London Spy

Sport guide: Sailing

London Spy

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Ainslie celebrates Finn gold in Beijing


Like rowing, sailing was cancelled at the 1896 Games because of bad weather. It was also dropped from the 1904 Games but resumed in 1908 and has been included in the programme ever since.

The London Games will feature six events for men and four for women. The 470, Laser and RS:X are for both genders. The 470 is a light and manoeuvrable 470cm long dinghy with two crew members. The Laser is the most popular one-person sailing boat in the world although women will race the Laser Radial which has a reduced sail area and a shorter mast. The RS:X is a windsurfing board.

Only men compete in the Star which is a one-person keelboat, the 49er - the fastest craft with both crew members outside of the dinghy to balance it - and the Finn, a single-handed dinghy with a large sail area and heavy boom. Women compete only in the Elliott 6m, a robust keelboat used in match racing.

Unfortunately for windsurfing, it has now been ditched from the Olympics from Rio 2016 in favour of kiteboarding.

Hélène de Pourtalès became the first woman to compete in the Olympics - as a member of husband Hermann's crew which won the 1-2 ton sailing class for Switzerland in 1900.

Switzerland's future success was limited to a silver and a bronze in the 1960s but women fared rather better with occasional medal wins before they were given their own categories from 1988,

Great Britain has won the most sailing gold medals with 24 and has also produced one of the most successful individual sailors in Ben Ainslie (pictured), who won silver in 1996 and then three successive golds.

The Dane Paul Elvstrøm holds the record for the most sailing gold medals, winning at four consecutive Games from London 1948 to Rome 1960.

There have been significant family achievements in sailing. In 1912 the six-metre class was won by the French brothers Gaston, Amédée and Jacques Thubé and in 1952 Sumner and Edgar White won the 5.5-metres class for the United States.

In 1960, Crown Prince Constantinos was a member of the Greek crew that won gold in the three-person keelboat event. His brother-in-law, the future King Juan Carlos, sailed for Spain at the 1972 Games, followed at later editions by his niece and nephew. Reports suggest that for all his status, the Crown Prince was unable to avoid the traditional celebratory ducking, and was shoved into the water by his mother, Queen Frederika.

MEN'S 470
1 M. Belcher/Page (Australia)
2 Fantela/Marenic (Croatia)
3 Leboucher/Garos (France)
4 Patience/Bithell (Great Britain)
5 S. Coster/K. Coster (Netherlands)
6 Kliger/Sela (Israel)
7 Mantis/Kagialis (Greece)
8 McNay/Biehl (United States)
1 Outteridge/Jensen (Australia)
2 Burling/Tuke (New Zealand)
3 Dyen/Christidis (France)
4 Nørregaard/Lang (Denmark)
5 P. Sibello/G. Sibello (Italy)
6 Rhodes/Morrison (Great Britain)
7 Delle-Karth/Resch (Austria)
8 Martínez/Fernández (Spain)
1 Ben Ainslie (Great Britain)
2 Jonas Høgh-Christensen (Denmark)
3 Zach Railey (United States)
4 Ivan Kljakovic-Gašpic (Croatia)
5 Pieter-Jan Postma (Netherlands)
6 Rafael Trujillo (Spain)
7 Brendan Casey (Australia)
8 Jonathan Lobert (France)
1 Tom Slingsby (Australia)
2 Paul Goodison (Great Britain)
3 Tonci Stipanovic (Croatia)
4 Andrew Murdoch (New Zealand)
5 Simon Grotelüschen (Germany)
6 Julio Alsogaray (Argentina)
7 Javier Hernández (Spain)
8 Juan Maegli (Guatemala)
1 Dorian van Rijsselberghe (Netherlands)
2 Nick Dempsey (Great Britain)
3 Julien Bontemps (France)
4 Piotr Myszka (Poland)
5 Nimrod Mashiah (Israel)
6 Jon-Paul Tobin (New Zealand)
7 Toni Wilhelm (Germany)
8 Byron Kokkalanis (Greece)
1 Scheidt/Prada (Brazil)
2 Percy/Simpson (Great Britain)
3 R. Stanjek/Kleen (Germany)
4 Lööf/Salminen (Sweden)
5 F. Marazzi/De Maria (Switzerland)
6 Melleby/Mørland Pedersen (Norway)
7 Kusznierewicz/Zycki (Poland)
8 Hestbæk/Olesen (Denmark)
1 Mills/S. Clark (Great Britain)
2 Westerhof/Berkhout (Netherlands)
3 Pacheco/Betanzos (Spain)
4 Aleh/O. Powrie (New Zealand)
5 Lecointre/Geron (France)
6 Conti/Micol (Italy)
7 Kondo/Tabata (Japan)
8 Cohen/Buskila (Israel)
1 Marit Bouwmeester (Netherlands)
2 Evi Van Acker (Belgium)
3 Xu Lijia (China)
4 Sari Multala (Finland)
5 Gintare Scheidt (Lithuania)
6 Paige Railey (United States)
7 Alison Young (Great Britain)
8 Veronika Fenclová (Czech Republic)
1 United States
2 Great Britain
3 France
4 Australia
5 Russia
6 Netherlands
7 Finland
8 Spain
1 Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (Poland)
2 Lee Korzits (Israel)
3 Blanca Manchón (Spain)
4 Alessandra Sensini (Italy)
5 Bryony Shaw (Great Britain)
6 Charline Picon (France)
7 Jessica Crisp (Australia)
8 Moana Delle (Germany)

Each class is made up of a series of 10 races (except the 49ers who do 15) with points awarded based on position: the winner gets one point, the second-placed finisher two points, and so on. crews are allowed to discard their worst score after five races and their two worst after nine.

The 10th and final race (15th in 49er) is the all-important Medal Race, with only the top 10 boats in each class going through. Points are doubled in the Medal Race. If sailors or teams are tied on points at the end, final placings are determined by finishing positions in the Medal Race.

Women’s Match Racing (the Elliot 6m) follows a slightly different format, with the 12 teams sailing against each other in a round-robin before the four lowest-scoring nations are knocked out. The top eight nations then continue to the quarter-finals.

At the beginning of a race day, the top three competitors in each class can be spotted by the coloured circles on their sails and the coloured bibs they wear. Yellow marks first place, blue second and red third. Each nation may only enter one boat in each class.


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