Olympic sailing: A look at the three categories that India will feature in

For the first time, four Indian sailors will compete at an Olympics
By Samrat Chakraborty

In a first, four Indian sailors are set to represent the country at the Olympics after qualifying for the Tokyo Games through the Mussanah Open Championship in Oman. It will also be the first time India will be represented in three sailing events at the Olympics.

Nethra Kumanan (laser radial class) became the first Indian female sailor to qualify for the Olympics after grabbing the first spot. She is the 10th sailor to qualify for the Games and the first to earn a direct entry.

The previous participants -- Nachhatar Singh Johal (2008), Malav Shroff and Sumeet Patel (2004), F Tarapore and Cyrus Cama (1992), Kelly Rao (1988), Dhruv Bhandari (1984), Soli Contractor and A A Basith (1972) -- made it through quotas.

Vishnu Saravanan, meanwhile, qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after finishing second in the laser standard class event while the pair of KC Ganapathy-Varun Thakkar finished top on the 49er class event to book their tickets.

As India gears up for a historic sailing event in Tokyo, we dig deep into each of the three categories they will feature in:

Varun Thakkar-KC Ganapathy will represent India in 49er class (Courtesy: @indiannavy/Twitter)

Laser radial class

In this class, small, dinghy-style boats are used single-handedly. The boats have comparatively smaller sail area, which makes it easier for the sailors to cut through the heavy winds. The event first made its debut at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It was specifically chosen for the singlehanded women's discipline.

Kumanan explained the major challenges of sailing in this category.

"In my class of boat, which is one design, the only difference really comes from the sailors physical, technical and tactical ability. It’s a boat that requires a lot of strength and technique. The girls at the top are real athletes with incredible strength and endurance and coordination," Kumanan had told the Olympic Channel.

"And the racing comes down to a couple of meters in a good fleet of boats so everything counts," she added.

Laser standard class

The laser standard class made its Olympic debut at the Atlanta 1996 Games. The small boats used in this category have a single mast and are comparatively lighter than the radial class that helps them sail faster.

The boats in this category are originally built by Performance Sailcraft Canada. The standard class is also the original in the Laser family, which also includes the radial and 4.7 variants. It can also be described as the most simplest boat in its family.

The major challenges in this class is the handling of the boat as it quicker and cuts through the water faster.

49er Class

The 49er class requires two members on board to take different roles while sailing. One of the members steers the boat tactically while the other controls the sail as per the wind or movement of the boat.

The class was named after its hull length of 4.99 metres. The men's category of the event was introduced at the Sydney 2000 Games while the women's event came to the fore in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.

In this class, both the crew members present on board, have their own trapeze (for a sailor's harness) . The mast can handle a combined weight of 165 kgs.

The boat has a spinmaker area of 400 sq ft. The challenge in this class, majorly, is the co-ordination between the crew members as the pair and their individual roles are equally important to help them finish on a high.