The Olympics and Sailing Schools

Did you learn how to sail on an Olympic class sailboat? Probably not, but untold thousands did!

A Flying Dutchman. You can see the driver. Where’s the tactician, ballast, spinnaker magician, etc? Feet firmly planted on the rail of course with the rest out on the trapeze! This 20-foot, 2-man class is a beast. No wonder Paul Elvstrōm loved it. This one was screen-captured from a clip on Instagram, via @giornaledellavela on their feed.

While searching for some sailing stats (Ted Turner’s best result in the Flying Dutchman class), I came across some kewl graphics on Wikipidia of the boats raced in certain Olympiads.  I’m sure there are others, but I stopped at three.

Who in the group has sailed an Olympic class boat (or board)?  It’s something.  Not all excellent boats make it to the Olympics… but all Olympic boats are arguably excellent.  And, some of them are versatile.  The Soling?  One of the most heavily used designs for adult sailing instruction in the US in the past (and still in use today).  My dad’s sailing school (New York Sailing School, now out of business), taught untold numbers of adults how to sail on them.  Laser?  Found all over the world for beach resort rentals, junior training, and all levels of racing.  

The sailboat classes of the 1964 Olympiad: Finn, Flying Dutchman, Star Dragon, and 5.5 Meter. None remain today, and there are no keelboats now either.

The first graphic shows the 1964 lineup.  Why ’64?  Year I was born, and also the Olympiad I thought Turner either sailed in or campaigned for through the trials. (Still can’t verify if he was in the trials or on the Team; found conflicting info on whether he ever won the Worlds in that class.) Turner was one of the most prolific and accomplished sailors ever to race. Inshore? Flying Dutchman and 5.5 Meter chops (world level if not actual world champ, and he might have won a 5.5 Meter Worlds. Americas Cup? Won that. Offshore? How about he won the Fastnet in 1979, when 15 people died and many boats had to be rescued or at least didn’t finish?

The classes of the 1984 Olympiad: Windglider (not Windsurfer), made by Dufour; Finn; 470; FD; Tornado Catamaran; Star; Soling.

Next one: 1984.  Why?  There was a graphic for it, and it was the year Paul Elvström just missed bronze in the Tornado Catamaran.  Why would one care?  Because he was 53 at the time, and his teenaged daughter was crew!  Elvström, lest I let anyone forget, won multiple Olympic gold medals in the Finn and was European or World Champion (or close) in a number of other classes. Elvström, a Dutchman, was competitive in the FD. 1984 was also the first Olympiad with female sailors.  Only two, but at least it finally started. 

The 2012 Olympic classes: RS:x, Laser Radial, Laser, Finn, 470, 49er, Elliot 6m, and Star.

Finally… 2012.  The venerable Star Class saw its last outing.  At the Olympics, anyway.  It’s still a super relevant and competitive class, as evidenced by the Star Sailors League invitational regatta featuring champions from many classes and always a tight tourney.  Past Champions at the World and Olympic level include Lowell North, Dennis Conner, Robert Scheidt, and many other notable names. The 2012 Games were the last to have keelboat classes race.

Which Olympic classes have I sailed?  I have a lot of time in Lasers and Solings, and an outing or three in Stars, with racing from the most local of club levels to regional regattas such as the East Coasts.   I haven’t sailed any of them in awhile. I miss the Laser the most.  It’s the simplest to get back into, so who knows.  (For racing purposes, due to boring legal stuff, it’s referred to as the ILCA Dinghy, and the familiar laser logo is gone.) Most people ought to spend at least a little time in a Laser.  To paraphrase that line from Risky Business, “there is no substitute.”

“Laser: there is no substitute.” Kids can bop around in them; couples can canoodle. Having said that, they’re mostly raced by one person at all levels of competition. This guy? @stefopeschiera of Peru, a top contender at the world level, in full send mode. This is also a still grab from a clip on his Instagram.