For most of us, the college years are possibly the best of our lives. Weekends, spring breaks, summers and the new found freedom of becoming adults create endless possibilities for fun. But four years can speed by quickly, and the transition into the real world can be quite traumatic. Unless of course, your name is Reed Baldridge.
Graduating last year, Baldridge sailed for the College for four successful years. While most of his fellow graduates are struggling in the working world, Baldridge continues to sail, and has gone on to cement his status as one of the world’s best young sailors by earning a spot on Team USA for this summer’s Youth America’s Cup.
“It’s been really fun and I’ve learned a lot, but it’s been a lot of hard work, on and off the water. We’ve had to train physically, more than I’ve ever done before,” Baldridge said.
As one of seven sailors to make the Team USA roster, Baldridge and his crew will compete on the crystal clear waters of Bermuda. The Youth America’s Cup, held June 12-21 in Bermuda, will pit the 12 best youth national teams from around the world against one another. This famed event is the derivative of its more senior companion, the America’s Cup, which will take place in Bermuda as well, from May 26-June 27.
Baldridge sees this opportunity in June (as part of the youth team) as a critical step in order to achieve his goal of sailing in the more senior competition. “You kind of get to show off, and show how good you are as a team, and this is the biggest and best stepping-stone to get chosen to be on one of the America’s Cup’s teams,” Baldridge said.
Training around the world, most notably in Palma, Spain, Baldridge and his teammates discovered that fundraising is almost as difficult as actual training. With such a large bill, Baldridge’s team has campaigned hard, and garnered sponsorship from large companies such as Maui Jim, Sperry Footwear and Windhaven Insurance.
“We’ve spent about 30 days in Spain, and we just finished up the Bacardi week in Miami, and now we are heading to Bermuda to practice,” Baldridge said.
Unlike the Olympics, where the boats are often antiquated, the Youth America’s Cup participants use some of the newest and most advanced technology on the market. Sailing on AC-45’s, these boats do not glide on the water like your average sailboat, but fly through the water like a rocket. Under the right conditions, these boats can travel more than 34 mph, making them efficient but also dangerous to maneuver.
Even though he has not had much time to look toward the future, Baldridge does not see an end in sight as he hopes to sail and improve for as long as possible. “The plan right now, after the [Youth] Cup, is to sail for a good while, to do it professionally, and hopefully get on a [America’s] Cup team or a Volvo World Ocean Race team,” Baldridge said.
Even as Baldridge continues to travel around the world to many exotic locations, he still remembers his time in Charleston fondly. “It was a great experience being there, and I learned so much from sailing with all the coaches that I still apply to my sailing now,” Baldridge said.
In a few weeks, it will be time to tune into the Youth America’s Cup. While watching, make sure to pay close attention to the sailor barking out orders on Team USA’s boat, remembering that only a few months ago, that sailor was doing the same thing on the Charleston Harbor.
*This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of The Yard.