Class of 2016: Ed Baird
Published on October 11th, 2016
Nine new members of the US National Sailing Hall of Fame will be inducted at a ceremony on October 29-30 in San Francisco, CA. Roger Vaughan provides this report on America’s Cup winning helmsman Ed Baird, one of the members of the 2016 induction class:
On their first date, Ed Baird took Lisa, his wife to be, to a party at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club the evening before the SORC began. Lisa, from mid-Ohio, was puzzled: “I didn’t even know they raced those things.”
Their next date was on a J/24 during a qualifying race for the 1987 J/24 World Championship. “It’s raining, windy, cold,” Lisa recalls. “I’m thinking…really? We’re leading. There’s a boat on our heels. No one warns me we’re going to tack. Suddenly I’m hanging onto the lifelines, dragging in the water. This hand grabs the scruff of my neck, hauls me aboard.”
Ed: “It wasn’t my hand. You have to trust your teammates to take care of those things.”
Lisa: “We won the race. Ed had never once raised his voice. He took me to the J/24 Worlds in Capri, ten 14-hour days. As green as I was, Ed never yelled at me, never made me feel bad. But that’s how he is. He respects you for what you can do. You win or lose as a team. We’ve been married 27 years and he’s still one of my favorite people.”
Ed Baird raced in his first Laser Worlds in Fremantle, 1979. He’d done well (1-2-5) in the light, morning winds, and struggled (mid-20s) afternoons in the blustery Fremantle Doctor. “I realized I did better when thinking counted more,” he says. The following year at Kingston, Ontario, in lighter winds, he won the Championship. He says the wide range of ever-changing conditions on Tampa Bay he’s had to face since he began sailing at nine years old have provided him with a unique advantage.
Baird’s thoughtful approach has served him well. In 1995, he coached New Zealand to its first ever America’s Cup win. He won the World Match Racing Championships that same year, and was named US Sailing’s Yachtsman of the Year. In 2007, he took the helm and won the America’s Cup for Switzerland, and was named Rolex World Sailor of the Year.
Coaching has become part of Baird’s busy life. He tells sailors in his clinics to take charge, “Do the right thing…look at the situation, make choices, do what you think is right and see what happens.”
For a complete list of inductees… click here.