Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

SAILING

Mastering the power of the wind in open water is the challenge facing sailing competitors at London 2012.


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Sailing action from the London 2012 test event. (© Press Association)

Sailing action from the London 2012 test event.

Sailing

Mastering the power of the wind in open water is the challenge facing sailing competitors at London 2012.

To win the Olympic title, sailors must adapt quickly to the ever-changing conditions, while an understanding of meteorology and nerves of steel are also important skills.

With all sailing events based on strict one-design classes, where all boats have the same weights and measurements, the emphasis is on a sailor to use their skill and judgement to steer the right line.

Sailing, known as yachting at the Olympics until Sydney 2000, has been part of the Games since Paris 1900.

It had been scheduled to appear at Athens 1896 only for poor weather to force the event to be cancelled and that, along with 1904, is one of only two occasions where the sport has not appeared on the Games programme, although the classes and the boats used have changed significantly over the years.

Originally, the event consisted of 10 classes ranging from boats weighing less than 500kg to those more than 40 times heavier, but since then the boats and sailboards have evolved to reflect advances in design and technology, becoming smaller and lighter.

The current structure of the Olympic regatta sees 10 different events - six for men and four for women - staged in a variety of different crafts.

There are three one-person dinghy classes (the Laser, Laser Radial and Finn), three double-handed classes (470, 49er and Star), a newly-introduced women's Elliott 6m Match Racing class for London 2012 and the RS:X windsurfer.

Aside from the women's match racing, where crews of three battle in head-to-head races, each event is run in a fleet-racing format, with all boats racing at the same time around a series of buoys.

There are a number of races in each event, with points awarded based on the finishing position (the higher the position the lower the points).

Competitors are able to discard their worst finish, before competing in a medal race at the end of the regatta - where points count double.

Ultimately, the crew or sailor with the lowest points tally at the end of the race series wins gold.

An Olympic course is designed to incorporate a variety of different sailing angles, including both upwind and downwind, to fully test a sailor's ability.

In the single-handed events, the emphasis is on adjusting the rigging and sail to maximise the performance of the boat or sailboard, while in larger boats with more than one person, teamwork is crucial.

Great Britain is the most successful sailing nation at the Olympic Games, having accumulated 24 gold medals prior to hosting the regatta on home waters at Weymouth and Portland at London 2012.

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