Sailing events

RYA Racing Events
The RYA has been running its own events for several years. These tend to be national dingy racing events that take place over several days and are open to adults and youth sailors. A full list of races and championships is published on the RYA Racing Events Website.

The races attract vast numbers of entries and competition at the top level is fierce. These are the most popular events in UK dingy sailing and so often have product fairs and other entertainments that take place alongside them. All races are carried out according to the RYA Racing Charter, which is a new initiative aimed at making the sport more "fun, fair and welcoming for competitors and organisers at all levels". It aims to do this through encouraging observance of the rules, good sportsmanship and communication.

Volvo Ocean Race
This is a specialist event in which teams or sponsors effectively compete in a large scale race, where boat design and innovation is as much a factor as the skill of the sailors. The race is broken into legs, and points are awarded for finishing position for each part of the race. They are then totalled to provide the overall winner.

Much of the sailing is through the open sea and so sections of "port racing" (any time where the boats can be observed from land) are set up as massive media events to showcase the different boats’ performances. The event began in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race and included a Polish crew fresh from the Gdansk shipyard that had no previous experience of sailing. The event is now a massive media affair with companies like Disney and Sony becoming involved in sponsorship and design, and remains one of the most sought after trophies in long distance sailing.

International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Rankings
The world government body for the sport of sailing is the ISAF, it was set up in 1907 and is responsible for the Olympic Class and International Rankings. It was known as the International Yacht Racing Union until 1996 when it became the ISAF.

All the world sailing races, regattas and other events are scored according to the scale and level of competition. This can be from Olympic events down to national events, but there must be a sufficient number of competitors for the result to count in the world rankings.

There are 121 member nations represented in the rankings and all of the nations collaborate to decide how the rankings should be worked out. There are 87 different classes of boat, which range from the smallest (the Optimist, the dingy famous for its similarity to a bath-tub) up to the 60 foot multi-hull boats.

Individual sailors are given recognition through the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, as well as in the rankings themselves. These awards have been running since 1994, with their profile being lifted significantly by the introduction of Rolex as sponsors in 2001. Despite the vast number of different classes described above, there is only one male and one female winner for all of these, and the winner tends to come from a different class to the previous awards in an aim to acknowledge all levels of the sport.

ISAF Events
In addition to the grading of events and subsequent rankings, the ISAF also runs its own series of events, as well as playing a major role in the Olympic championships:

‘ISAF World Sailing Championship‘ The event began in 2003 and saw all Olympic classes competing, but not as part of the Olympics itself. All eleven Olympic sailing events were included and the results were acknowledged to make up 75% of the Olympic qualification positions. The classes are Men’s windsurfer, Women’s windsurfer, Heavyweight dingy, Women’s one person dingy, Men’s one person dingy, Women’s two person dingy, Men’s two person dingy, Skiff, Multihull, Men’s keelboat and Women’s keelboat. Each class contains between 80 and 160 competitors, with each nation guaranteed one place per event and the remaining positions allocated according to finishing positions in other events.

‘ISAF World Sailing Games
The event began in 1997 when it was confusingly named the ISAF Sailing World Championships (changing to the current name in 2002). What distinguishes this event is the fact that sailors race using boats and equipment provided by the ISAF. This represents an attempt to identify the most accomplished sailor, irrespective of the background and access to high performance equipment.

For practical reasons, the events are limited in number to keep the amount of equipment that has to be provided down. The events are Men’s windsurfer, Women’s windsurfer, Women’s one person dingy, Men’s one person dingy, Women’s two person dingy, Men’s two person dingy, Men’s Multihull, Women’s Mulithull, Skiff and Team Sailing.

‘ISAF Nations Cup‘ The Nations cup was founded in 1991 and revolves around a set of Regional Finals, with the best crews competing in a Grand Final. It is one of the main features in national match racing, and there are club and national championships organised to select qualifiers for the regional and, eventually, final competition. Each nation puts forward one men’s and one women’s team (each consisting of four persons) to compete against the other nations in its group. There are a total of seven groups, each containing between 11 and 30 nations competing against each other.

‘ISAF Team Racing World Championship‘ This biennial event attracts around fifteen teams from across the world, with each represented nation usually putting forward two teams. The event has been dominated by the United States since it began in 1995 and reflects their approach to sailing, which depends on sheer size and high-tech equipment. The teams are allowed a day or so practice time on the course before a round robin race system. This leads into a knock-out system of quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.

Americas Cup This is sailing’s most high profile event, attracting more sponsorship and media attention than the Olympic events themselves. The trophy has been running longer than any other regardless of sport, having started in 1851 between the American and Royal British squadrons.

The regatta was set up in New York and took place there alone for the first half a century of the event’s history. It now takes place at different locations across the world and was held in Europe for the first time in 2007.

The style of boat which has won each year reflects the history of the sport and the development of the technologies involved. A prime example of this are the J-Class Yachts which were designed and built in the 1930s specifically to race in the Americas Cup. Owing to the massive expense of these vessels, only ten were ever built and they eventually gave way to the 12-metre class boats which were raced from 1958 to 1987 when the International America’s Cup Class boats were introduced.

The cup is decided by a series of 13 regattas, some of fleet racing (with all boats on the water at once) and match racing (with two boats competing alone). Points are awarded according to speed and the team with the highest total points is deemed the winner of the cup.

Olympic Sailing Sailing has been part of the Olympic games since 1900, and was called yachting until 1996 when the name was changed to sailing. It began as an open regatta with five different weight classes of boat, each with a different time handicap. The number of classes and size of event varied for the next century according to where the event was held, how easy it was to transport the yachts there and competition (in terms of cost and time) with other sports.

Two recent introductions to Olympic events are the 49er class, which is a high-speed two-person dingy, and the women’s keelboat Yngling, which is a cross between a planning dingy and a keelboat. The complete list of current Olympic Sailing events and the type of boat that is used is as follows:

  • Heavyweight Dingy – Finn
  • Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
  • Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
  • Men’s and Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
  • Skiff – 49er
  • Men’s Keelboat – Star
  • Women’s Keelboat – Yngling
  • Multihull – Tornado
  • Men’s & Women’s Windsurfer – NeilPryde RS:X

Although each class is standardized in that everyone must race in a particular type of boat, there are clearly going to be variations between each boat. The ISAF therefore sets out strict rules about equipment, available to view on the Official Olympic Sailing Website.

The Beijing 2008 Olympics will open with the sailing events, which are to take place at Quindao. The 2012 Olympic Sailing will be hosted by the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy.