Olympic Sailing has been contested in three disciplines: fleet
, and team
- Fleet Racing Every man (or woman) for themselves, with one point for first, two for second, etc. The lowest aggregate score at the end of all races in the regatta wins. At the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, this is the only discipline that will be performed.
- Match Racing Early round-robin style duels occur, with the leading boats entering a single or double elimination tournament. Each matchup is usually best-of -three, -five, -seven or -nine races, depending on course length. This discipline is demonstrated by the America's Cup, and in the old Soling class keelboat races at the Olympics, but is not performed anymore.
- Team Racing This is a variation on fleet racing- not only do you want to do as well as possible in the fleet, but you want to help your teammates do as well as possible also. Lowest aggregate team score wins. This type of racing is popular in intercollegiate sailing because it requires even more strategy than simple fleet racing.
There are currently 11 classes of Olympic sailing. Formerly, big boat competition was part of the Olympic Games
, with large crews and custom yachts as part of the competition. This is no longer the case. All of the classes are smaller boats- mostly dinghies
- with no more than three crew members. A campaign can be fought for under $20,000, with boats running under $15,000; this in turn encourages competition from many nations. Furthermore, since the competition is one-design
, no handicapping is necessary, and thus the best sailor wins, not the best funded
- Europe (Women's Singlehanded Dinghy): A small, light dinghy optimized for a small crew member, and relying on the sailor's ability to capitalize on the boat's extreme handling.
- Finn (Men’s Singlehanded Dinghy): An old, classic boat, with a fully adjustable sail that rewards athleticism, constant mental focus and expert trimming.
- 470 (Men's Doublehanded Dinghy): A fiberglass boat that is agile, fast, and demanding of crew chemistry.
- 470 (Women's Doublehanded Dinghy): Same as the men's fleet.
- 49er (Open Doublehanded High Performance Dinghy): The fastest monohull in Olympic competition, its high-tech, finely balanced design allows it to sail faster than the wind, and rewards trim and crew placement over crew size or weight.
- Laser (Open Singlehanded Dinghy): Virtually every sailor in the world sails a laser at one point or another. Laser sailing is bump-and-grind, and demands the ability to see fleet dynamics at the starts and roundings.
- Mistral (Men’s Windsurfer): Balance, strength, sensitivity to the wind and current, and a bit of nerve are rewarded by this agile fiberglass windsurfing rig.
- Mistral (Women's Windsurfer): Same as the men's fleet.
- Star (Men's Doublehanded Keelboat): The boat that requires the most technical sailing. As the largest, perhaps most stable boat, tactics are placed at a premium. Some of the world's best sailors gravitate to this class including Dennis Conner, Buddy Melges, and Russell Coutts.
- Tornado (Open Doublehanded Multihull): If there were a class for adrenaline junkies, this is it. Its catamaran hull and huge trapeze not only give it incredible acceleration and 30 knot maximum speeds, but place it on a razor's edge with disaster.
- Yngling (Women's Triplehanded Keelboat): The name means "Youngster" in Norwegian, but it's not a boat for rookies alone. Chosen as the replacement for the venerable Soling class, teamwork, tactics and adept spinnaker work are key.