William A. Baker Award

Pacific Class boats at the 2016 Coronado Sojourn

The 2016 Award was given to the California Pacific Class and the San Diego Yacht Club. Photo courtesy San Diego Yacht Club History Archive.

The purpose of the William A. Baker Award is to promote the awareness and appreciation of fine examples of one-design classes or boats of like kind, to foster faithful preservation and restoration, and encourage their continued use.

Antique and classic boat festivals throughout the country typically present awards for the preservation of wooden boats. As a rule these awards are presented to individual owners or vessels, recognizing some superlative aspect of the work that has been done to keep them up, most-original, or the finest craftsmanship.

The William Avery Baker Award is somewhat unique in that it is customarily presented to a class association or group of owners. The purpose is to recognize the people and communities that do the bold, arduous and often expensive work of keeping a large group or class of vessels actively sailing.

It is this authentic notion of active use that is recognized and commended. The Museum understands it is one thing to save an old wooden boat from inevitable destruction; it is another thing entirely to save a class of vessels from extinction. It has been our experience that this can only occur when a community of like-minded enthusiasts comes together with a common purpose.

They are motivated by more than the desire to save a few boats. They are driven by a desire to save something less tangible but far more valuable, maritime skills, traditions, family legacy and the joy that comes from spending a day on the water in a wonderful boat. True restoration is not just about passing on the craft and tradition of maintenance but also about passing on the skill and enjoyment of use.

This award was first presented at the Yachting History Symposium in 1989.

About William A. Baker

William A. Baker

William A. Baker. Photo Credit: MIT Library

A 1934 graduate of MIT with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, Baker was active in the American shipbuilding industry through World War II and up to the early 1960s. Best known as the designer of Mayflower II, which was built in England in 1955 for Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, Baker was one of the most prominent maritime historians and historic reproduction ship and boat designers of his era. In his final career, Baker was Curator of the Hart Nautical Museum (prior to the merger with MIT Museum in 1982) from 1963 until his death in 1981. Baker’s research and designs of American Colonial era vessels set a standard for thoroughness and precision that is still highly regarded today. In 1987, Mrs. William A. Baker gave the MIT Museum the bulk of Baker’s design drawings, technical files, and related research notes. This unique collection was retrospectively cataloged in 1991-92. (Source: MIT Library)