Yacht racing is the head-to-head race of sea vessels powered by sails around courses marked by buoys or across large open-water stretches using navigational devices.
The sport originated from The Netherlands in the 17th century and was quickly introduced in England by Charles II in the early 1800’s. The America’s Cup is the industry’s longest-running international competition, having launched in 1851.
Today, the race features some of the fastest catamarans in the world. Many are powered by hydrofoil technology that enables them to skate on the water’s surface. The F50 catamaran reached a top speed of 49.7 knots (roughly 57 mph) in 2019 during sea trials with the catamaran racing series SailGP.
Yachting has been a part of the Olympics since 1970. The races are divided based on the type and size of the vessel. There are nine official class ranges spanning 12ft 1in to 26ft 9in. Races are performed in a fleet racing style with each boat flying national flags to identify them in the water.
In the Olympics...
• There are 10 races carried out per class, 15 for the newer and more powerful 49er. Points are awarded based on the finishing position of boats in each race. First place gets one point, while second place gets two points, and so on.
• The ten boats with the lowest (aka best possible) score qualify for the Medal Race -- a shorter 30-minute race where points are doubled and added to the original scores to determine race positioning.
• In the match racing component of this event, boats compete head-to-head and the first to cross the line wins the race while the loser gets knocked out. Teams compete in a round robin series of matches with the top teams progressing to the final knockout stages.