Pamala Baldwin made a career out of headhunting for remote ultra-luxury island resorts, but she took the time to add a cheesecake export business, soon after a 2004 move from New Jersey to Antigua. On or off the water, she’s hard to contain, but given the choice, she’d rather sail.
Baldwin, 73, and the 40-foot racing sloop Liquid, a J/122, which she owns, have carved a strip in Caribbean yacht racing, with big wins and boat honors from the Caribbean year more than once. Next up on the island circuit is the most exotic of them all, Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille, in which she has competed four times with Liquid, including an overall victory in 2019.
The following conversation has been condensed and edited.
What is the secret of success for the Liquid team?
No secrets. We work harder. On race day we will be on the water hours before the start. We study the wind. We do maneuvers; make sure we have our moves down. There may be one or two other boats doing the same thing. Other people eventually show up, and they all want to win. How many do you want?
There is also investment. This is “yacht” racing.
Lots of boat owners have a lot of money, but that’s not all. I put everything in the boat and then wonder how to go to dinner.
You probably mean this as an exaggeration which is true enough.
Few, if any, boat owners choose or manage their crew the way you do. Tell us more.
I have a young crew. There is a core that has been with me for a long time. We make others grow, teach them to become professionals, help them find a place in the world.
We’ve had Olympians on the crew, and every year there’s a new young crew member. I now have a 16 year old boy who is six feet tall, Malik Charles, but I call him Ninja. All six feet of him fell on me when I was squirrel a spinnaker change [hauling the large nylon sail into the forepeak at the bow] and he almost broke my nose. The kid couldn’t get over apologizing. I always cry when they leave, and one day it will be like that with him.
You have a reputation for being relentlessly competitive. Is it right?
I am 73 years old. I work as hard as anyone on the boat. Bodybuilding is one of my sports. I am now starting a business in resorts for longevity because there is a market for supporting health and longevity.
It’s different [statement of] luxury. I am the center of this market because I never want to stop running. And I don’t compromise. When I bought Liquid I went through and ripped out anything that added weight and didn’t help the boat go fast. The toilet seat cover had to go, that’s for sure.
As a boat owner, you also have a reputation for partying. Is it deserved?
Ask my friends.
Julian White, 28, was the skipper of Liquid’s 2019 victory in St. Barths. What does it bring?
Jules is as good as his results show, and I don’t pay him as much as others would.
You won the Caribbean Sailing Association Voyageur’s Trophy in 2020 – again – because you had already competed well in three regattas when the pandemic put an end to activities. How “normal” is this?
We are always present. In 2018 the Caribbean 600 [600 miles around 11 islands] hit bad weather. We were soaked and cold the whole way, living on freeze-dried food. There were helicopter rescues around us, but we were done.
Liquid was honored as the best boat in the Caribbean that year. But surely there is no reason to expect stormy sailing in Les. Sails of Saint-Barth?
I love Saint Barth. This is our highlight of the season. Les Voiles is unlike any other regatta. The island looks like Europe. It’s so classy. If I spoke French, I would move there.