Sailing has been an Olympic sport since the Olympiad in 1896. At the time, the sailing sport was called yachting and contained multiple classes of boats. Classes were determined by tonnage limits. Although the races were scheduled and the athletes attended the games, sailing was cancelled due to inclement weather. Since that time, sailing has been part of Olympic competition in every Olympiad but one, the 1904 Olympics.
From Tons to Meters: More Classes More Sailors
Originally the Olympics designed racing classes around the British standard and included seven classes of sailboats rated in tons. In 1907 the standard shifted to meters and many more classes were allowed to participate, increasing the field of sailors considerably. The inclusion of classes fluctuated wildly in the first have of the century before settling on a standardized Olympic sailing class schedule. The new schedule included more than 30 classes of boats and differentiated between male and female sailors. This new standard has been utilized at every Olympiad since 1948.
Tokyo 2020: Olympic Racing Class Battleground
The next Olympiad in Tokyo, Japan might prove to be a historic event for sailing. Shortly after the 2016 Olympics the International Olympic Committee announced that sailing was being evaluated for possible exclusion from the next games. The IOC determined that the economics of maintaining a sailing program was difficult for all nations to sustain. Technological advantages are available at high cost in sailing and this gives some nations a decided edge in competition. Since that time, the IOC has announced that sailing will be included in the next games but the classes may be changed to create a more even playing field.
The Sailing World is Waiting for a Decision
The world of sailing closely follows Olympic sailing. Youth and developmental programs are designed to be in accordance with Olympic rules. National sailing federations also follow the lead of the IOC. When the format of the next Olympics is announced, the impact will be felt by sailors across the globe.