South Shore Breaker

Following the seas

Chester Olympian sailor making waves in his sport


Jacob Chaplin Saunders has spent most of his life on the water propelled by sails filled with the wind. “I love sailing. It’s such a great way to shut off from the world. When I am sailing on the water and I am racing I don’t have any other care in the world. I don’t think about anything else. The phone is left on the dock,” Chaplin Saunders said during a recent interview.

Being on the water also brings back memories of travelling and sailing in many parts of the world, including the U.S., Europe, Scandinavi­a, South America and East Asia and competing in two Olympic Games.

“All the travelling I have done, I feel so fortunate to be from this beautiful province. The ocean is a wonderful place and we have great access to it here," Chaplin Saunders said.

Chaplin Saunders set sail on a course for internatio­nal regattas and Olympic competitio­n from Mahone Bay in 2002 when the 10-year-old and his brother Graeme entered the Junior Sailing Program at the Chester Yacht Club.

“I got hooked right away,” Chaplin Saunders said.

Soon after, the brothers became interested in racing in local regattas in the singlehand­ed Optimist Dingy, a boat used by most beginners 15 and younger. They soon found themselves competing in the single-handed boats across North America.

Chaplin Saunders won the national championsh­ips and qualified for the world championsh­ips in 2007 when he was15. He travelled to Italy for his first major internatio­nal regatta at 15.

Chaplin Saunders said this trip to the Worlds was the turning point where the community of Chester recognized he was serious about sailing and competing internatio­nally with their support.

He then teamed up with Joss Warren of Chester to compete in a two-person boat called the 420. They qualified for the Youth World Championsh­ips in 2009 in Brazil when Chaplin Saunders was 17.

“We were the only boat to represent Canada. That really kickstarte­d my interest in the Olympics,” Chaplin Saunders said.

In 2010, Chaplin Saunders partnered with his brother Graeme for the first time. The brothers trained together for six years, qualifying for the 2016 Canadian Olympic Team and placing 22nd in the sailing competitio­n at the Rio Summer Olympics.

“We got to walk in the opening and closing ceremonies,” Chaplin Saunders said.

“You wear the Maple Leaf and you are feeling really proud … to represent the country,” he said.

“I came home slightly hungry for more because I felt like I could have done better,” he said of having achieved his Olympic dream.

“It’s a rocky road but it’s amazing.”

After returning to Nova Scotia, Chaplin Saunders started his third year of industrial engineerin­g at Dalhousie University and eventually started a career at Mosher Engineerin­g after graduating in 2019.

He also reconnecte­d with sailing coach Oliver Bone, of Halifax, who had coached him during his pre-olympic sailing career and leading up to and during the qualifying events for the Rio games. The pair decided to train together in the larger 470 boat for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictio­ns, training and qualifying

events were delayed. The Olympics and Paralympic­s were postponed for a year. Eventually, the games proceeded under strict rules and restrictio­ns. Chaplin Saunders and Bone found themselves isolated in a venue outside of Tokyo.

“We just saw Japan through the bus window,” Chaplin Saunders said.

The pair placed 17th in the Olympic competitio­n.

“As a teammate he was very open, very supportive and very communicat­ive. Just a great guy to have on my side,” Bone said. “As a competitor I would say he is ruthless. He always looking to do better … In the heat of the moment, he just doesn’t quit.”

Chaplin Saunders said he appreciate­d his employer and coworkers making it possible to take time away to complete.

Chaplin Saunders has set a new course. He is focused on mentoring and coaching young sailors whenever he can. He has shared his Olympic story in schools and served on the board of Sail Nova Scotia.

Chaplin Saunders is also getting involved as a coach with the Broader Reach Program from Armdale Yacht Club to make it possible for new Canadians and others who wouldn’t have the opportunit­y to sail to get on boats. He has also donated sailing gear to young sailors to help ease the cost to their parents.

“It’s a real honour to have some of Jacob’s talent and character representi­ng Chester YC,” said Christine Santimaw, director of Sail Training at the Chester Yacht Club.

“It gives them something to aspire too and, obviously, there’s a big dose of ‘starstruck­ness’ whenever Jacob and Graeme are around.”

Santimaw said Chaplin Saunders’ sailing career progressed along the same path that other Chester sailors are currently on - training in the same boats, in the same bay, at the same club. She said it makes Olympic dreams less intimidati­ng.

She also noted Chaplin Saunders and Graeme named their boat used in the Rio Olympics ‘Chester.’

“It also says a lot about his character that he routinely and consistent­ly comes back - and gives back - to Chester YC,” Santimaw said.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? Jacob Chaplin Saunders, left, and Oliver Bone on the launch ramp at the Tokyo Olympics in Enoshima, Japan, in 2021.
CONTRIBUTE­D Jacob Chaplin Saunders, left, and Oliver Bone on the launch ramp at the Tokyo Olympics in Enoshima, Japan, in 2021.
 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? Jacob Chaplin Saunders at the Olympic Village in Enoshima, just before the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
CONTRIBUTE­D Jacob Chaplin Saunders at the Olympic Village in Enoshima, just before the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

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