Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT /

Malin Burnham, Profiles of Star Champions

Malin Burnham (Starlights, May, 1970)

In 1945 two young Star sailors served notice on the yachting world that a new generation of racing talent had arrived on the California scene. They were Malin Burnham, aged 17, and his still younger crew Lowell North, who together won the last of the World War II "skipper series" World's Championships at Stamford, Connecticut, with two firsts and two seconds in five races. Thus one of his many distinctions is that of having been the youngest skipper ever to win the gold star. Even then Malin was already the holder of four gold bars, won crewing with Gerald Driscoll in Chicago the year before.

Since then he has been three times Fifth District champion, and has sailed in seven of the past ten Worlds. Although he has never taken a second gold star, he has come very close. In 1963, leading the series in the fourth race, he managed to hit a mark. In 1964 he tied for second in the series, and in 1965 was an even closer runner-up.

In 1965 a group of Australian Star sailors invited Malin and his wife "Chatter" to come to Australia for the purpose of conducting a ten day racing seminar, a venture described by Chatter in Starlights of May, 1966. Malin must have been an excellent adviser; at least partially as a result of his visit, the Australian performance in major Star events throughout the world registered a marked upswing. Some of the material of that seminar forms the basis of the Burnham paper on Star boat racing mentioned elsewhere in this issue.

Malin's racing philosophy centers around concentration and coordination of skipper and crew, and simplicity rather than gadgetry in the boat. The cockpit should not be cluttered with so many special devices that one can hardly remember when to use them. The few basic tuning fittings that must be adjustable under sail should be ready to hand and easy to operate. He believes that the Star offers an opportunity unique among all racing boats to develop skill in taking a truly sensitive and responsive racing machine to windward.

His customary calm was unruffled when, as Commodore of the San Diego Yacht Club, he was suddenly called upon by the Star Class to negotiate a year's postponement in the holding of the recent San Diego World's Championship. He is Assistant Secretary of the V District, and served on the Governing Committee in 1969. Although his business is insurance, he holds a degree in engineering; he has been a member of the Technical Committee for three years and is now its chairman.

The Burnhams' son John crewed with his father in the 1969 World's, the most recent of the five that have been sailed in their home waters, and is currently sailing a Star of his own.

Malin Burnham possesses that rare combination of understanding which is sympathetic to the point of view of the local Star sailor who enjoys his weekend racing at home and also to that of the world traveller in the big?time circuit. In his unobtrusive but staunch support of all Star sailing everywhere, the Class has a great asset.

malin burnham