How sailing works at the Olympics

How the 2012 Olympic sailing competition works:


- There are 10 Olympic sailing events, or classes, of which Australia will be represented in eight.

- Most races are sailed in what is known as fleet racing, a format with fleets of boats racing around the same course at the same time.

- Only the match racing is different. It involves two six-metre Elliott keelboats sailing against each other in a head-to-head, round-robin format.

- Each country is permitted only one entry per sailing class.


- For each class (other than match racing) there is an opening series followed by a medal race.

- Ten opening races are scheduled for every class, except for the 49er class which sails on a shorter course and so will compete in 15 opening races.

- Scores are awarded according to a boat’s finishing position in each race: eg. first place is awarded one point, 12th place is awarded 12 points, and so on.

- Once five or more races are completed, sailors can discard their single worst result.

- The top 10 boats in each class at the end of the opening series qualify for the medal race, which awards double points.

- The lowest-accumulated scores throughout the regatta earn the medals.

- Match racers compete in a round-robin format before the best-performing enter a knockout final series.


- 49er: 4.9m two-person skiff, designed by Australian Julian Bethwaite. Made it’s Olympic debut: Sydney 2000.

- 470 (men and women): 4.7-metre, 120kg double-handed dinghy with centreboard. Olympic debut: Montreal 1976.

- Laser (men): Debuting at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Laser is a 4.2m single-handed dinghy, weighing 59kg and noted for being fast, responsive and lightweight.

- Finn (men): First sailed at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, the Finn is a heavyweight (107kg) single-handed dinghy and the only class to have featured at all Olympic Games since Helsinki.

- Laser Radial (women): Single-handed, centreboard dinghy. Similar to the Laser but designed for more lightweight sailors, especially in youth and women’s sailing.

- RS:X (men and women): Windsurfing class. The RS:X was designed in 2004. Windsurfing using a different board debuted at the 1984 Los Angeles games.

- Star (men): Two-man keelboat weighing 671kg and measuring 6.9 metres. Made its Olympic debut in 1932.

- Match racing (women): Triple-handed six-metre Elliott keelboat designed by Greg Elliott. The match racing format makes its debut at the London Games. Match racing makes its debut at the London Games.

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