Spanning eight decades of eminence

Published on September 8th, 2021

Designed in 1939, the 18-foot Mercury keelboat has retained a loyal following in California, with the Mercury Class Yacht Racing Association hosting in 2021 its 75th National Championship held in Pebble Beach, CA. But as Jim Taylor reports, it wasn’t just the enduring class being celebrated on Stillwater Cove:

In 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States, Fidel Castro took control of Cuba, the average cost of a new home in the US was under $13,000, Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood as numbers 49 and 50, Ben Hur was the breakout movie and was the year before Paul Elvstrom won his last of four gold medals in a row.

One other thing happened in our little sailing world in 1959: Doug Baird won his first Mercury National Championship. Big deal you say? Lots of different people won championships that year, you say. Well, I say, how many of those 1959 winners have spanned eight decades of winning their respective national championships?

I’d say that list is a very short one: Doug Baird.

Doug, who now lives in Mountain House, CA has been winning for so long it seems uncanny. Besides winning in 1959, he won in ’62, ’67, ’69, ’76 (crewing for the venerable Star sailor Steve Gould), ’89, 2003, ’06, ’12, and is now the 2021 Mercury National Champion, winning for his 10th time at the vintage age of 81.

Apparently he took the decade of the 1990s off to let some new faces in the game.

If there is an award for durability, longevity, and a lifetime shelf life, not to mention being a true sportsman, gentleman, and one of the most likeable people one can ever meet, Doug deserves that award.

There is no one I was more surprised yet less surprised to see win in 2021. Good on ya Douglas, you are a true phenomenon and have been for eight fricking decades!

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