When hanging out takes on a whole new meaning …
Local pair want to sail their frisky 49er into the 2020 Olympics
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.