When hang­ing out takes on a whole new mean­ing …

Lo­cal pair want to sail their frisky 49er into the 2020 Olympics

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE MIL­TON

When they’re in the boat — and of­ten while sail­ing it, they’re not ac­tu­ally in the boat — it some­times seems like a dif­fer­ent sport.

“It’s kind of like rid­ing a bull,” says Will Jones. “It feels very fast.”

Jones, the skip­per, and Evan DePaul, the crew, ride herd on an ex­tremely fast and nim­ble ves­sel called a 49er, and their longterm plan is to make the Cana­dian team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — and then win a gold medal at the 2024 Games, which will be in ei­ther Paris or Los An­ge­les.

That’s am­bi­tious stuff for a cou­ple of Royal Hamil­ton Yacht Club sailors who’ve been to­gether only a cou­ple of years and will be fac­ing many op­po­nents who’ve worked as a team for a decade or more.

But Jones and DePaul, who came up through the RHYC ju­nior de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, are com­mit­ted.

They work out heav­ily in the gym, get on the wa­ter ev­ery day and take their boat to Kingston for the spring and fall be­cause both at­tend post-se­condary in­sti­tu­tions there.

The 49er is named for its length (4.9 me­tres) and has been an Olympic class only since 2000.

But it at­tracts some of the best sailors in the world, many of whom have sailed in the pres­ti­gious Amer­ica’s Cup.

The two-handed skiff is phys­i­cally de­mand­ing and vis­ually ar­rest­ing.

It has wings that ex­tend the width of the hull, a very large sail area, and can go as much as 1.5 times the speed of the wind: up to 45 km/h.

It seems even faster to the skip and crew be­cause the boat is so low to the wa­ter, and be­cause much of the time both of them are trapez­ing — sus­pended far out from the wings, ath­let­i­cally ex­tended par­al­lel to the wa­ter — to max­i­mize speed.

“The unique thing is we clip into hooks with our har­nesses, and we lean way out on the wing and get a lot of lever­age,” Jones ex­plains. “That al­lows the sails to be a lot more pow­er­ful and make the boat a lot faster.”

Jones and DePaul began sail­ing to­gether two years ago, af­ter each en­joyed suc­cess in other com­pet­i­tive craft.

DePaul, sail­ing C420s, was on the On­tario Sail­ing team and in 2013 was the top youth male in the fa­mous Cana­dian Olympic Re­gatta of Kingston.

Jones has skipped, among oth­ers, C420s and Lasers and was the skip­per of Queen’s Univer­sity’s Cana­dian cham­pi­onship team and was the 2016 World Stu­dent Yacht­ing Cup Cham­pion.

The 21-year-old DePaul, from Nel­son High School in Burling­ton, has two more years in the fit­ness and health pro­mo­tion pro­gram at St. Lawrence Col­lege.

Jones , 22, at­tended Ancaster High School, is grad­u­at­ing in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and will take a post­grad de­gree, hope­fully also at Queen’s so the team can con­tinue steadily prac­tis­ing to­gether. Once their stud­ies are done, they’ll train full-time, hop­ing to make the Olympic team.

They say they’re both “hooked” on the 49er class, and their part­ner­ship.

When they rapidly move from the wing on one side of the boat to the wing on the other, it evokes the grace­ful sym­me­try of syn­chro­nized swim­mers.

“I think the di­vi­sion of jobs suits us,” Jones says. “As a crew, Evan has more of the phys­i­cal work: he has the job of hoist­ing the sails, con­trol­ling the power in the sails as I’m sort of steer­ing the boat around the course, con­trol­ling the di­rec­tion of the boat.”

DePaul, who isn’t tall but ex­tremely pow­er­ful, adds: “I’m sort of the work horse. I lis­ten to what he says. We’ve been prac­tis­ing long enough now we sort of un­der­stand what each of us wants to do. We don’t even have to com­mu­ni­cate. The Bri­tish team has been to­gether 12 years and they don’t talk at all.”

They’ll race in Toronto’s Ice Breaker re­gatta in 10 days, will help at the RHYC Lilac Fes­ti­val Re­gatta in late May and will com­pete in the world ju­nior cham­pi­onships at Kingston, June 22-25.

Jones and DePaul say Hamil­ton Har­bour has a lot to of­fer as a prac­tice site.

“There’s a real va­ri­ety of con­di­tions,” DePaul says. “With an east wind, there are very steady winds and choppy wa­ter, but when it comes out of the west, you’ll see shifty winds, a lot of changes and a lot of flat wa­ter. “It’s good for train­ing.” And they’re do­ing a lot of that.

Evan DePaul and Will Jones — sus­pended over the waves to make their 49er skiff go faster — are gun­ning for the Olympics.

Above: Evan DePaul, left, and Will Jones of the Royal Hamil­ton Yacht Club, take a break from sail­ing their speedy 49er on Hamil­ton Har­bour.

Left: Evan DePaul and Will Jones prac­tise on the har­bour. Their two-handed 49er skiff is a phys­i­cally de­mand­ing craft that’s fast and nim­ble.

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