Sailing made its Olympic debut in 1900 in Paris and has appeared at every Olympic Games since 1908. It is one of the oldest sports on the Olympic program.
The first Olympic Yachting regatta had already been planned for the first Modern Olympics in Greece in 1896 but was cancelled due to rough weather at the time.
While yachting was not one of the original sports of the Olympics in Ancient Greece, it was probably there that the competitive aspect of the past time of sailing started to develop.
Women have always been able to compete in Olympic sailing with men, but in 1988 separate sailing events were introduced exclusively for women.
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. Starting from 1924 and increasingly from the 1950s onwards, the trend has been towards smaller and smaller one-design boats with fewer crew members.
In the last 20 years, equipment trials have resulted in several new boats reflecting the latest developments in the sport.
The recent line up of boats is a mixture between classes with a long and distinguished history, like the Finn, and those reflecting the design and technology advances in the sport, such as the 49er and the Nacra 17.
In 2016 a multi-hull class returned to the Olympic program with the introduction of a mixed-gender event – the Nacra 17 mixed-multihull. The 49er FX was also new on the program.
An ever increasing range of materials and designs has seen sailing develop rapidly, with mass-produced one-design boats helping the sport spread into all corners of the globe, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, the state-of-the-art yachts have become more and more spectacular.
The development and popularization of windsurfers, kitesurfers, skiffs and multihulls have pushed back the boundaries for sailing's thrill seekers, whilst the Olympic Games, the America's Cup, the great ocean races and record breakers continue to provide the sport with new heroes.
Olympic Boat Classes
The boat classes for Tokyo 2020 will be announced by World Sailing in 2017. In Rio, there were 10 different Olympic Boat classes, including four women’s classes (RS:X, Laser Radial, 470, 49erFX); four men’s classes (RS:X, Laser, 470, 49er, Finn,) and for the first time, a mixed-gender event (Nacra 17).
- Men’s & Women’s Windsurfing (RS:X)
- Men’s & Women’s One-Person Dinghy (Laser / Laser Radial)
- Men’s Heavy-weight Dinghy (Finn)
- Men’s & Women’s Two-Person Dinghy (470)
- Men’s & Women’s Skiff (49er / 49erFX)
- Mixed-Multihull (Nacra17)