Lesson Learned

College sailor Abby Freeman shares her perspective on the value of growing up as a sailor and lessons she's learned along the way.

Sailing World

The Sailing Rules of Life

Abby Freeman

One of the greatest gifts my father ever gave his children was a passion for sailing, and, like many other families within the sport, it permeates our lives more than we realize. My father was never shy about using lessons learned on the racecourse when teaching us lessons in life. As a gift for him, my older sister, LeeAnn, recently compiled these lessons in a small spiral-bound book titled The Sailing Rules of Life. With the recent and heated debates circulating the sailing world about youth sailing, I felt sharing what sailing has done for me would bring some grassroots perspective back into the conversation. Simply put, it becomes impossible to ignore the inherent value in growing up as a sailor when you can take time to account for the valuable things sailing teaches us. To kick off the series, it is important to discuss the foundation through which each rule grows from.

The Corinthian Spirit is the code through which we judge our actions and gauge our decisions on the racecourse and in our personal lives. Sailing is a self-governed sport where each competitor must possess a high moral standard and personal code of ethics in order to have a fair race. The Corinthian spirit is a law greater than ourselves that maintains the underlying foundation for sailboat racing as well as the way in which competitors choose to live their lives.

Self-governing becomes the key word for me when I think about how this lesson transformed from a foundation of the sport of sailing into a foundation for my own personal life. I will never forget the first time I realized a fellow Opti-competitor cheated during some insignificant camp-run regatta. At 10 years old, I had never felt so disheartened. The realization that there is not always a referee to enforce fairness and how quickly the sport changes when rules are thrown out the window demonstrates the importance and the need for rules to maintain and progress the sport. In short, sailing and the Corinthian spirit teach a respect for rules, the law, sportsmanship, and a greater code of conduct.

Much as a sailboat racer continually strives to become a better sailor, I also strive to become a better person. Utilizing the guidelines of the Corinthian spirit, choosing to live out of respect for rules greater than oneself is the basis of self-improvement and the road to self-empowerment. As my father always told us, he would much rather see his children win the sportsmanship award than win the whole event, but it’s really cool when you win both. The drive to play hard and play fair extends to all aspects of life, so embodying the Corinthian spirit is an exhaustive life lesson and exercise.