Ten-year-olds Cameron Hay and Nathan Lemke aim to be lifetime seamen

IMG 1364

When the Calgary Journal approached Kristi Van Gunst, head coach at the local Glenmore Sailing Club, about recommending young sailors that could be featured on the Journal’s athlete of the month page she recommended two athletes: Cameron Hay and Nathan Lemke.

Traditionally this page is meant to feature one athlete, but Van Gunst suggested both boys be featured because they’re inseparable.

Hay and Lemke got into sailing because their fathers were also mariners. The boys have been friends for most of their lives and they joined the Glenmore Sailing Club at about the same time. Both Cameron and Nathan sail in an Optimist boat, which is the most popular sailing dinghy for young children across the globe. And both boys were, ironically, born on the same day in the same year: Sept. 29, 2003.Boysonboat copyIt has been a great thrill for the staff of the Glenmore Sailing Club to watch 10-year-olds Cameron Hay (front), and Nathan Lemke (back), develop into strong sailboat racers. Both boys are aiming to be sailors for life.

Photo courtesy of Kristi Van Gunst.

Of course Hay and Lemke also share a love for the sport of sailing.

“I really like the feeling of being on the water,” Lemke said. “(When I sail) it feels like I’m driving a vehicle and that’s cool.”

Ever since Hay got into sailing over five years ago it’s always “been fun to steer the boat around.”

A strong passion for a sport is vital to any type of future success, including sailing. It has been thrilling for Van Gunst to see where their love of sailing has taken them so far.

“Over the years they have come from being really small and working on things like balancing the boat to becoming full-formed racers and that’s been great,” says Van Gunst.

Love of the sport must be matched with a strong technical profiency in order to be a good sailor. Both boys agree that some people underestimate how tough sailing is as a sport.

“Sometimes just steering a boat properly can be really hard,” says Lemke. “Sometimes when it gets really windy and the boat can get out of control you have to just go with the swells. Some people don’t know that you have to have an idea on how the wind works. You can’t go straight into the wind, you have to go at a 45-degree angle to the wind”


“It’s tough because you have to remember to do so many things at once,” says Hay. “You kind of know what you have to do put these steps into action, and it’s kind of hard to do that all at the same time.”

While navigating the boat on the water and getting a solid reading on wind conditions is certainly arduous, it is quite a complex multi-step procedure to just get the sail boat out on the water at all.

“The Opti (Optimists) boats that the boys sail are one of the most complex boats in the world,” Van Gunst said. “Lots of fine-tuning is required. Each and every little sail-tie on the boat has to be adjusted based on condition. You have to adjust you pole, a thing called a boom vang (a piston system to exert a downward force on the boat’s boom) and your outhaul, so there are so many things you have to be thinking about so that is a lot of responsibility for kids.

“And then when the boat is finally rigged it is then time to change,” Van Gunst continued. “You have to wear a lot of gear to make sure you are protected out on the water even when it’s really hot out. You need to wear gloves and boots. And then it’s finally time to launch. You have to make sure you don’t damage the boat when you put it in the water and then put your centerboard and rudder in and then you can sail to the course.”

Van Gunst says both Hay and Lemke have the combination of passion and mental strength that will add up to a successful future in sailing. Van Gunst started out as a young sailor, but she matured to the point where she earned the right to compete at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. Van Gunst says both boys can potentially challenge for a spot on the Canadian Olympic sailing team when they’re older if they keep it up.LemkeNathan Lemke, 10, has been sailing for close to seven years after his father, Christopher Lemke, exposed him to the sport. Here is a close-up shot of Lemke at the Prairie Wind Regatta at Lake Newell on July 12, which is 15 minutes outside of Brooks, Alta.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Dixon.

Both boys have posted numerous top three finishes in Opti boat sailing races held throughout Western Canada., which also serves as evidence that they have a bright future in sailing. They have competed in major sailing events such as B.C.’s Pumpkin Bowl Regatta and the 2013 Sail West Championships, which were held on Lake Newell, a lake close to Brooks, Alta.

The boys will continue to sail in these types of boats until they are either 14 or 15 years of age before moving onto a Laser radial boat, a popular watercraft among adult mariners.

Both boys certainly want to sail for a long time, and both want to try offshore powerboat racing down the road.

“I like offshore racing because you are more by yourself instead of on a crowded course,” says Lemke.

“It really looks cool so I definitely want to do some down the road,” added Hay.

It is ultimately difficult to say what these two 10-year-olds will ultimately accomplish in sailing. But both can take pride that this sport helped each of them gain a pretty strong friendship, and at the end of the day isn’t that what truly matters?


Report an Error or Typo

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *