Olympic Sport Lowdown: Sailing

Sailing on the Thames at Wapping by Beth Torr

Sailing is one of the London 2012 sports that takes place outside of the capital. Thirteen events will be competed on the waters off Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour, home to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy and a commercial marina.

For the first time – and controversially – Olympic Sailing is ticketed to watch, although there will be a free live site on Weymouth Beach and potential vantage points at Newton’s Cove. If you’ve never ventured down to Dorset before, never fear – the Olympic Spectator Journey Finder is here.

Sailing events have names that sound straight out of the shipping forecast: Laser, Finn, Elliott, Star… but basically, 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. In Paralympic Sailing, athletes compete in three mixed events: the Single-Person, Two-Person and Three-Person Keelboat competitions.

Here’s the good news. Our nation is good at sailing! In Beijing 2008, Great Britain won 4 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal and we top the overall medal table of all time — Olympic sailing’s been going since 1900 — with a total of 25 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze medals. We rule the waves! Or something.

But what are home team prospects for 2012? The Olympic test event finished on Saturday. Ben Ainslie won gold in Finn. Olympic champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson got silver in the Star. Beijing gold medaller, Paul Goodison, managed bronze in the Laser class. Our windsurfers did well with Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw scoring silver and bronze respectively. Other results were mixed. Olympic qualification will depend on performances at the World Championships in Perth this winter.

Our Paralympic sailors have already been named as John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas – Sonar (three-person keelboat event) plus Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell – SKUD 18 (two-person keelboat event). A further contender for the one-person keelboat event is still to be selected. The pressure is on for the home team since Paralympic Sailing became a full medal sport at Sydney 2000 but Great Britain has yet to win a medal in it.

2012 trivia: The team’s new three-person keelboat is called Mandeville, in tribute both to the Olympic mascot and the spinal hospital where the Paralympics were conceived.

Got the urge to take to the water? The North London Sailing Association sails on Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre, Green Lanes, N4 on Sunday mornings all year round. Wembley Sailing Club is based at Welsh Harp (or Brent Reservoir) and Croydon Sailing Club calls Norwood Lake home. Or you can take to the Thames with Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre, London Corinthian Sailing Club at Hammersmith, Southbank Sailing Club at Fulham, or Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre – which also does windsurfing. Just make sure you pick a club or course approved by the Royal Yachting Association. If you have a disability, the RYA can also help you find a place to start sailing.

Get the Londonist lowdown on all Olympic Sports leading up to the London 2012 Games.

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  • TerryCee

    I was pretty disgusted to hear that they are restricting the views of the sailing area. Okay, provide a VIP viewing area with seating, bars, other faciites, but to cut off access to views and walks that people have as a right is wrong. LOGOC are an arrogant and selfish organisation.

  • CB

    brilliant!  mandeville is the Paralympic mascot – wenlock is the Olympic one.