The 2012 Olympics are officially here! In celebration of the games, we thought we would share the history of one of the only sports that includes equal parts of mental dedication as well as physical exertion, Sailing!
1900 – Then referred to as ‘yachting’ sailing was first featured in the Olympic games. The contests were held in Paris, France. The original regattas often carried up to 12 people per boat.
1904 – The only year in which sailing has not been held in the Olympics since 1900.
1924 – As vessel designs became more standardized, smaller boats became common practice at the Olympics.
2000 – The official term for the sport was changed to Sailing at the Olympic games in Sydney.
2012 – Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour on the south coast of England will host the 10 Sailing events. A new feature of this year’s games includes a match racing event for women: a head-to-head contest of strategy and tactics between teams on two identical boats.
2016 – In the future, other water sports will be held at the Olympics, including kite-surfing.
Sailing races at the Olympics fall into two categories: Fleet races and match racing.
In fleet racing, each event has a series of races. Points are awarded in each race: first scores one point, second scores two points, etc. After 10 races (15 races in the Skiff event), points from the worst race are discarded. The remaining points are added together.
The 10 best athletes/crews then advance to the medal race. Points are doubled, so first place gets two points, second gets four, etc. The points total after the medal race determines the placings. The athlete/crew with the lowest number of points is the winner.
In match racing, the women’s Elliot 6m event starts with a round-robin stage, where 12 crews race against each other, with the winner of each race getting one point and a half-point awarded to each crew in the event of a dead heat.
The best eight crews progress to the knockout stage, where crews race each other in a series of races. Each series is won by the first crew to reach three points.
The main difference to fleet racing is that only two boats ever race against each other, so a different set of tactics are required by the crew and helm. Pure boat speed can win you a fleet race but quick thinking and tactical judgment are required to master a match race.