Ed Baird on Tuesday became the second American to win the title of world sailor of the year in the 14-year history of the event.
Who was first? Paige Railey in the women's category in 2006, that's who.
Now here is the word from the ISAF Annual Meeting at Estoril, Portugal:
St. Petersburg, Florida native Ed Baird was named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Tuesday evening during an awards ceremony - hosted by USA's Gary Jobson - at the Penha Longa, a UNESCO World Heritage site outside of Lisbon, Portugal.
Ed Baird took to the stage and in a voice that showed true emotion said, “This has been a massive effort by a big, big team. The America's Cup is a dream for us all, but our sport is so much more than that. I would really like to acknowledge all of you who are here in support. Thank you.”
Along with Baird, Claire Leroy of France was named Female ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year. The Awards are recognized as the highest honor a sailor can receive in recognition of his/her outstanding achievements by the world of sailing.
Here's Ed with the Cup on July 3, and a bit more about the man . . .
Clearwater Pram (forerunner to the Optimist). "I took the summer sailing lessons at St. Petersburg Yacht Club when I was 9."
"My parents bought me a new Opti when I was 12."
"The first boat I bought was a 470, when I was 16. I split the cost with my dad."
"The 1968 ( I think) Thanksgiving Regatta at Davis Island Yacht Club in Tampa, Florida."
"I won my age group at the Thanksgiving Regatta. BUT, I think there was only one other kid my age…"
Today Ed Baird is one of the most decorated Americans on the professional circuit with 17 major wins; he was 1st in the 1995-96 and 2004-05 ISAF world classification and won the World Match Racing Championship in 1995, 2003 and 2004 (along with three second place finishes, in 1993, 1996 and 1997).
Ed learned to sail at home, and became the Laser world champion in 1980, then the Soling and J24 1983 world champion in 1983. Success in big boats followed: Maxi and 50-footers (1992 World champion), 1997-98 Whitbread ocean racer with Innovation Kvaerner and then the 2001-2002 Volvo Ocean Race aboard Djuice Dragons. In 2000, he just missed being the US Olympic representative in the Soling. Voted "US Rolex Yachtsman of the Year 1995", Baird has been sailing professionally since the age of 24 after completing his University studies in marketing and business administration.
"The America's Cup was by far the most difficult event to win. It was also the most exciting. I'm lucky that there have been many special moments in my career, but it's also been great to see all three of my sons sail their first regattas and start to enjoy the sport."
And some officially-worded history:
Ed Baird was announced as the helmsman of Alinghi, winners of the 32nd America’s Cup, just one day before the first match. Clinching victory at both of the UBS Defender Trials in Dubai, UAE, BAIRD staked his claim on the position early in 2007. He was selected again for the Louis Vuitton Act 13 in April, the last time Alinghi would face any of the Challengers before the America’s Cup and duly picked up another victory for the team. A truly professional sportsman, BAIRD is an America’s Cup veteran and a formidable match racer who always strives to improve. BAIRD’s focus and exceptional talent on the helm steered Alinghi to an outstanding victory in some incredibly close racing against Louis Vuitton Cup winners, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ).
The first match went to Alinghi but with ETNZ picking up the next two, Alinghi dug deep to win three on the bounce bringing the score to four-two and needing just one more win. The seventh, potentially deciding, match was another nail biter. ETNZ spent much of the race ahead but never quite gained a solid advantage. With just a few metres separating the two as they approached the final upwind mark, the crucial position of Alinghi and a perfect dial down from BAIRD forced Emirates Team New Zealand to concede a penalty. It looked like Alinghi had secured the win but an enormous wind shift put the finish line upwind leaving ETNZ able to lay it and Alinghi struggling to drop their spinnaker. Down on speed as they completed their penalty, ETNZ could only watch as BAIRD steered Alinghi across the line just one second ahead and winning the America’s Cup.
The 2007 nominees:
Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB & Pippa WILSON (GBR)
Marcelien DE KONING & Lobke BERKHOUT (NED)
Claire LEROY (FRA)
Evi VAN ACKER (BEL)
Ed BAIRD (USA)
Franck CAMMAS (FRA)
Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA)
Robert SCHEIDT & Bruno PRADA (BRA)
Rohan VEAL (AUS)
Compiled by KL