Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Sailing demands skill and nerve to master the ever-changing water and weather conditions at the 1964 Games legacy venue of Enoshima Yacht Harbour.

Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"

We will show you the rules and highlights of sailing in one minute. Whether you are familiar with sailing or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.

One Minute, One Sport | Sailing

"One Minute, One Sport" will show you the rules and highlights of Sailing in one minute


Sailing has a long history in the Olympic Games. The sport made its debut in 1900 and, with the exception of 1904, it has appeared at every Olympic Games since then. The sport's name was changed from ‘yachting’ to ‘sailing’ at the Sydney 2000 Games.

The Tokyo 2020 Sailing competition will have six classes, four of them (Laser, RS:X, 470 and 49er) competed by men and women. Raced since Helsinki 1952, the Finn is the oldest class in the Olympic programme and is only for men. Two classes will make their second appearance on the Olympic programme. The 49er FX Skiff for women and the Nacra 17­ — a catamaran and mixed event ­— made their debut in Rio 2016. For Tokyo 2020, the Nacra 17 has evolved to become a fully foiling boat meaning it literally flies above the water.

Event Programme

  • RS:X - Windsurfer (Men/Women)
  • Laser - One Person Dinghy (Men)
  • Laser Radial - One Person Dinghy (Women)
  • Finn - One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) (Men)
  • 470 - Two Person Dinghy (Men/Women)
  • 49er - Skiff (Men)
  • 49er FX - Skiff (Women)
  • Nacra 17 Foiling - Mixed Multihull

The mixed Nacra 17 Foiling — Mixed Multihull and women-only 49er FX — Skiff events were first staged at Rio 2016.

Each event consists of a series of races. Points in each race are awarded according to position: the winner gets one point, the second-placed finisher scores two and so on. The final race is called the medal race, for which points are doubled. Following the medal race, the individual or crew with the fewest total points is declared the winner.

During races, boats navigate a course shaped like an enormous triangle, heading for the finish line after they contend with the wind from all three directions. They must pass marker buoys a certain number of times and in a predetermined order.

Essence of the Sport

Conquering the ocean waters

Sailing is not only a race against other boats but a battle with nature: the height of the waves, the pull of the tides, the strength of the wind and other climatic factors.

It is not possible for boats to sail in a straight line along each leg of the course. When sailing with a headwind or beam wind, boats must catch the wind by moving in a zig-zag pattern. Negotiating the course requires bold changes in direction and tight turns, with crews controlling their vessels by changing the position and orientation of their bodies.

This also demands the mental agility and toughness to adapt to changes in the environment and to the tactics of rival crews.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
2016 Getty Images

Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games

A sport with global appeal

Great Britain has won the most gold medals in sailing, which reflects its status as the country where the competitive sport developed. Close behind is the USA, while other perennial medal-winners include Norway, Spain and France. More recently, Australia and New Zealand have attracted attention for their efforts to break the European/USA dominance.

In the Men's 470 – Two Person Dinghy class, two-person crews sail boats measuring 4.7 metres in length. Australia, the USA and Great Britain have generally divided the gold medals among themselves, although Croatia fielded a gold medal-winning team at the Rio 2016 Games. In the Women's 470 – Two Person Dinghy, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Netherlands have vied for gold at the last three Games.

The Finn – One Person Dinghy is sailing's oldest event. Great Britain has lived up to its reputation as the country where the sport was born by winning five straight gold medals, while Australia has won two successive golds in the Laser – One Person Dinghy, which uses a type of boat that enjoys broad popularity worldwide.

Japan is the venue for the sailing World Cup Series from 2017 through to 2020, enabling athletes to familiarise themselves with some of the waters on which they will compete at the Games. These events will give an exciting foretaste of what to expect in the summer of 2020.