Sailing At The Olympic Games

Sailing was introduced to the Olympics at the 1900 Games in Paris. With the exception of 1904, the sport has appeared at every Olympic Games since then. The United States has won the most sailing medals (57) in the Olympics and Great Britain has won the most gold medals (20).

The structure of the sport has changed over the years. Most of the Olympic sailing competitions were done in what is called a fleet race format. At some Olympics, however, was also the match-race format, or a mixed fleet/match race format. Co-ed events were held from 1900 to 1988. After that, both gender-specific and co-ed events have been held. In the early Olympic Games sailing was dominated by bigger boats, sometimes with as many as 10-12 sailors, and time handicaps were used to adjudicate the races but nowadays smaller In the last 20 years, equipment trials have resulted in several new boats reflecting the latest developments in the sport. During the 2004 Athens Games, only one event had a three-person crew (Yngling), with five events contested by lone sailors. Currently the line-up of boats is a mixture between classes with a long and distinguished history, like the Star and the Finn, and those reflecting the design and technology advances in the sport, such as the 49er.

Women have always been allowed to compete in Olympic sailing with men, but in 1988, separate sailing events were introduced exclusively for women. The Olympic sailing programme in 2004 consisted of men’s, women’s and open events.

In effect, sailing made its Olympic debut in Sydney, as it became the first Olympic sport to make a name change. The sport had always been called yachting in the past, it was at the Sydney that the name was changed to Sailing.
Indian sailors have participated in the sailing event at Olympicsand India has been participating since 1972. In Athens in 2004, a wildcard entry got Sumeet Patel and Malav Shroff the chance to test themselves against the world’s accomplished yachtsmen in the 49er class. After their first appearance at the 1972 Munich Games, Indian yachtsmen failed to qualify for Montreal (1976), Moscow (1980), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000).

N S Johal

In the recent Olympics held at Beijing (2008) N S Johal who was the lone Indian, competing in the Finn category (heavyweight dingy) finished 23rd in a field of 26 boats, a remarkable performance by India. The sport is so competitive at the Olympic level that qualifying itself is a hurdle for Indians. Johal is the highest ranked Asian.

The 2012 olympic game is going to be held in London. The waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour will host the 10 great sailing events during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Ten gold medals will be awarded and 380 athletes are expected to take part. The sailing classes have two changes from the Beijing 2008 sailing events. The women’s Match Race competition replaces the Yngling competition and the Tornado Class Catamaran competition has been dropped. 14 days of competition that should offer plenty of excitement and drama in the beautiful but testing waters of Weymouth Bay, on the south coast of England. London 2012 is considering making Sailing a ticketed event.


Compiled by Vishwaja Salian.

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