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Hall of Fame 2012, Malcolm D. Vail, Sr.

Malcolm was born in 1888 and passed away in 1976, however his presence is still felt here at Ephraim Yacht Club.  His efforts, training and influence on sailors is well known to the current membership of EYC.  A bit of history:  He was a founding member of Ephraim Yacht Club in 1906 along with his father and two brothers.  He became Secretary and Fleet Captain in 1910 and was Commodore of the club the first time in 1936.

Malcolm belonged to Chicago Yacht Club and North Shore Yacht Club as well EYC. Very early in his sailing career he raced “R” class sailboats out of Belmont Harbor in Chicago.  He was always in great demand for his crewing ability. He also cruised on other vessels which took him to North Channel many times. He raced in the Chicago to Mackinac Island race often, wining the race at least once.  Over the years he entered the Lipton Cup Race which he won five times, placing second twice and third once.  He was honored to receive a letter of congratulations from Sir Thomas Lipton after one of his victories.  He competed in the 100 Miler, a widely respected race among the sailors of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.  In 1923, taking his “R” class sailboat, Ariel,  to Toronto, Canada, to compete in the Great Lakes Championship, he won the Richardson Cup for Chicago Yacht Club.  The Richardson Cup has become the match racing championship among competitors from Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St Clair, Erie and Ontario.  

His service to Ephraim Yacht Club included being Commodore three known times, however, because of lost records his additional times as Commodore cannot be certified. At a point in the forties or fifties he was honored with the title of Commodore Emeritus of Ephraim Yacht Club. He was a constant guard over sailing safety and the proper use of the racing rules.  Due to increased participation the need for a staring cannon was a role he quickly undertook.  He discovered one no longer in use at Chicago Yacht Club, bought it, and donated it to Ephraim Yacht Club.  Malcolm instituted the Safety Race, during which each sailor had to demonstrate his or her skill in raising and lowering sails, throwing the anchor, bailing, reefing sails, coming about, jibing and numerous other maneuvers which competent sailors must master.,

During the twenty-plus years of the Seagull fleet at EYC, he instituted a prize for the “most ship-shape boat” in the fleet.  All boats had to be cleaned, polished and contain all essential equipment, in excellent condition.  When age took its toll and he had to stop racing his Seagull, he continued attending each race, announcing the race on a microphone for the benefit of the spectators.  A trophy was donated to EYC and was named for Malcolm.  It was given to the skipper who won the most mid-week races in the Seagull class  in the fifties and this encouraged more and better racing.  It is a bronze lighthouse clock, made in Paris in 1893, now a retired trophy, as the Seagulls have also been retired and replaced.

The new class, replacing the wooden Seagulls, was the fiberglass Flying Scot.  Mr. & Mrs. William Caley donated a Flying Scot to Ephraim Yacht Club.  The board named the boat “Malcolm” in his honor.  Malcolm wrote numerous helpful papers on every aspect of sailing, from boat parts to safety practices to rigging and trimming, to ideas that bettered the yacht club in general.  To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of EYC, he complied a historical account of the club, entitled “Tales of Ephraim Waters”.  This also included interesting lore of the waters and terrain of northern Wisconsin, and its history. (It was updated in 1998 by his son, Malcolm D. Vail, Jr. and Robert C. Davis, both past commodores).

Malcolm Vail was a man of excellent moral character, a fine business man and a worthy opponent in sporting events.  He has polio as a child and walked with a limp. But didn't want to use that as an excuse, so he threw himself into sports with gusto.  Disappointed that he couldn't play football, he searched for sports which were possible in which to play.  He set an example for all who observed him.  He was an All American hockey goalie at Cornell College and was an accomplished equestrian.  He discovered sailing early which became his greatest love to the point that his nickname for the rest of his life was “skipper”.  He was a skilled sailor and taught his children and grandchildren  to sail.  They joined in with him on many sailing adventures.  During his many years at Ephraim Yacht Club, he was revered as the grandest sailor in the club.  It is correct that Malcolm is recognized for his accomplishments and becomes a member of the Lake Michigan Sailing Hall Of Fame.

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