Harken Derm

People that make a difference

Published on May 9th, 2019

Active and enduring one design classes are more about the people than the boat, and while class enthusiasts love their boat, it is the enthusiasm for their class members that carry the day. A great example of that is C. Paxton Davis, the longtime go-to guy for everything and anything having to do with the 18-ft Mercury Class sailboat.

Paxton was president of the class from 1972 to 1974 and continued as class regatta reporter to this day. Through the years, Paxton has won every major regatta including the Class Championship, but his most important role has been his ability to move new people into the class by matching up inactive boats with sailors who have expressed an interest in the Mercury.

Mercurys date back to 1939, and the Mercury Class Yacht Racing Association (MCYRA) has been active since 1945. Ernest Nunes designed the Mercury as a one design racer, and the Nunes Brothers built the original plywood boats in Sausalito, CA. While fiberglass boats have been built since 1952, Paxton built his first Mercury, a wooden homebuilt hull, in 1963.

During his Mercury career he owned five different hulls, most recently hull #580, which he donated to a young sailor upon his retirement. All of his boats had a blue-and-gold color scheme to note his alma mater, UC Berkeley.

But all good things come to an end as he has retired from Mercury racing after 55 years with the class. Paxton is now 86 years old, but he is not finished racing quite yet. He is still racing the 12-ft singlehanded Millimeter (photo above), a scaled down version of the 12 Metre, with hopes of increasing the 11 Class Championships already to this name.

To honor both his long history as a class officer and his years of making it to more regattas than any other skipper, the Mercury Class revealed their newest perpetual trophy, the Paxton Davis Travel Trophy. Each year 10 regattas will be designated ‘travel trophy’ regattas, and a point system for participation and placing in each regatta will determine the winner.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Latitude 38 for recognizing a person we have gotten to know over the years, always appreciative of his contributions to Scuttlebutt and the sport. If each day of sailing extends your life, Pax will continue his battles on San Francisco Bay for many more years to come.

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