London 2012: Sailing

Published On July 12, 2012 | By Jill Saftel

Tell me about sailing:

Sailing competitions will take place over 14 days in the waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour at this year’s London Games. The 10 medal events including dinghies, keelboats, and windsurfing will begin July 29 with 380 athletes competing.

The sport made its debut over a century ago at the 1900 Paris Games, and unlike many other sports, it has always consisted of both a men’s and women’s competition.

Sailing races at the Olympics fall under two types: fleet races and match racing. In fleet races, three or more competitors participate, while match races are a head-to-head competition. Speed is the main factor in fleet races, but in match racing, competitors need to race quickly and also use tactical thinking to beat their opponents.

Events include men’s and women’s two-person dinghy, men’s and women’s windsurfer, men’s keelboat, men’s skiff, and men’s and women’s one-person dinghy.

What’s up with the scoring?

A series of races make up each medal event, with points awarded based on the finish. The winner gets one point, the runner-up gets two, increasing with each placement at the finish line. Points are doubled in the medal race, and at the conclusion of that final race the individual or crew with the fewest number of total points becomes the winner.

How do players qualify?

Most of each event’s entry quota is filled from the best ranked teams from the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships. The rest of each event’s entry quota (about 25 percent after the 2011 Worlds) qualify from the 2012 Worlds or other events sanctioned by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) that finish prior to June 1, 2012.

International players to watch:

Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie is a triple Olympic gold medalist, and he’ll be looking for his fourth as a member of the host country team when the London Games begin.

With so many events under the sailing umbrella, several different countries are ranked at the top, allowing for unpredictable competition. From event to event, Japan, Australia and Sweden are just a few of the nations ranked at the top.

Americans to watch:

Windsurfer Farrah Hall stands to make a splash in London. The 30-year-old lost her spot at the Beijing Olympics after the fourth-place finisher contested that a collision slowed her down. The committee ruled in her favor and gave her Hall’s place. This is Hall’s last chance at the Games, as windsurfing will be replaced with kiteboarding beginning with the 2016 Games.

The 16-member U.S. sailing team is slated to give Great Britain some stiff competition in the sailing event. Leading the team is Zach Railey, who came in second to Britain’s Ainslie and is the U.S.’s best chance to stop Ainslie from getting his fourth Olympic gold.

Talk like an Olympian:

Fleet race –  when three or more competitors race against each other.

Match race – head-to-head racing between just two competitors. The rules in match races differ from those of a fleet race, allowing for more aggressive competition.

Port – the left-hand side of the craft (when looking forwards).

Starboard – the right-hand side of the craft (when looking forwards).

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.