Sail On, Brad, You Will Be Missed

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Swiftsure Yachts co-founder, colleague, sailor and friend, Brad Baker (1964-2022).

Brad passed away peacefully on Friday, September 30. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer nearly four years ago. Fittingly, his last sail was just two days prior to his passing. Brad is survived by his wife P.J., and sons Bryce and Austin, and leaves behind an enduring legacy as a friend and mentor to many.

From his start in the sea scouts, to working as a sailmaker and eventually yacht broker, Brad’s experiences in sailing and the business of sailing were wide ranging. The Vic-Maui Race was a stalwart on Brad’s racing schedule, which he won multiple times, both on elapsed and corrected finishes, and collected five Navigator Awards along the way. He also embarked on a memorable 12,000-mile cruise with his family aboard their custom Perry-designed 48-foot ketch, Capaz, from Seattle to Mexico and the South Pacific. 

To those who have sailed or raced with him, bought or sold a boat through him, or even just been a casual acquaintance, Brad will be deeply missed throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Sail on, Brad. 

I am very fortunate to have been able to call Brad Baker a friend, shipmate, mentor, and business partner. Over nearly 20 years, Brad and I spent a lot of time on the water together — two races to Hawaii, countless local races, deliveries all over the Pacific Northwest. You really get to know someone when you spend extended periods on a boat together. Brad was one of the best. Exceedingly competent, hilarious and fun to be around, and a great competitor but a friend to all. He was the same in business. It was a valuable and rewarding experience working with Brad and the Swiftsure Yachts team fresh out of college in my early 20s. 

Many of my best memories of Brad involve going fast on sailboats. In particular, ripping through Race Rocks on the J/145 Double Take during the 2015 Van Isle 360 race. There were big seas, big breeze, the sun was setting and the boat was fully lit up under spinnaker. What a ride! Led by Brad, it was a highly rewarding experience for all on board. There were many others. Brad was a master team builder and navigator and never stopped in his pursuit of keeping the boat moving faster. I was fortunate to sail with Brad many times after his cancer diagnosis. And though he was often unable to quickly articulate what he was thinking under normal circumstances, he was sharp as a tack in terms of tactics and sail trim. This was second nature to him. 

Brad always seized the opportunity to go sailing, including 10 races to Hawaii, and a Mexico and South Pacific cruise with his wife PJ and sons Bryce and Austin. He was an inspiration to many, including me, to go do it while you can. He will be greatly missed.

— Ryan Helling

I met Brad in 2001 while working for West Coast Yachts. In October of 2002, I was fired and Brad left WCY a few weeks later. We opened Swiftsure Yachts with a third partner, Scott Fuller, and worked as a team to provide seamless service to our boat buying and selling clients. This eventually allowed us to take time away from work to race and cruise, and we spent as much time on the water as possible. One weekend we piled our families and Opti’s aboard Scott’s Frers 64 Volcano and sailed to Port Madison on Bainbridge Island for the night.

Brad invited me to join Brian Duchin’s Voodoo Child crew for two Vic-Maui programs; the first was aboard a J/130 where we finished second in the 2004. The second was on the race-winning Santa Cruz 52 in 2006. Brad was a fantastic navigator who reveled in all aspects of the race. With numerous Vic-Maui races under his belt, his comfort offshore was assuring to the rest of us. After violently broaching off the California coast on my watch, Brad struck his head up from the companionway and nonchalantly said “OK, it’s time to peel to a smaller chute.” He was always calm and collected whether sailing or negotiating a yacht sale. His competence was unquestionable despite his low-key manner.

Two months ago, Brad helped me deliver a Caliber 40 listing from Olympia to Lake Union.  Little did I know that this would be our last trip together. Brad steered us through the locks and into our Lake Union brokerage dock, wearing a smile on his face the entire time. He was a great business partner and shipmate. There’s no one I’d rather be offshore with on a race boat when the going gets rough. I can’t thank him enough for taking a chance with me 20 years ago to start Swiftsure Yachts — and especially for dragging me out of the office to join him on the race course.

— Pete McGonagle 

By far one of my favorite memories with Brad was racing in the 2015 Van Isle 360 Race aboard Tom Huseby’s J/145 Double Take. Brad invited me on for the entire two-plus-week event as the boat’s mainsail trimmer, relief helmsman and first mate, and knowing Brad as a friend and fellow sailor, I was sure it would be immensely fun and rewarding on every level. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d learn from Brad and how much of a mentor he would become throughout the race and beyond. 

Aboard racing boats, decisions on tactics and sail changes don’t often get discussed amongst the crew. But Brad included me and others in many of these decisions and explained the pros and cons in detail. Throughout the two weeks, we talked weather routing, starting strategy, sail configurations, and more, and by the final leg of the race from Victoria to Nanaimo, B.C., we were sitting just outside of the podium. Prior to the start off Victoria, Brad looked at me and said, “You good to call this one?” Without hesitation, I said yes, and I appreciated the confidence he had in me. We ended up leading the fleet off the line and into Haro Strait, which allowed our team to hang at the front of the pack heading north.  

Throughout that day and into the night, Brad and I kept a running dialogue on our position, made decisions together, and by early morning we crossed the finish line first for the leg. It was the only leg of the race that we won outright and it vaulted us into third place in our division for the regatta. Walking away, it almost felt like a win, but what stuck with me most was everything I had learned from Brad and the good times we’d had. He wasn’t only a true friend, but an incredible mentor.  

— Andy Cross

8 thoughts on “Sail On, Brad, You Will Be Missed

  1. I am so sorry for the loss that all at Swiftsure family are experiencing.

    Brad touch our lives when we bought our first boat through Swiftsure, and as our weather guru when we made our first ‘Big Left Turn’ down the Pacific Coast. He will be missed.

  2. I first met Brad at the North Sails loft in the ‘90s. After purchasing new sails, we were still struggling to point as high or go as fast as our one design competition. When I asked Brad for advice he rubbed is chin contemplatively and suggested that we point higher and sail faster. Hmmm … With a little coaxing we got him out on the boat for 1 day of PSSR and as luck would have it, there was plenty of sunshine and no wind. Brad spent the morning down below reading while we drifted around Shilshole Bay, the crew in the cockpit discussing everything from politics to “Blazing Saddles.” Suddenly, Brad popped up through the companionway, arms spread wide, and burst into a full throated chorus of “Springtime For Hitler and Germany,” from Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” From that moment on I knew Brad Baker and I would be friends.
    Over the years I had the good fortune to sail with Brad on 2 Hawaii races and countless other races and deliveries. He facilitated my purchase and sale of more boats than I care to count. His tactical skill and weather -routing expertise are now legendary; less so, perhaps, his singing voice and his off-shore tuna melt. Brad was smart and funny—2 qualities that I value highly and ones that make for a great teammate and a good friend.
    Racing to Hawaii in 2006 we learned that Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd had died. On watch together, sailing south into the night, we agreed that we had to listen to “Wish You Were Here.”
    Brad Baker—Shine On You Crazy Diamond

  3. I circumstantially met Brad in 2017 at the Pacific Sail Show in Richmond CA. I had my HR372 brand new and it was being exposed at the show. I only had interactions with Brad during these 2-3 days. It was a brief encounter and I did not need more time to appreciate Brad’s human qualities and friendly attitude. He impressed me at that time.
    The show ended and I remember very well he helped me to depart from the dock expressing a genuine ‘good bye friend’. His next station was to visit his son at the Maritime Academy. I know that for the people that knew Brad for a number of years and after so many instances of interacting with him, he will be present and live with his memory.
    Fair winds, Brad.
    My condolences to his family and to the Swiftsure’s people.

  4. I was another of the lucky sailors that got to spend time with Brad on the water both racing and off shore. Brad was a brilliant all around sailor. A navigator tactician trimmer and Driver. A skipper and crew mate a rock a cool head in any harry situation. Bryce and Austin were kind enough to let me use their book filled cabin on Capaz for a delivery back from Hawaii. PJ and the family were just finishing up a two year. Adventure in the South Pacific. PJ and the kids had to fly home to get ready for school. One morning ten days out of Hawaii as the sun was just coming up Brad came up the companionway to relieve me and like for Brian Duchin I was awarded the thunderous rendition of “Oh WhatA Beautiful Morning “ from Oklahoma.
    A privilege to have sailed with you

  5. Thank you for sharing the sad news of Brad’s passing.
    From the comments of others I understand the loss all who knew him must feel and also the gratitude they have for having known him.
    Although I did not know him and only spoke with him once over the phone, please accept my condolences to all the Swiftsure Crew, his friends and his family.

  6. I knew Brad through his brother-in-law, John A. I would reach out to Brad on sail related question based on his vast knowledge of services and people. I never purchased a boat through Swift sure, but he treated me as if it was a significant transaction…with expertize and patience; a trademark of Swiftsure. Gone way too soon, but a warrior in combating a horrible condition. Condolences to PJ, John, his family and friends, and the Swiftsure family. He was a pro and a highly respected member of the west coast sailing community.

  7. Many years ago Pete asked me if Swiftsure could represent Outbound Yachts in Seattle. The first boat show after they came aboard was Pacific Sail Expo. Brad, whom I had never met, showed up in Pete’s place. It did not take long to see that Brad was incredibly competent, professional, honest, and just an all around nice guy. I remember showing him around Xiamen, China and seeing him tower heads above the bustling crowd all around. What a sight. It was my great honor to have Brad represent Outbound Yachts. My sincere condolences to PJ, Bryce, Austin, and the entire Swiftsure Yachts team.

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