Fifteen-year-old Abby Hackman, a sailing enthusiast from Harbor Springs, got her start in sailing through Camp Daggett and through community junior sailing programs (see a list of these programs below). Today, she is the youngest sailor on the crew of renowned sailboat-racer Dave Irish. With sailing season well underway on the bays and waters of Lake Michigan, MyNorth pulled up dockside with Hackman to hear first hand why junior race sailing teams are so much fun—and why kids of all ages should take up one of her favorite sports.
MyNorth: When did you start racing sailboats? What made you interested?
Abby: The first time I sailed was when I was 8 years old at Camp Daggett. From there, I began taking sailing school with the Little Traverse Sailors. I got really interested at age 11 when I began doing sail school the whole summer. That same summer, I joined the race team. The following summer, I got invited onto Dave Irish’s (a world renowned sailor who lives in Harbor Springs) boat.
MyNorth: Tell me a little about the junior race team—what a typical practice is like, what races are like, that kind of stuff.
Abby: We begin practice with a “chalk talk” (learning new tactics, starts, etc.) on land. From there, we rig the 420’s and head out. John Ramer (Little Traverse Yacht Club’s junior sailing coach) will set up marks or buoys and we will do drills (roll tacking, sailing backward, rudderless sailing, ect.) After that, we usually head into some racing starts and racing (consisting of mainly up and downwind legs) with John coaching us the whole way. Everybody heads in to unrig. After we are unrigged, we get out our notebooks and take notes about what we learned that day.
MyNorth: What’s the best part of sailing?
Abby: The intensity, feeling of flying across the water, and there is ALWAYS something new to learn.
MyNorth: There aren’t a ton of girls in the sport—what would you tell other girls who are thinking of getting involved?
Abby: There is no reason at all why girls and boys alike can’t be involved in the great sport of sailing! Girls are generally more agile and nimble than boys, which is a key component of sailboat racing. Also, girls tend to weigh less, and generally the lighter the boat the faster you go. So to me it seems girls are more qualified to sailboat race.
MyNorth: You are a pretty competitive person—how does sailing compare to other sports like skiing or soccer?
Abby: Of course sailing, skiing, and soccer are all intense and competitive sports, but in big boat sailboat racing there is a much wider range of ages to sail with. Dave (Irish) is 70-something and I’m 15, so sailing on the same team is pretty neat.
MyNorth: What is your favorite boat to race? Why?
Abby: The 420 is one of my favorite boats to sail because there is never a dull moment, whether you are jumping from the trap on the starboard side to the port side when it is blowing 20 knots or you are balancing the boat perfectly in 2 knots of breeze. The Farr 30 is one of my other favorites. I love being on a team or working as a team with the other members on the boat. We all learn something new from each other, especially the younger members of the boat. On either boat, you never know what is going to happen. It forces you think on your toes and it adds to the intensity and fun.
MyNorth: For kids who have never been involved in sailing is it worth it to check out local sailing schools?
Abby: Yes! There is no reason not to learn how to sail. Whether you just like cruising around on no wind days or crushing through the waves in treacherous conditions, sailing is fun for everyone.
MyNorth: Any advice for future wave-crushing sailors?
Abby: Be safe, don’t break anything, have fun, and learn … in that order.
For more information on the Little Traverse Yacht Club’s Junior Race Team, visit littletraversesailors.org
Want to get your child into sailing? Here are some community sailing schools where kids become sailors:
Lake Charlevoix Mariners, Lake Charlevoix, lakecharlevoixmariners.com
Leland Yacht Club, Leland, lelandyachtclub.com
Little Traverse Sailors, Harbor Springs, littletraversesailors.org
Northport Youth Sailing School, Northport, northportsailing.org
Traverse Area Community Sailing, Traverse City, tacsailing.com
Walloon Sailors, Lake Walloon, walloonsailors.com