Australia and Olympic Sailing
Australia has an illustrious history in Olympic sailing. The first Australian Olympic sailors were Alexander “Jock” Sturrock, Len Fenton and Robert French in London 1948. Australia first medalled in sailing two Olympiads later in Melbourne in 1956. Sturrock combined with Dev Mytton and Doug Buxton to win a bronze medal (5.5-Metre class) while Rolly Tasker and John Scott claimed silver after a count-back (Sharpies class). Sturrock competed in a fourth Olympics at Rome 1960 where he was the Australian flagbearer.
The oldest Australian Olympic gold medallist was Bill Northam who, aged almost 60, skippered his crew of Peter O’Donnell and James Sargeant to victory in the 5.5-Metre class at Tokyo 1964. In Munich 1972, John Cuneo with Tom Anderson and John Shaw won the Dragon class, and David Forbes with John Anderson were victorious in the Star class. Shaw and Cuneo later sailed on Southern Cross in the 1974 America's Cup Challenge.
At Montreal 1976, John Bertrand (Finn class) and Ian Ruff with Ian Brown (470) won bronze medals. Bertrand was to gain even greater fame as a yachtsman when he skippered the wing-keeled Australia II in its successful challenge for the America’s Cup in 1983. Australia won more bronze at Los Angeles 1984 through Chris Cairns and Scott Anderson (Tornado class) and another two bronze medals at Barcelona 1992 with Mitch Booth and John Forbes (Tornado class) and on the sailboard (Mistral) with Lars Kleppich. Booth then won silver at Atlanta 1996 with Andrew Landenberger (Tornado class), while Colin Beashel and David Giles (Star class) won a bronze medal.
The first Olympic sailing (or yachting, as it was known up to and including 1996) events were conducted in Paris 1900. After a break from Olympic competition in 1904 due to problems transporting boats and equipment from Europe to inland USA, sailing commenced its unbroken run as an Olympic sport at London 1908. Since then, the classes of competing boats and scoring systems have seen many changes. Women have always been permitted to sail in the Olympic regatta but events exclusively for women sailors were introduced in Barcelona 1992.
There will be some changes to sailing classes in 2012 resulting in six men’s and four women’s classes. The Finn Heavyweight Dinghy and Two Person Dinghy 49er classes will become male only events. The second change is that Keelboat Match Racing - Elliot 6m will replace Yngling Women’s Keelboat. The Tornado Multihull class has been removed.
Sailing competition is run in different classes, or types of boats. In any race, only boats of the same class compete against each other. The classes used in the Olympic Games are known as ‘one-design’, meaning they are built to the same to strict rules, so no competitor has a design advantage over another with their boat.
The classes of boats used in the Olympic Games are single-handed, double-handed or three-person and can be either women’s, men’s or open disciplines. The International Sailing Federation selects the classes for each Olympic Games and the classes do, and have changed over the years.
Points are awarded equating to the position where the boats finishes (i.e. 1st receives one point, 2nd receives two points etc). All classes sail 11 races in an Olympic regatta except for the 49er class which sail 16. Classes will sail up to three races on a day dependent on the weather.