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A beginners guide to sailing

The waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour will play host to 10 exhilarating Sailing events during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
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Crown Prince Olav of Norway won Gold in the Six-metre Sailing class at the Amsterdam 1928 Games.
Key facts

Venue: Weymouth and Portland
Dates: Sunday 29 July – Saturday 11 August
Medal events: 10
Athletes: 380 (237 men, 143 women)

Mastery over ever-changing conditions on open water requires skill and nerve. Both will be essential for competitors in the Sailing events at London 2012, 14 days of competition that should offer plenty of excitement and drama in the beautiful but testing waters of Weymouth Bay, on the south coast of England.

The basics

At London 2012, the 10 different Olympic Sailing events (six for men, four for women) will feature a variety of craft, from dinghies and keelboats to windsurfing boards.

Each event consists of a series of races. Points in each race are awarded according to position: the winner gets one point, the second-placed finisher scores two, and so on. The final race is called the medal race, for which points are doubled. Following the medal race, the individual or crew with the fewest total points will be declared the winner.

Olympic Sailing, past and present

Sailing made its Olympic debut in 1900; with the exception of 1904, the sport has appeared at every Olympic Games since then.

Led by triple gold medal-winner Ben Ainslie CBE, Team GB has topped the Sailing medals table at the last three Olympic Games. British sailors will be hoping to repeat the feat at London 2012, battling their rivals in Weymouth Bay.

For more information about the history of Sailing and for equipment terminology please visit the International Olympic Committee website.

Jargon buster

Fleet race: Three or more competitors racing against each other.
Match race: Two competitors racing head to head, with slightly different racing rules that allow aggressive tactics.
Port: When looking forwards, the left-hand side of the craft.
Starboard: When looking forwards, the right-hand side of the craft.
Tacking: When a boat passes through the eye of the wind in order to change direction. Because it is impossible to sail directly into the wind, sailing boats must zig-zag.
See the London 2012 Olympic Games competition schedule

Get involved

More than 2.5 million people around the world regularly take part in all forms of Sailing. If you’re keen to join them and live in the United Kingdom, get in touch with the Royal Yachting Association which operates recognised training centres in clubs and schools all over the country with courses available for every level of sailor.

For further information on how you can participate in sailing related activities, including first-time dinghy and multihull sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding and offshore yacht racing, the International Sailing Federation, the global governing body for the sport of sailing, can provide you with direct links to all of its 137 national federations and their national training programmes.

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