Ed Baird: Secrets for Successful Sailing
Published on February 7th, 2017
Ed Baird, member of the 2016 class of inductees for the US National Sailing Hall of Fame, discusses with barracuda.news the virtues that lead to being successful.
In general, what are the fundamental steps to success in racing?
To be honest, I think there is nothing different about a successful sailing team than any other successful sports or business team. You start with a foundation of people that are talented and hungry to become better; who are also willing to be good teammates and help each other to become better.
Once you have built that foundation, you need to continuously ask yourself ‘how can we be better tomorrow?’ Then you will have great success. There is no magic, there is only hard work. There is no ‘oh if we would have that guy we would win’, that’s not how it works. The team has to work well together and they have to recognize that they always have to take another step tomorrow.
So the base is people. What comes after this base?
You have to have a foundation of good quality people. And then you challenge each person to find ways to improve: not only the people but the equipment. When we don’t have a particular skill ourselves we have to ask questions within the industry ‘how can we make this piece better? How can we make the mast better? How can we improve the spreaders, the shrouds, the winches?’ It’s going to cost a certain amount and it’s going to give us something hopefully as good.
But there will always be a risk of equipment failure. Whenever you make a change, there is always a risk that it fails. So we have to manage all those risks. In the TP 52 class, for example, one of the things that are unique is that every race counts, all year. There are no drop races. If you have a bad day it counts.
So we have to work hard to maintain our high level of success all the time. We don’t have to win all the time, but we always have to be in the front, in order to win at the end of the season. It takes a special group of people to be able to consistently deliver like that, all year, together and not argue.
Is sailing more about fun or winning?
Everything is about fun. If it’s not fun, really, then why do it? Each day you have to have some reason that you wake up and say “today is going to be fun, we will work hard and whatever,” right? It needs to be fun. Fun inspires people to try harder and do more. It’s not just about the winning. We all like to win, it’s important, we love to be successful, but really first we have to enjoy what we are doing. And if we enjoy it we want to improve every day, the winning seems to come from that.