REFLECTION: Not always bad to be the bridesmaid

Published on April 15th, 2013

After 49 editions of the Congressional Cup, the volunteer army at Long Beach Yacht Club remains edpassionate about their event. Since 1965, with every notable sailor passing through their club doors, the members have also become quite fond of a few of their participants too. Most certainly, American Ed Baird is on that list.

Maybe it’s because Ed is a good guy – he is. Or maybe it’s because, at 54 years, he is closer in age to the members than to his competing peers… none of which were within a decade. Or maybe it was because he had a bit of long shot label this year.

Ed had won the Congressional Cup in 2004, at a time when he was fully focused in match racing. He was World Champion in 2003 and 2004, but soon thereafter left mainstream match racing for the America’s Cup. In fact, for all intents and purposes, he considers July 3, 2007 as his last real monohull match race – when he helmed the Alinghi team to victory in the 32nd America’s Cup.

Interestingly, when Ed was helming Alinghi in that series against Emirates Team New Zealand, the tactician he was racing against was Terry Hutchinson. And for the 49th Congressional Cup, the two teamed up to nearly take the title, but fickle winds on the final day landed them in second place.

Here Ed shares some thoughts on the experience…

Coming into this, I certainly had some apprehension. It had been a long time since I had played this game. To be honest, I didn’t initially know all the sailors who would be competing. That was probably a good thing, because when I got here and saw everyone’s credentials, I realized how stacked this event was. This was a really good field.

But we couldn’t worry about it too much. All we could do was go out and do our best with each race. And after the first day, when we had some success, I was honestly pleased that we weren’t going to be shut out of the win column. It had been on my mind. (Note: Ed was 3-2 after day one)

You need to remember that there is only one day in advance when each of the teams can practice. We were counting on that day to sort out a lot of things, but it was pretty windy that day and the organizers didn’t want to jeopardize the boats. That was painful, but the team has performed tremendously. While I had never previously sailed with Terry, our team had sailed together a lot; we just hadn’t match raced.

Coming into this, I tried to prepare as best as I could, but you just can’t remember every tactical situation. Through all the racing, there were moments when I recognized a move a bit late, and put ourselves in some tough spots, so I was doing plenty of re-learning. And it is not just the match racing tactics, but then blending that with the boat. You can only do what the boat allows you to do. It has been a very dynamic week.

I am sure our approach contributed to our success, as we came here with no expectations. Our Quantum Racing team was using this event as a training opportunity for this summer. Terry and I will be sailing together on the TP52 for that circuit in the Med, and we saw this as a chance for us to learn how to work together. Sure we would have loved to have won, but this still feels pretty good.

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