It was the middle of a bright and sunny day, hundreds of miles off the California coast, and David Dahl was off watch for a few hours. He sat far aft aboard the 2003 Andrews 77 Compadres, watching the show of the crew moving like a seasoned dance troupe on a teak stage. There were still many more blissful miles of Pacific Ocean left to cross in the 2021 Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
This was the kind of moment that makes sailing so special, the kind of moment that few people on the planet ever get to experience.
As with most of his teammates on the 14-member crew—which included his 23- and 28-year-old sons, and six of his closest friends—Dahl was sailing the Transpac for the first time. They had spent 18 months preparing for the race, sailing in various offshore races from California to Mexico, such as the Newport to Cabo San Lucas Yacht Race and the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race.
Those races were about moving a boat across a long distance, but they were not about sailing an extended distance away from shore. Now, finding himself so far from land and civilization, Dahl looked around and found the moment to be utterly breathtaking, unlike anything he had ever felt in his many prior years of sailing.
“The International Space Station (ISS) is 250 miles off Earth,” he thought as he looked out from the stern and saw water and blue sky in every direction. “When you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you recognize that 250 miles is not a great distance. You recognize the solitude of being out there with your teammates. The only mass around you is the boat that you’re on. The only equipment and food is what’s on board. You realize that the most important thing is your mental and physical capabilities.”
For Dahl, who is the CEO of Whittier Trust—a company whose history includes involvement with the Transpac race dating back to the 1920s—the moment allowed him to reflect on one of life’s absolute truths: In any major undertaking, a lot of what ultimately happens comes down to preparation, people and equipment.
Whittier Trust specializes in wealth management, which means anticipating and reacting to all kinds of market shifts, not to mention ever-shifting news of the day. As with sailing, people making investments need to understand every possible element of the endeavor. They need to be trained for all contingencies, often with knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation. They need to show commitment to the effort, along with creative thinking, passion and teamwork. And they need the tools and equipment to make the best possible decisions, even in the worst possible moments, because every situation is bound to be different from the next.
The Compadres crew would be forced to prove their mettle in the Transpac—which they managed to finish with smiles, even though, about 1,800 miles into the race, a bolt in the boom vang broke, and the mainsail tore. That was a harrowing situation, to be sure, but as with the quieter and more-reflective moments on board, it only added to the extraordinary experience that such an adventurous undertaking on the water can encompass in a person’s mind and soul.
In fact, participation in the Transpac was a continuation of Whittier Trust’s legacy. The company was the Heritage Sponsor for the 51st biennial Transpac Race, which the Whittier family sailed in 1923, when racing resumed after World War I. The boat, the 107-foot Poinsettia, had its sails blown apart in a two-day storm, forcing the crew to turn back.
Dahl and his crew—temporarily rigged boom vang and all—went the full 2,225-mile distance. And for Dahl, both the equipment emergency and the eerie feeling of being closer to the ISS than to land were reminders that in other sports, people can walk off the court if they get hurt. Most people can call a plumber or an electrician if something breaks. Sailing is a lot more like the business of making investments. It’s a test of any person’s fortitude at an entirely other level.
Sitting aft aboard Compadres, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Dahl thought not just about the race, but also about his company. He meditated on the importance of looking forward, of making the right decisions, of having the right teammates, and of having an unbelievably strong, optimistic entrepreneurial spirit.
“You realize, ‘I’m solely responsible for myself and my crewmates,’” he says. “Clear blue skies and deep blue ocean, it’s unbelievably beautiful. You realize why God created this Earth, and all the beauty and unlimited opportunities to be responsible for nature and your actions and the people around you.”
To find out more about Whittier Trust and the wealth management services they offer, visit whittiertrust.com.