Fifteen-year-old Louisa Nordstrom and 12-year-old Hallie Schiffman demonstrated the kind of maturity it takes to be at their caliber of sailing in only a few short years. Eric Bardes coaches the girls for the elite traveling racing team, team FOR, or Florida Oceanic Racing. Louisa and Hallie both qualified and competed abroad for Team USA and for the National team.
Although both girls are naturals at their sport, their success didn’t come easily. Hallie learned how to sail in 2011, during the Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s summer camp. Hallie says sailing takes a lot of hard work, but when she is out on the water she feels independent and free.
“You are the one controlling the boat, and you are the one making the next moves,” Hallie says. “It gives you a nice feeling with the wind and waves.”
Louisa was first introduced to sailing as an infant in her home country of Sweden. When Louisa was 2 months old, her family lived on a sailboat and sailed all around Sweden. Her family continues to sail every summer in Sweden.
“A sailboat is home away from home,” Louisa says. She took lessons at Venice Youth Boating Association four years ago during a summer session but says the competition was not challenging enough for her.
“I was about to quit because it wasn’t fun anymore,” Louisa says. “When I joined Eric’s team, I was bumped up to the next level.”
Louisa has sailed in regattas all over the world. She placed fifth last summer in the European championship, in Italy, and was home-schooled for part of the year so she could train and compete in Brazil for the South American Championship.
“It’s a lot of physical work, but it is also a lot of mental thinking,” Louisa says. “You are predicting the weather and the wind.”
Both girls sail an 8-foot Optimist and say it’s basically a bathtub not made to go fast but good for learning. This year Louisa will age out of sailing Optimists and has also aged out of sailing on the national team. She is not sure what boat she’ll sail next but knows she wants to continue to sail and ultimately sail in college.
“Sailing is a lifelong sport,” Louisa says.
In October, Hallie raced in Berlin for the BMW Team Race Cup and recently returned from the Scotia bank Regatta in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she represented Team USA. She dreams of one day competing in the Olympics and of racing around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race.
“I would like to surf and navigate the world alone,” Hallie says.
The girls say they could not have done any of it without their parent’s support.
“There are many kids who may have great sailing ability but cannot do as much because of their parents,” Hallie says.
Through their travels, the girls have made friends abroad.
“A lot of kids don’t think of the world, they only think of their world,” Louisa says. “It broadens your view.”
Both Hallie and Louisa leave Sunday, June 30, for Bermuda to represent Team USA in the North American championships.
Contact Yaryna Klimchak at [email protected].