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Compelled to Act

How far that little candle throws his beam! – William Shakespeare, from The Merchant of Venice

Maybe it’s the heat of midsummer, or maybe I’m just getting old, but lately I seem to notice more and more headlines about young people and their lack of respect for others, and frequently news of kids committing crimes. Certainly, many of the (mainstream) celebrities that teenagers tend to idolize these days don’t provide the best moral guidance. I guess I’ve really just seen a general decline in ‘feel-good’ news. But, just when you think there is little hope for the youth of today, we hear of young people doing something special for others. What I love to see is how often a small deed or even a fun venture can project change, value and hope far beyond expectations.

I think we see these great stories quite often in the sailing world – and it’s nice in this day of sensationalist media to hear about young people doing selfless things to improve the lives of others and moreover that this news trumps the negative ‘blah, blah, blah’ that’s become so prevalent everywhere else. Sailing’s idols do possess a strong moral compass and provide sincere inspiration for youngsters to act – and those actions throw quite a beam.

Take for instance the story of Tyler Fleig of Portsmouth, RI who, through his work at Sail to Prevail in Newport, has found a way for quadriplegic people to enjoy sailing – and competition – aboard the singlehanded 2.4mR. According to Sail to Prevail CEO Paul Callahan, Tyler’s innovation is a “breakthrough” that will allow thousands around the world to benefit. A recent high school graduate, Tyler combined two things he’s good at – robotics and sailing – and presto, a fun and worthwhile project that will change lives. Tyler is attending the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD this fall, and hopes to carry on the work that he started.

Two other go-getters that could easily use their talents and drive to benefit themselves or their wallets are Kilian and Sean Duclay, brothers from New York who instead co-founded a not-for-profit organization called Sail Ahead. They have changed sailing from a hobby to a mission: Helping our veterans. Kilian and Sean ["Sail Ahead: Healing Wounded Veterans Through Sailing", WindCheck, August 2015] share a passion for sailing as well as a desire to do their part to help veterans cope with the effects of PTSD through the “positive stress” that sailing provides. Theirs is a deed that reaches far beyond simply taking vets sailing. Sail Ahead is changing the quality of vets’ lives – and those around them, too.

So, why do these kids take time out of their busy lives to do things like this? They obviously see a need and feel compelled to act, and who knows; maybe they see the other side of the coin and want to balance the bad with some good. I think doing stuff for others simply feels good and can be fun at the same time. To complete the above quote from Shakespeare, “So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

These are but two of many examples of the great things that young sailors are doing to help their fellow man. Countless other kids are doing their part to preserve the environment or teach others less fortunate the value of sailing, and let’s not forget, all the while keeping themselves out of trouble! Sailing sure helped me in this regard.

Clearly, the discipline that sailing demands of its participants and the self-reliance and camaraderie that it fosters carry on through everyday life. Youth sailors, keep up the good work, and thanks for making headlines that we can all be proud of!

See you on the water.

Chris Gill


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