As a slight breeze rustles through the sails of her laser sailboat, a sense of peace washes over 13-year-old Hallie Schiffman.
The Pine View School eighth-grader settles in and maneuvers her boat with ease through the waters of Sarasota Bay.
It’s a typical day of practice for the competitive sailor, who has become one of the most decorated sailors in the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program.
“I just like being out on the water,” Schiffman says. “I can relate to the boat, in a way, because I’m one with the boat. It’s just me.”
On May 15, Schiffman was recognized for her efforts and dedication to sailing when she was presented with the Florida Women’s Sailing Association’s Youth Woman Sailor of the Year Award. It was Schiffman’s third time being nominated for the award, which is typically awarded to high school and college students.
“We have the opportunity to recognize, support and grow our next Olympic competitor as (Hallie’s) skill grows exponentially,” says Linda Schwartz of the Luffing Lassies, which nominated Schiffman for the award. “She possesses a maturity, discipline and devotion to sailing that is rarely seen in someone her age.”
Schiffman learned she had won the award while participating in the 2014 KO Sailing USODA Team Trials in Stamford, Conn.
“I was happy because Paige Railey, who is an Olympic sailor and got gold medals, earned the award three years before me,” Schiffman says. “I was happy to have my name next to her. I’ve always liked her. She’s always done well, and I can kind of relate to her.”
A self-described “water baby,” Schiffman has been sailing since she was young. But it wasn’t until she was 10 years old that Schiffman began competing in the sport. Although, Schiffman admits that, at first, the sport wasn’t just for her.
“My parents sailed when they were younger, and they wanted to get me into it,” Schiffman says. “I didn’t like it at first because I was afraid of sharks. The thought of being on these little boats and tipping over scared me.”
Schiffman faced her fears and quickly realized tipping over was just an unfortunate part of the sport.
“I got over that really quickly,” Schiffman says. “I’m not nervous anymore. It’s so peaceful now that I like it.”
Schiffman quickly developed both a knack and passion for sailing that have allowed her to achieve unprecedented success at an early age.
In October 2012, she qualified for the BMW Team Race Cup in Berlin. Three months later, she was invited to compete in Argentina; and in March 2013, Schiffman was selected to compete in Italy.
In July 2013, Schiffman represented Team USA at the North American championships in Bermuda. This spring, Schiffman was chosen to compete in Spain; and last month she was chosen to represent Team USA at the British nationals.
Schiffman made the U.S. National teams in both 2013 and 2014. As one of the top 40 kids, Schiffman was invited to participate in Team Trials, which allows sailors to receive special training from Olympians.
Schiffman has made six international teams over the past three years, having represented the U.S. in Bermuda and Germany while passing on the other four due to financial constraints.
“Hallie is out on the water all of the time,” Schiffman’s mother, Andrea, says. “Time on the water helps kids really excel. You can only learn so much from the coaches. Being out on the water is when you really put it into practice.”
Schiffman practices almost daily at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. When she’s not sailing, Schiffman spends time serving as the first mate on her father, Mark’s, Jolly Mon charter sailing catamaran.
“It’s really fun,” Schiffman says. “I just enjoy being out on the boat.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Schiffman competed in her first laser boat regatta — the School’s Out Regatta, at Davis Island. Schiffman finished first in her new boat, which is an Olympic-class boat.
“I like the venue,” Schiffman says. “It’s fun and kind of challenging.”
Schiffman will now spend the summer transitioning to her new laser boat, which is a larger single boat, and practicing on 420 boats, which are two-person boats, in preparation for her next competitive season with the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program this fall.
She also plans to spend her Friday nights helping crew keel boats with some of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s older members.
In addition to sailing in college, Schiffman has aspirations of competing in the 2020 and 2024 Summer Olympics, as well as sailing around the world. Schiffman wants to skipper an all-women’s crew in the Volvo Ocean Race and compete in the Vendee Globe, a solo race around the world.
“She’s never afraid,” Andrea Schiffman says. “She knows how to handle boats so well that we never get worried.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
2010 — Schiffman began sailing competitively at the age of 10.
October 2012 — Schiffman qualified for the BMW Team Race Cup in Berlin.
January 2013 — Schiffman was chosen to represent Team USA at the Argentinian nationals.
March 2013 — Schiffman was chosen to represent Team USA at the Italian Nationals.
May 2013 — Schiffman participated in the 2013 KO Sailing USODA Team Trials in Wisconsin.
July 2013 — Schiffman represented Team USA at the North American championships in Bermuda.
May 2014 — Schiffman participated in the 2014 KO Sailing USODA Team Trials in Stamford, Conn., where she was chosen to represent the U.S. at the British nationals.
May 15, 2014 — Schiffman was awarded the 2014 Young Woman Sailor of the Year Award.
May 24 and May 25, 2014 — Schiffman won the School’s Out Regatta, at Davis Island, in her first laser boat regatta.