizer.

Born in Vancouver, Martin’s first introduction to sailing came at age eight. His father had bought a sailboat and he recalls the experience of crawling up to the boat’s bow, feeling the vessel cutting through the waves, and slapping down in the water. Instantly, he was hooked.

By age ten he was sailing on his own; by twelve he was competing regularly and within just a few years had notched a third-place result at the North American junior championships in California. Over his career, Martin added numerous Canadian national titles, several North American championship victories, and participation in several Admirals’ Cup and America’s Cup efforts.

An architect by trade, Martin’s influence in Canadian boat building and design cannot be understated enough. Incorporated in 1975, Martin Yachts Ltd. has been responsible for the design and construction of over 600 composite craft up to twenty-seven meters. Martin’s designs include the Martin 242, which is one of the most popular one design keel boat classes in the Pacific Northwest, and the popular Martin 16, designed specifically for people with a disability to sail independently. Martin actually donated all design rights of the Martin 16 to the Disabled Sailing Association of BC.

As an event organizer Martin co-founded the Easter Seals Regatta in 1991. Since its inception the event has raised over $1 million for children with disabilities. An active international judge certified by the International Sailing Federation, Martin has volunteered at many of the world’s top competitions. He served as team leader for both the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic sailing teams at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Paralympics. One of his proudest moments came at the latter, helping the Canadian team to a bronze medal in the three person Sonar event. More recently, he coached the 2004 and 2008 Canadian Paralympic sailing teams competing in Athens and Beijing respectively.

Martin’s sailing journey shows no slowing down either. In 2008, he formed a group that restored to racing quality the 1928 Lady Van, Eric Hamber’s sailboat that at one time was the fastest in the Pacific Northwest. In 2012, the Lady Van was competing on the classic sailing circuit in Europe. More recently, Martin has coached and mentored a group of UBC students competing in the North American championships for robotic sailing.

Martin has also been on the leading edge of kiteboarding, one of the world’s newest and fastest growing water sports. He judged at the first kiteboarding world championships in 2009 and has worked with a small group of officials formulating the sport’s rules. Look for Martin to be in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 when kiteboarding will be contested as a full medal Olympic sport for the first time.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.