Though often overlooked, sailing will have more athletes competing at the 2012 London Olympics (380) than gymnastics (292).
There are 10 distinct individual and team sailing categories, six for men and four for women. Formerly known as yachting since first being included at the 1900 Paris Olympics, the competition was renamed sailing for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and beyond. Each country is limited to one boat per category.
When are the sailing events?
The sailing competitions will begin with the first preliminaries on Sunday, July 29. The medal rounds begin on Sunday, Aug. 5, and continue through Saturday, Aug. 11, covering 14 days of the 17-day Olympiad. The full schedule is available here.
Where are the events contested?
The sailing competitions will take place in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour, located in Dorset, on the southern coast of England, approximately 100 miles southwest of London.
What types of races are contested?
There are two categories of races being contested at the London Olympics: fleet racing and match racing.
Only the women's Elliot 6m event will be contested in match racing format.
The remaining events on both the men's and women's slate will all be contested in fleet racing format.
How are the races scored and winners determined?
Competitive sailing in fleet racing format is similar to golf, in that the lower score is better, not the higher. In match racing, it is the opposite.
The women's Elliot 6m, the only match format event, starts with a round-robin stage. The 12 teams race head-to-head against each other. The winner of each heat gets one point.
The top eight crews by points progress to the knockout stage, where crews again race each other in a series of races. Each race is again worth one point, and the series is won by the first crew to reach three points. Knockouts continue until one champion remains.
In fleet racing, each medal event has a series of races with all competitors involved at once instead of a round-robin format. Points are awarded in each race in ascending order based on finish: first place receives one point; second place receives two points; and so on.
After 10 races, the worst score for each athlete (or each crew if competing in a team-event) are discarded, similar to tossing the lowest judges score in a gymnastics competition. The remaining points are added together.
The 10 best athletes/crews then advance to the medal race. Points assessed in the medal race are doubled, so first place gets two points; second gets four; and so on.
It is not the actual outcome of the medal race that determines the winner. The points total after the medal race determines what athletes/crews are awarded medals based on the cumulative totals. As noted, the athlete/crew with the lowest number of points accumulated is the winner.
Though more of a fisherman than a sailor himself, Dave is a fan and frequent spectator of sailing competitions on the Great Lakes, and can often be found cheering on friends from the comfort of the dock.