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Summer Olympics Sailing Rules: 7 Keys to the Competition

Yahoo Contributor Network

The International Sailing Federation (ISAF), in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has established the rules governing the sailing competitions at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

The 380 athletes competing in 10 events will be held to standard of competition, conduct, and safety with various penalties established for rule violations. The entire 31-page set of rules can be read here, but most are redundant or confusing to non-sailors.

I will try to clarify the seven most important rules.

1. Safety

Just like boaters on local lakes and rivers, athletes competing in Olympic sailing competitions are required to wear personal floatation devices at all times while on-board boats.

2. Security

With security a major concern, there is an interesting rule in place for the London Olympics. If a boat wanders outside the Completion Area, it may be subject to security quarantine and search before being permitted back into the venue.

3. Time Limits

Despite being at the mercy of the wind, all races--except the women's match races--have time limits for completion. Most time limits are 90 minutes. Additionally, there is a finish window (typically 20 minutes) with any boats not completing the race within that distance of the first boat being considered a DNF (did not finish).

4. Communication

Boats competing in events are prohibited from sending or receiving radio communications except in event of emergencies.

5. Scoring

The women's Elliot 6m starts with a round-robin stage. Twelve teams race head-to-head. The winner of each heat gets one point.

The top eight crews progress to the knockout stage, where head-to-head racing continues. Each series is won by the first crew to reach three points. Knockouts continue until one champion remains.

In all other races, which are fleet races and where lowest score is best, points are awarded as follows: First place receives one point; second place receives two points; and so on.

After 10 races (15 races in the Skiff event), each athletes/crews points from the worst race are discarded, and the remaining points are added together.

The 10 best advance to the medal race. Points in the medal race are doubled.

The points total after the medal race determines winners, with the lowest number of points accumulated being best.

6. Damages

As noted, with the exception of match races, lowest score wins. When a boat suffers damage, either from contact with a buoy or other obstruction, or with another boat, penalty points shall be assessed based on quantity of damage. Minor cosmetic damage would be assessed no points, with more serious damage requiring 3 hours or more of repairs assessed a full point. Damage in between would be assessed .5 or .8 points.

7. Penalties

For any rule violation, a boat may be penalized by having to do a turn, rotating a full 360 degrees before continuing. More severe violations may incur two turns.

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.

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