What’s the deal?

Sailing’s another boat-racing sport, but instead of competitors propelling the boats, they’re using wind to make them move as fast as possible. Since regattas are dependent on the wind actually blowing, a calm day can make competition difficult.

In each competition, sailors have to maneuver around a course of buoys, which requires them to be able to turn their boats and sails in order to catch the wind properly–and of course, they want to get no penalties, while hoping their competitors do get penalties. Most competitions involve a series of races where competitors earn points based on the position in which they finish. The top 10 get to race in the final, and the winner is the one with the fewest points.

The types of boats sailed are called “classes,” and they’re differentiated by the size of boat and the number of sails. In the Olympics these are:

  • 470 – two people, one hull, three sails. It weighs 120kg and is 4.7m long
  • 49er – two people, one hull, three sails. It weighs 94kg and is 4.99m long
  • 49er FX – two people, one hull, three sails, two wings. It weighs 94kg and is 4.99m long
  • Laser/Laser Radial – one person, one hull, one sail. It weighs 59kg and is 4.23m long
  • Finn – one person, one hull, one sail. It weighs 130kg and is 4.5m long
  • Nacra 17 – two people, two hulls, three sails. This catamaran weighs 135 kg and is 5.25m long
  • RS: X – one person, one surfboard, one sail (so, it’s windsurfing). The board weighs 30kg and is 2.88m long

Who’s competing?

There are men’s, women’s and mixed classes.

Men do:

  • Laser
  • Finn
  • 470
  • 49er
  • RS: X

Women do:

  • Laser Radial
  • 470
  • 49er FX
  • RS: X

Mixed classes do:

  • Nacra 17

Why should I watch?

Because you likely can’t see much of the event in person. Sailing’s notorious for not being much of a fan-friendly sport, as courses can be off-shore and difficult to watch. This Olympic regatta doesn’t look to be much different, as the spectator guide shows how some events don’t look like they’ll be easy to view on site. Event location Guanabara Bay has also been ridiculed for its high levels of pollution and super bacteria. You’re also likely watching because you’re wealthy–sailing is long known to be a sport of the well-to-do set.

Potential drinking game:

If someone completely falls in the water, drink.

The perfect snack:

Brie, caviar, champagne


World Sailing is the international association dedicated to the sport, and part of its website is devoted to beginners.

Races require a number of judges, race officers, measurers and umpires. If you’d like to get involved in this aspect of sailing, look here.

Feed Your Feverr!