Little Book, Big Ideas

A book about competitive sailing with a spin on ancient wisdom.

November 26, 2013
Sailing World

Sail On

A little book with some big ideas for the racing sailor.

Have you ever thought about how your mindset on the racecourse can translate into your everyday life? How a leadership role on the water can also have a place in your office? Or how the relationships with your skipper or crew can mirror relationships on shore?

These deeper questions are explored in a recently published book of aphorisms by Melissa Deveney, called Sail On: Insights About Life and Leadership From Wind and Water. Deveney, who was an All-American crew and two-time national champion at St. Mary’s, takes the age-old Chinese wisdom of philosopher Lao Tzu and puts it through the lens of competitive sailing. What results is 81 short chapters that are applicable on the racecourse and in the “real world.”

In the introduction, which sets the stage for the book and explains her motivation, Deveney writes, “I enjoy randomly flipping through the pages of this book until one stops under my thumb. More often than not, I find the chapter I randomly selected is very applicable to a current situation I am dancing with at work or on the bay.”


And while the book can be a fast read at 100 pages, the slower I went and the more time I took to read each word, the more fully I could consider each thought. Here’s one that stood out to me (from page 58):

Celebrate small victories
And you will find contentment.
Curse your mistakes
And you will find much displeasure.

There is freedom in this choice.
Sailing is a process
Not a product.


Now, take a minute to soak it in. Do you need to remember this on the racecourse? Is this already part of your on-the-water attitude? How about off the water?

Each time you pick up this book, you’ll find something new to learn and explore.

Sail On ($14.20) is available on


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