“Learning the ropes” of the Olympic sailing races

–          “You haven’t won the race, if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors”

The above by Danish sailing legend, Paul Elvstrøm, could easily apply to every sport at this year’s Olympics in London. Yet, there is something about sailing that grips both young and old in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour, where this summer sailing competitions take place, as well as on your television screen.

Is it the combination of tactical and technical expertise that distinguishes sailing from other sports? The constant adaptation to ever-changing conditions? Carol Newman Cronin, who competed for the US Sailing team at the 2004 Olympics, describes her sailing experience as a “long and bumpy day on a field that is forever moving.”

Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil in the men's Star Sailing – Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games



Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil in the men’s Star Sailing – Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games



Sailing has been an Olympic sport since 1900. This summer, races are divided in two broader formats: Fleet Racing, which is based on a series of races with points awarded for each race, and Match Racing, where only two boats directly compete against each other.

If you are also struggling to tell your bowline from the figure eight knot, check out the International Sailing Federation’s Glossary of Terms.

An equipment-based sport, sailing would not be the same without polyurethane topside sealants which are used to protect the surface of a sailing boat from moisture, abrasion, chemicals and sun exposure, as well as provide an extra shine. Polyurethane foam is also used in boat fenders to prevent damage when bumped against jetties, quay walls or other vessels because of the material’s ability to float and keep its shape.

The ten races (six men’s, four women’s) at this year’s Olympics are continuing until 11 August; if you are watching the games live and get caught in a summer shower, your raincoat too will likely be coated with protective polyurethane film – used for the same waterproof and windproof qualities as it is on boats!

Good luck to all of the 380 sailing athletes!

Follow the Olympics 2012 Sailing news here.

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