14/04/2024
Nacra 17 teammates sailing at Rio 2016

Jason Waterhouse of Australia and Lisa Darmanin compete in the Nacra 17 Mixed class in Rio 2016. Photo: Australian Olympic Team

Over the past 21 years Australia has developed a proud Olympic legacy in sailing, but can that legacy carry over into Tokyo 2020?

There are 10 events for Sailing at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

In Tokyo, there will be ten separate classes offering medal chances. Classes are differentiated by both gender and the boats that are used, with only boats of the same class permitted to compete against one another.

As a result, there are strict parameters so that all competitors have boats that are “one-design” thereby not giving anyone an advantage due to the boat rather than the skill of the sailors.

Navigating across a triangular-shaped course, there are three key factors out of their control that will determine how they navigate the race. The wind, the current and the waves affecting their strategy as they move in a zig-zag pattern called tacking.

Should they point too close to the wind the boats will slow or stall, this process of stalling is known as being “stuck in the irons” and whilst experienced sailors can turn the boat out and regain speed, it heavily impacts medal chances.

The sailing competition will span from the 25th of July until the 4th of August, with each class featuring 10 to 12 races during the heats, over several days, culminating in a medal race.

For each race, points will be awarded depending on finishing position with the lowest total scores deciding final placings.

The medal race is crucial as not only are just the top ten boats permitted to race but double points are applied to finishing positions and can dramatically shift final placements if there is a particularly strong or weak performance.

Australia’s recent sailing legacy

Since 2000 Australia has cultivated quite the legacy in sailing. Second, only to Great Britain in the past five games, the Australian sailing team has collected nine Olympic Gold Medals, three of which came from the men’s 470 race.

Despite being filled with a number of debuts, the experienced sailors in this year’s team have quite the history with the Olympics.

Matthew Belcher’s two games have been filled with success winning gold in London 2012 in the 470 race alongside former partner Malcolm Page, and silver in Rio 2016 with Will Ryan, who will be sailing alongside him in Tokyo.

Nacra 17 team Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, were the inaugural silver medalists in Rio for the class and are now looking to do one better and take home the second gold medal in the event.

The sailing events you will not see Australians competing in are the RS:X for the men’s and women’s respectively with Australians failing to qualify in the windsurfer events.

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Breaking down the boats

Dinghys are used in the largest number of sailing classes for both men and women. A small flat-bottomed boat with a square stern and pointed bow. Dinghy’s are typically sailed solo with the minor exception of the 470 class for men and women which is sailed by a two-person team.

The major differences with the Dinghy vessels is the length with the smallest boats, the Laser and Laser:Radial 4.2m in length and the longest 470s spanning 4.7m.

A skiff is a faster type of dingy that has one or more sailor managing the rig with the use of racks and a trapeze. At the Olympics, the two skiff races (49er and 49erFX) have a team of two managing the ring with the difference between the men’s and women’s events is a reduced rig and sail to accommodate for the lighter women’s crews despite having an identical hull.

Only used in the Nacra 17 the multi-hull boats are exactly as they sound, boats with more than one hull. For the Nacra 17 event, catamarans are used manned by a mixed team. The event and Nacra-17 boats were specifically designed for the Olympic event, first featuring in the 2016 Olympics and first appearing at a World Championship in 2013.

The Australian Sailing Team

Matt WearnLaserDebut
Jake LilleyFinnRio 2016
Mathew Belcher470London 2012 (Gold medal), Rio 2016 (Silver Medal)
Will Ryan470Rio 2016 (Silver Medal)
Sam Phillips49erDebut
William Phillips49erDebut
Mara StranskyLaser RadialDebut
Nia Jerwood470Debut
Monique de Vries470Debut
Tess Lloyd49erFXDebut
Jaime Ryan49erFXRio 2016
Lisa DarmaninNacra 17Rio 2016 (Silver medal)
Jason WaterhouseNacra 17Rio 2016 (Silver medal)

Sailing will commence with Men’s Radial, Men’s RS:X, Women’s Laser Radial and Women’s RS:X on July 25th with the last medal race on August 4th

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