Harken Derm

Producing future leaders through sailing

Published on April 15th, 2019

In 1945, at age 17, Malin Burnham became the youngest ever to win the Star World Championship. It was his springboard toward great accomplishments in sailing and business, which led to his induction in the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Malin remains committed to the sport as a means to develop future leaders, and shares his sentiment on that topic:


From time-to-time we read articles questioning the benefit of young people participating in amateur sport competitions. The argument seems to focus upon junior sports versus middle and senior successful lives. Perhaps my personal story might shed some new ideas upon this subject.

Several years ago I was asked to give the lead gift for the San Diego Yacht Club’s proposed new Junior Sailing Center. My initial reaction was, “Why me,” as there were many other members as worthy donors. So, I requested two weeks to deeply consider my participation. In hind-sight, it was amazing what I discovered.

At age 10, I entered the SDYC’s Junior Sailing program in which at age 16, you were automatically graduated into open, more advanced sailing. So what did I really learn during those five junior years?

For the next 10 days, I focused upon the values and virtues I was taught versus the mechanics of sailing a small boat. At the end of my two weeks of discovery, I had my second meeting with the Club’s Commodore.

He asked for my answer to his previous request, and I told him that I would honor his ask only upon one condition: that my list of Values and Virtues be taught to all future junior sailors on an ongoing basis.

I demanded that these Values and Virtues words be permanently attached to the new building, and I’m proud to report that these words highlight this wonderful facility which is helping to produce our future leaders. Here they are:

Plan Ahead: Set personal goals. Adjust them with time and circumstance.

Commitment: Take responsibility for your words and deeds. Fulfill your promises.

Hard Work: Put in the time and energy to fulfill your commitments. Be prepared – not only schedule the necessary time, but be prepared and work smart to use that time efficiently.

Dedication: Never give up. Success often comes when you think it is no longer possible.

Teamwork: Everyone has something to contribute, so treat everyone fairly, and share credit for every success.

Play by the Rules: Be honest, ethical, and fair. If your project is worthy of success, it is also worthy of being done right. Cutting corners will always come back to punish you.

Follow-through: Never trust luck to achieve your goals. Take positive action towards success – and be unrelenting until that success is achieved. Never coast to the finish line – you may never get there.



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