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.