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Olympic Sailing

Mat Belcher and Will Ryan at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. PHOTO: Sailing Energy/World Sailing

Sailing made its Olympic debut in 1900 in Paris and has appeared at every Olympic Games since 1908. The first Olympic Yachting regatta had been planned for the first Modern Olympics in Greece in 1896 but was cancelled due to rough weather.

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 one-design boats with fewer crew members.

In the past 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 of classes with a long and distinguished history, like the 470, and those reflecting the design and technology advances in the sport, such as the 49er and Nacra 17.

In 2016, a multi-hull class returned to the Olympic program with the introduction of a mixed-gender event – the Nacra 17. The 49er FX women's class was also new to the program. At the Paris 2024 Olympics, Men's and Women's Kiteboarding will be added to the slate and the iQfoil will replace the RS:X as the Windsurfing equipment.

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 world while, at the other end of the spectrum, the state-of-the-art yachts have become more and more spectacular.

Australia has a decorated history in Olympic sailing since Alexander 'Jock' Sturrock, Len Fenton and Robert French competed at the London 1948 Games. Australia's first Olympic sailing medals came at the 1956 Games in Melbourne. Jock Sturrock combined with Dev Mytton and Doug Buxton to win bronze in the 5.5 metre class; and Rolly Tasker and John Scott won silver in the Sharpies class after a count back.