Ed Baird is a two-time winner of the America’s Cup-as coach of Team New Zealand in 1995 and as helmsman of Team Alinghi in 2007.
In 1995, Baird’s guidance on match racing tactics and work as tune-up skipper contributed to Team New Zealand’s success in San Diego where they defeated the defender, led by Dennis Conner, in five straight races. Baird recalls, “My experience with Team New Zealand was incredible because it really opened my eyes to the levels people could reach. I thought I knew a lot of the better sailors in the world until I got onto that team and realized there was another substantial step up. It was also impressive to be in a group that was pushing the limits in many areas of the sport, but that was also on a very limited budget.” Later that year, Baird went on to win the IYRU Match Racing World Championship as a further testimony of his exceptional racing skills.
For the next America’s Cup cycle, Baird was the skipper of the New York Yacht Club’s America’s Cup challenge in 2000. The Club had high hopes for winning the Cup, but fell into trouble when its fast but fragile boat, Young America, split in half during a race in November 1999. It was a crushing setback, and the team never recovered.
During the 2003 America’s Cup, Ed Baird and fellow Class of 2021 inductee, Peter Montgomery, were co-commentators for both TV New Zealand and OLN’s coverage of the Cup series in Auckland.
After Switzerland’s Team Alinghi captured the America’s Cup in 2003, it hired Baird as a helmsman for the team’s defense in 2007. The 2007 America’s Cup was a close match. But Baird and skipper Brad Butterworth kept their cool against their former team and challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand. The most exciting moment was at the end of Race Seven. A sudden, late wind shift gave New Zealand the lead just before the finish, but the Kiwis had to perform a penalty turn before crossing the finish line. While New Zealand was completing its turn, Alinghi skillfully regained the lead and won the race by just one second to successfully defend the Cup with a 5-2 series score. Baird was named the International Sailing Federation’s Rolex Sailor of the Year for the achievement.
Baird continues to be very active at a grand prix level, but also enjoys supporting his sons’ efforts to reach the top of the sport.