Jul 21st

Beyond the Sport: Translating Sailing Values into Business

By: Haley Kirk Dahl & Kayla McComb La Dow

Sailing is one of the most unique sports in the world, transcending age and gender. It is more than a sport. It is a truly international community where sailors around the world can find comfort swapping racing stories and cruising tales. Friends found while sailing often become family for life.  

We (Haley Kirk Dahl and Kayla McComb La Dow) were raised sailing sabots in Southern California at Long Beach Yacht Club and Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Our parents introduced us to the sport and Haley’s father even built her brother’s sabot. At a young age, sailors are given a significant amount of responsibility; we are taught the value of properly caring for our boats and equipment, the importance of boat preparation (and the power of Teflon), the significance of reading the sailing instructions, along with the technical skills of racing. By the time we were in high school and traveling both nationally and internationally, we were also coordinating and budgeting for our regattas. 

We went on to sail in college at Stanford University (Haley) and St. Mary’s College of Maryland (Kayla), both becoming two-time All-Americans. Today, we work together at the Whittier Trust Company (the oldest and largest multi-family office on the west coast), while pursuing our MBA’s from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and continuing to race in local twilights and global team racing regattas.  

In thinking about this topic, we reflected on the sport of sailing and the skill sets that brought us here; preparation, teamwork, resilience and the Corinthian spirit.    

Preparation: The first step in preparing for any regatta (and today, Kayla’s first step in portfolio analysis) is establishing a benchmark and defining the end goal. Next, is creating a plan to monitor progress. The power of proper preparation is a main driver in creating opportunity.

Teamwork: It is the small sail adjustments and shifts in body weight that win races and the collective team that wins regattas. This philosophy extends to school and business—     understanding individual and collective roles are key components to overall successes. After college graduation, Haley trained with a new team to refine racing philosophies, connect varying team-race playbooks and, after three days of racing in the UK, became a Team Race World Champion. 

Resilience: Competitive spirit and a desire to win falls apart without grit. Recognizing when a plan needs adjustment and remaining resolute and disciplined is critical to long-term success. After two years of switching from a crew position to a skipper, Kayla finished second at Women’s Nationals and became the first woman to earn both All-American Women’s Skipper and All-American coed crew in the same year. 

Corinthian Spirit: Trust, respect, reliability and kindness are key elements to success both on and off the water. These attributes are key in connecting preparation, teamwork and resilience throughout all aspects of life.

We are very grateful for our sailing memories, family and travel that have brought us to where we are today. As professional colleagues, we understand that the smallest shifts can have a significant impact on our client’s end result, and we are always thoughtfully analyzing for such opportunities.