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Carried along on the wind

Abby Hartmann, 13, shows her sailing skills near the Port Madison Yacht Club in Madison Bay. Hartmann will compete in the Flanders Regatta starting July 1 in Nieuwpoort, Belgium. - Julie Busch photo
Abby Hartmann, 13, shows her sailing skills near the Port Madison Yacht Club in Madison Bay. Hartmann will compete in the Flanders Regatta starting July 1 in Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

Sailor Abby Hartmann charts a course for Belgium today.

Abby Hartmann maneuvers her boat through the waters of Madison Bay as if her and the boat are one.

While taking a break from helping teach a class during the yacht’s sailing school, she steers her optimist dinghy as easy as someone riding a bike while a steady wind blows through the bay.

Just when it appears she may tip over, Hartmann easily moves under the boom to right the boat before she takes on any water.

After spending last summer playing Little League softball on the island, she’ll get to travel to Europe thanks to her proficiency in sailing.

Hartmann, 13, is heading to Nieuwpoort, Belgium today as a member of the U.S. National team and will sail in the single-handed optimist, or “optis,” class of the 18th annual Flanders Youth Regatta in the North Sea during Nieuwpoortweek 2006, July 1-5.

Sailors from many European countries and from other nations like the United Arab Emirates will participate in the event.

She punched her ticket to Europe at the United States Optimist Dinghy Association Team Trials in Long Island, N.Y. this May where she placed 60th out of 200 boats and finished ninth overall in the girls standings.

Hartmann qualified for the trials based on her performance at the USODA West Coast Championships at the Encinal Yacht Club in Alameda, Calif. where she was the top female in her classification and finished third overall.

“My goal was to finish in the top half, so that would have been the top 100,” she said.

But she didn’t know where she finished until one of her teammates did the honors.

“When they put the final results up, one of the girls that I went with from Seattle had known how many boats were from each team, so she counted down (the results) and told me,” she said.

Hartmann, who attends Woodward, said she’s never been to Europe before – just to Canada several times to train with her coach, Augustine “Augy” Resano and race.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said, noting that they’ll get a few days to travel to places like Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

She got into sailing five years ago by taking classes at the yacht club, quickly picking up the sport and all its intricacies.

That talent was passed down thanks to her older sister Emma, who is on the high school sailing team and will sail at the U.S. Junior Women’s National Championship in Houston in July, and her parents, who are both sailors.

Her father, Glenn, lived in Spain for a year back in high school, but it will be his and the family’s first trip to Belgium.

“I’ve never been to the lower countries and neither Abby’s mom nor I have been to Belgium or the Netherlands, so we’re excited about the whole opportunity,” he said.

Hartmann said she plans to stick with sailing optis, a boat that is used by 150,000 sailors from 110 countries around the world, until she’s 15, then move on to double-handed boats.

She also wants to be a member of the high school sailing team.

Hartmann said she won’t worry too much about her performance – she’s happy to travel to another country.

“It will be hard because the kids from the US are really good, and I’ve never sailed with kids from other countries except for Canada,” she said. “I never thought I would do that well at team trials. Even when we were there, I didn’t think I did well enough to be on the team.

“But it’s a nice surprise,” she said.

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