Mars Le Baron’s love of sailing began at 9-years-old while tooling around on Percich Pond, during one of Islands Rec’s summer sailing classes.
“The great thing about sailing is that anyone can do it,” Le Baron said. “No matter where you go, there is always going to be a little niche of people who love to get out on the water.”
Part of the attraction to sailing for Le Baron, he explained, is that the sport can either be a solo sport — giving sailors a chance for alone time, quietly feeling the salty sea breeze on their face- as a team effort racing, or simply relaxing together on the water.
As a teenager, Le Baron joined the local sailing team. As a senior in Friday Harbor High School’s class of 2013, he served as captain.
Today, Le Baron lives on the East Coast. He recently joined the build team for the second boat for American Magic, the New York Yacht Club’s America’s Cup team.
The America’s Cup is a week-long race in Auckland, New Zealand, that originated in 1851. The event is now sponsored by the Italian fashion house Prada. The teams that currently compete include two groups from the United States; a New Zealand crew; a United Kingdom team; and a Prada-sponsored team. The winner receives the trophy affectionately referred to as “Auld Mug.”
Each team is allowed to build two AC75s — a type of hydrofoil sailing boat — according to the official America’s Cup website. A hydrofoil is a lifting surface that operates in water.
The competing boats race with a crew of 11 sailors each.
AC75s are hydrofoiling 75-foot monohull vessels capable of speeds of well over 50 knots, according to the American Magic website. According to Le Baron, one American Magic team crew is already training in Pensacola, Florida, with their boat, “The Defiant.” Those sailors will head to Italy’s ancient port of Cagliari in April for one of the America’s Cup regattas.
Le Baron became involved in the project after seeing a notice that the Magic team was looking to expand its build team. He sent in his resume.
“Apparently they liked what they saw,” Le Baron said with a laugh. His current contract with the team runs through August.
The construction team consists of 150 people, including builders, designers and engineers. Le Baron and his committee are tasked with creation of the rudder. Rudders have been his specialty for a few years, Le Baron said.
“My former boss noticed how tidy I kept my workspace, and that I have a knack for detail,” Le Baron explained. Both attributes, he added, are necessary in building rudders since they need to be precisely shaped to work properly.
Both the rudder and the foils need to be light enough not to create drag in the water, yet strong enough to withstand pressure from speed, water and weight of the boat.
“I don’t have the exact numbers, but it is pretty amazing how much of a load is being put on these foils,” Le Baron said.
As the project winds down toward the end of summer, Le Baron said he hopes to have picked up enough new skills and new connections so he may continue to move forward in the boat building business.
Le Baron said he would love to be a part of the 11 member crew in the America’s Cup at some point during his lifetime, however, for now, he is learning as much as he can and picking up as many new building skills and techniques as he can.
When asked if he would prefer to stay on the East Coast, Le Baron replied, “My heart wouldn’t be broken if I had to return to the island, but, unfortunately, the boat building scene there is non-existent.”
Wherever Le Baron may be as the America’s Cup gears up in 2021, there is no doubt he will be watching and keeping tabs on the boat he helped build.
“Boat building [during construction] doesn’t seem that glorious,” Le Baron said. “But when you are able to see the finished product and see the boat in the water sailing, that is the best part about it.”