Olympic Sports


The Olympic Games takes place in Paris this year, so in preparation, we have created a series of articles to give you a convenient overview of a variety of Olympic sports and why we think you should watch them this summer.

The first focus of this series: Sailing.

Sailing has been an Olympic Sport since the first modern Olympics in 1896, although had to be cancelled in the inaugural event due to bad weather, meaning sailing events were first competed in at the 1900 Olympics, which also took place in Paris. In 2016 Olympics, hosted in Rio de Janeiro, it became one of the first sports to include a compulsory mixed gender event. During the Paris Olympics, sailing will be hosted at the Marseille Marina, with events taking place in the beautiful Marseille waters. Ready Steady Tokyo Sailing 2019 in RS:X Men's

Great Britain have historically been the most successful nation in sailing, winning 31 gold medals including 4 for Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor ever), followed by the United States of America with 19.

Tokyo saw 10 different sailing events occur, which will remain the same number in Paris, but two new events will be newly introduced for this year’s Olympic Games: windsurfer – iQFoil and Formula Kite. This is the first Olympics where there will be the same number of events for male and female athletes, as well as the same number of men and women competing. Each event will consist of 10 or 12 races for all competitors in a fleet racing format, with each scoring points according to their placing (1st = 1 point, 2nd = 2 points, etc.). At the end of this series, the top 10 qualify for a double points medal race, which is added to the opening series to produce the final standings, which the boat with the lowest total winning gold.

The sailing events which will be on show at the Paris Olympics are men’s and women’s IQFoil and Formula Kite; women’s ICLA 6 and 49er FX; men’s ICLA 7 and 49er; and mixed 470 and Nacra 17. Now let’s look at these events in more detail:

IQFoil, as mentioned, is a new windsurfing classification to the Olympics in 2024 which replaces the RS:X from the Tokyo Olympics three years ago and will be used for both men’s and women’s events, with the men’s sail size 9m2 and the women’s 8m2. The Netherlands are expected to dominate the iQFoil, especially in the men’s event – with Luuc van Opzeeland competing for the country after winning the 2023 Sailing World Championships. Outside of the Netherlands, 2021 World and European Champion, Nicolas Goyard, from France and 2022 World Champion Sebastian Kördel from Germany will also be amongst the favourites to claim a medal at Paris 2024. In the women’s event, Emma Wilson, will compete for Britain after finishing third in the 2023 Sailing World Championships and third in the 2024 iQFoil World Championships, and will look to grab another Olympic medal after earning bronze in RS:X in Tokyo.

Formula Kite is the other sailing discipline set to debut at the Paris Games, and similarly to iQFoil, will see both a men’s and women’s event take place. Formula Kite, also referred to as kiteboarding, is a class of kitesurfing which features a foil kite and a board with a hydrofoil. As with iQFoil, the best indication of who is expected to claim medals in this event at the 2024 Summer Olympics are the results from the 2023 World Sailing Championships. Singaporean Maximilian Maeder, who is only 17 years old, won the Formula Kite World Championship in 2023, and comes in as one of the favourites for gold in Paris, whilst Axel Mazella, the host nation’s athlete, finished third in the same event. In the women’s event, all eyes will be on British riders Ellie Aldridge and Lauriane Nolot from France after they battled in out in the Netherlands in 2023, with Nolot ultimately becoming World Champion.

Ready Steady Tokyo Sailing 2019 in Nacra 17The remainder of the events featured at the 2020 Olympics, where Great Britain reigned supreme, winning five medals overall, three of which were gold, with Australia also claiming two gold medals.

The mixed Dinghy class, 470, is competed in 470 dinghies, a double-hander with a single trapeze for the crew and a symmetric spinnaker; it is often considered one of the most technical classes of sailing. Japanese athletes, Keiju Okada and Miho Yoshioka, come into the Olympics this year as many people’s favourites after winning the 2023 World Championships in the Netherlands, whilst Spain also looking strong, with Jordi Xammar Hernández and Nora Brugman finishing second to the Japanese in 2023.

The Nacra 17 is the other mixed-gender event. The catamaran was introduced for the first time at Rio 2016. The 2020 Olympics saw Italian duo Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti take gold, in front of British pair John Gimson and Anna Burnet. Both duos have qualified for this event yet again, and most will expect them to compete at the top for another event.

The 49er, which is a fast, double-handed, twin-trapeze skiff, is a male only classification. British athletes Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell won gold in Tokyo, but the pair will not return to defend their title this time out. Instead, the Netherlands duo of Bart Lambriex and Floris van de Werken are in with a great chance of winning a medal this summer.

The women’s 49er FX classification is the same as the men’s 49er, but with a smaller rig. Brazilian duo Marine Grael and Kahena Kunze won gold in Tokyo, and return to defend their title in the waters of Marseille, but will face tough competition against the Swedish and Dutch teams.

Finally, there is the women’s ICLA 6 and the men’s ICLA 7. Also known as the Laser and Laser Radial, respectively, they are one-design single-handed, one sail hiking dinghies; the two dinghies are effectively the same, using the same hull but a slightly smaller sail. In the men’s Laser, Matthew Wearn from Australia returns to defend his gold from the Tokyo Olympics, continuing Australia’s impressive form in this event from previous Olympics, winning this event every Games since London 2012. In the women’s ICLA 6, Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom returns to defend her gold from Tokyo, with Hungary’s Mária Érdi looking strong after winning at the 2023 World Sailing Championships.Ready Steady Tokyo Sailing 2019 in the Women's 470

Sailing at the Olympics is always a highly anticipated and competitive sport, and we can be certain that there will be high octane action throughout all these sailing and windsurfing events.

This year’s Summer Olympics will take place from 26 July to 11 August in Paris, France. You can easily keep up-to-date and stay informed on every sailing event happening at Paris 2024 by creating a Fixture Calendar account or downloading our App.

Why not also check out our This Week in Sport blog, for a rundown or the top sporting events happening each week or get a useful overview of the 15 most exciting events taking place each month with our Fixture Calendar newsletter here.

Harry Stephens, May 2024

Photos by World Sailing

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