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Ed Baird is Back to Take the Cup

Ed Baird is Back to Take the Cup

Courtesy of www.louisvuittoncup.com

Five years ago, Ed Baird warned his boss, Sir Peter Blake, that he would one day be back to take the America's Cup off him. So far Baird is half right - he's back. And he fully intends to wrestle with his old employer, Team New Zealand, defender of the Auld Mug, to fulfil the second part.

‘I wanted Peter to understand that I was working for their team and I would work hard, but at a later date I would be sailing against them,’ says Baird, who coached Team New Zealand and was Russell Coutts' sparring partner in 1995. ‘He [Sir Peter] told me that if my being there meant that New Zealand would get to defend the cup, then that was fine.’

Baird, who has never before sailed in an America's Cup, was determined to be skipper of a challenger campaign in 1999. He achieved that goal when he signed up with the New York Yacht Club's syndicate Young America in 1996. Since then he has been fully involved in the research and development phase of Young America's two new boats, and managed an intense sailing programme.

Young America

It is no coincidence that the Young America programme has some similarities to Team New Zealand's winning ideals from the last cup. Baird saw how they worked and applied some of them to this campaign. Maybe it is no coincidence that USA-53 and USA-58 are black boats.

Despite his Kiwi links, Baird is all American. He has lived in the same city - St Petersburg, Florida - all his life. He has even been honoured with the key to the city. He began his sailing career as a nine-year-old in a pram - a Clearwater Pram to be more specific. The ‘Pram’ is better known these days as an Optimist dinghy, invented in Clearwater, 30 minutes from where Baird grew up - and the bay where one of Baird's afterguard, Jim Brady, learned to sail.



Baird was steering keelboats at the age of 14 and made his first bid to sail at an Olympics at 18 in the 470s. In 1980, he was US Soling champion with Jim Brady and Steve Calder, but the Americans boycotted the Moscow Olympics. It was as close as Baird ever got to his Olympic dream, which is now waning. He clearly has other things on his mind now.

No one can question Baird's match racing ability. He was world champion in 1995 - in Auckland - and has been runner-up three times. He is the only American to ever reach No 1 in the match race rankings.

Baird loves his new America's Cup job. ‘I have learnt a tremendous amount - about running a base, working with people, exploring new ideas, managing risk, and understanding how to prioritise things like that.’ His undergraduate degree in business management has helped.

‘It's where my method of thinking through problems has come into play.’ And going into race one of the Louis Vuitton Cup, how have things gone so far?

‘You don't realise how many intricacies there are to this. But the last three years we've been doing it the way we set out and chose to do. From a sailor's standpoint, I would have liked the boats in the water earlier. But one of the reasons we haven't was the risk - and the expense.

‘The risk is, the earlier you build your boat and have it in the water, the less design time you have.’

Baird is looking forward to the starters' gun on Monday, but more immediately, the arrival of his wife Lisa and their three young sons. ‘The America's Cup is great because your family can come and experience the atmosphere as well.’

- Kelly Jones

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