Out of the mouths of babes

Published on February 1st, 2023

The 14-foot 29er is a single-trapeze two-person skiff. It likes smaller people, and has become the gateway drug for youth sailors looking for high performance. Derived from the Olympic 49er, it is a well-established international class which provides a level playing field for boys and girls.

Irish sibling teammates Clementine (16) and Nathan (19) Van Steenberge were Silver Medalists in the 2022 EuroCup series, and in this interview, Clementine reveals his sailing age far exceeds his time on the planet:

What do you love about the 29er?
We love the speed and technicality of the 29er. There are many aspects and different ways to sail the boat so everyone has their own style which makes it very interesting. We love racing because it’s a way for us to test ourselves against the rest of the fleet. What we enjoy the most is the challenge; there are many variables to take into account and often the weather can be unpredictable. You have to balance everything in order to do well, which is definitely easier said than done.

What are your strengths as a team?
Our main strength is our communication. We’re always talking to each other – when sailing 😉 – and letting each other know if we need help or what’s going on around us. Being siblings is a huge advantage as we know each other very well and are able to motivate each other.

And yes, we also know how to push each other’s buttons… we are siblings after all. 😉 Another advantage of being siblings is how it makes training and traveling easier to organize.

As crew, Nathan focuses on the boat speed and setting while I focus on tactics and strategy. This system works best for us because it plays to our own individual strengths. However, we’re both good at tactics so we’ll often ask each other what we think before making a tactical decision.

Why do you think you’ve been so successful in the 29er?
We’re not afraid to do our own thing. We sail our own race and focus on what is in our control. We trust each other and ourselves which is the foundation of our partnership.

Who/what has inspired you and your successes?
We had a lot of great coaches growing up that introduced us to sailing and racing. They loved the sport themselves which definitely played a huge role in inspiring us. Nathan’s favorite athlete is (Belgian cyclist) Remco Evenepoel; he won’t miss an opportunity to remind you!

Do you have any top tips for people the 29er?
The key is to build trust. You need to trust that each partner does their role the best and will make the right calls. This allows you to focus on doing your best. It goes without saying that everyone makes mistakes but having trust in each other reduces the pressure and brings in the fun.

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