There are eight different classes or types of boat used.
- The classes for men are: Finn; Star; 49er; Laser.
- The classes for women are: Laser Radial; Elliott 6m.
- The classes for both men and women are: 470; RS:X.
- All races are held in ‘fleet racing’ format. This means all boats in the class race each other over a set course.
- Each event consists of a series of between 5 and 11 races, depending on the class.
- In each race, points are awarded as follows: 1 point for the winner, 2 points for second, etc.
- Competitors can discard or lose their worst score.
- The final race in the series is called the medal race, and points are doubled: 2 points for the winner, 4 points for second, etc.
- The winner is the competitor who has least points.
- In the event of two competitors having the same number of points after the final, then the winner is the competitor who finishes in the higher placed position in the medal race.
I’d like to try sailing – just me and my boat and the sea and the wind – it seems simple.
In principle, yes, but if you competed in a race you’d have to understand the ‘Racing rules of sailing’, a 157-page document.
Goodness, that’s long!
Yes, long and complicated. Take rule 18.2 (e), for example: “If a boat obtained an inside overlap from clear astern and, from the time the overlap began, the ...”
Stop! I don’t understand a word. Can you explain?
I can, but first you have to know that there are many exceptions to rule 18.2 (e). Take Appendix C, article C2.6, for example …
Forget it! Why is it all so complicated?
Well, one reason is that boats are continually changing. Yacht design and technology is developing quickly so the rules need to cover all that.
Give me an example.
So, at the Olympics, the classes, or types, of boats used have changed many times.
But all the sailors use the same kind of boat, right?
Not always. For the latest Games there are 10 different sailing events and 8 different classes of boats.
OK, let’s move on. Can you tell me something about sailing history?
Well, according to the Greek historian Herodotus, some Phoenician sailors sailed all the way around Africa in about BC 500.
So Phoenicians are the best sailors? Do they win all the sailing medals at the Olympics?
Actually Phoenicia hasn’t existed for more than 2000 years!
So who does win all the medals?
Well, Great Britain has won 49 medals, including 24 gold. On an individual level, Denmark’s Paul Elvstrom won gold medals at four consecutive Olympic Games and last competed when he was 60.
Wow! I bet he could explain rule 18.2 (e)!
Yes, he probably wrote it!