Sailing 101

What is Sailing?

Sailing is the art of moving a boat by harnessing the power of wind. Mastery over ever-changing conditions requires both great skill and experience.

Strategy and technical

To better understand the strategy and technical side of sailing.

Check out the video

Better understand Sailing

Check out this explanatory video from Tokyo 2020!

Watch it now >
Brenda Bowskill, Laser Radial, Canada.

Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Regatta.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 8th-20th August 2016.

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Sailing at the Olympic Games

Sailing (also known as yachting until 2000) has been one of the Olympic sports since the Games of the I Olympiad, held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Despite being scheduled in the first Olympic program, the races were canceled due to severe weather conditions. Apart from the 1904 Summer Olympics, sailing has been present in every edition of the Olympic Games.

So far, Canadian athletes have achieved nine Olympic and five Paralympic medals. Check out the list of Canadian medalists >

Meet the 2020 Canadian Sailing Team >
Graeme Chaplin-Saunders and Jacob Chaplin-Saunders, 470, Canada.

Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Regatta.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 8th-20th August 2016.

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What are the Olympic events?

At the 2020 Olympic Games, there are 10 classes competing:
RS:X – Windsurfer (Men/Women)
Laser – One Person Dinghy (Men)
Laser Radial – One Person Dinghy (Women)
Finn – One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) (Men)
470 – Two Person Dinghy (Men/Women)
49er – Skiff (Men)
49er FX – Skiff (Women)
Nacra 17 Foiling – Mixed Multihull

For the 2024 Olympic Games, it’s planned to this date that Kite Foiling will replace the Finn class in the Olympic program.

What are the differences between each sailboat?

Sailing terminology

To better understand the sport.

Check out this glossary of sailing terms >

How does a sailing race competition work?

Among all types of sailing, fleet racing is being presented at the Olympic Games. More details about all other types of racing >

In fleet racing, sailboats start at the same time and sail around a course (usually marked by buoys) a predetermined number of times. Each race last around:

RS:X: between 20 and 25 minutes
49er, 49er FX and Nacra 17: 30 minutes
Laser, Laser Radial, Finn and 470: 50 minutes

Boats are then scored by the position in which they finish (ex. position 1 get 1 point). The sailor with the less point at the end of competition wins the competition.

At Olympic Games, Laser, Laser Radial, Finn and 470 have a maximum of 10 races each scheduled, while RS:X-windsurfing, 49er, 49er FX and Nacra 17 have 12. Maximum races per day is three, excepting 49er, 49er FX and Nacra 17 which is 4. But, depending of the wind and of the weather, schedule may change frequently.

The ten highest ranked boats at the conclusion of the opening series of each event will advance to the medal race. For this final race, the points are doubled. If there is a tie, race point scores will be broken in favour of the boat that scored better in the medal race.


  • Rolex
  • Helly Hansen
  • Gallagher Skippers' Plan
  • BMO Sail Canada MasterCard
  • Government of Canada