Skip to main content

Sailing 101: Equipment

© 2015 / International Olympic Committee / Bob Martin

Sailing 101: Equipment

Learn more on the equipment of Olympic sailing.

RS:X | LaserLaser RadialFinn470Nacra 17 | 49er49erFX

RS:X
The RS:X is the newest windsurfer class and made its Olympic debut in 2008.

At 2.86 meters long (approximately 9 feet 4 inches), the craft is designed to perform in all wind conditions. The board begins to plane at just eight knots, skimming the water much like water skis do. Like all sailboards, the RS:X requires a large amount of strength and endurance to operate, as athletes are allowed to "pump" the sail. Pumping, first allowed at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, creates artificial wind and allows the craft to reach its highest speed in the given conditions.

All crafts are of the same size and shape, crediting the sailor, not the gear, with a successful race.

Laser
From the junior level to the most competitive, Lasers are one of the most common one-man racing sailboats. Designed by Bruce Kirby in 1969, the boat contributed to a huge increase in recreational sailing because of its speed, affordability and easy maintenance. Relatively lightweight, the boat is 4.23 meters long (approximately 13 feet 9 inches) with a 7.06 square meter mainsail (approximately 76 square feet). Making its first appearance in 1996, the Laser has previously been an open-class boat. With the introduction of the Laser Radial in 2008 however, the Laser is now a men's class only.

Laser Radial
Making its Olympic debut in 2008, the Radial is essentially a smaller version of the Laser. With a shorter lower-mast and a sail 14 feet smaller than that of the Laser, the boat is more conducive for lighter sailors, making it a great boat for women's racing.

Finn
A one-person centerboard dinghy, the Finn is one of the smallest of the 10 classes. And while it's a fairly straightforward rig, its 10.2 square meter adjustable mainsail (approximately 110 square feet) and a 1.5 meter beam (approximately 5 feet) make the boat highly responsive, and even the smallest change in tactic could change a race outcome. Because Finns require so much maneuvering, sailors are typically very strong, measuring taller than six feet in height and weighing more than 175 pounds.

Making one of the longest continuous appearances in the Games, the Finn was designed by Swedish sailor Richard Sarby in 1949 when he entered a competition to design a new boat for the Olympics. The name "Finn" derives from the location of the 1952 Games: Helisinki, Finland.

470
An Olympic class since the Montreal Games in 1976, the boat was originally designed by French architect Andre Cornu in 1963, and was named after its length: 4.70 meters (approximately 15 feet). The two-person centerboard dinghy is malleable to all levels of sailors and is used both recreationally and competitively around the world.

The boat's light frame makes it responsive to movements of the sailors, and thus the skipper and the crew generally complement each other in weight. Three sails are used: the main, jib and spinnaker. Typically taller and heavier than the skipper, the crew hangs out on the trapeze to balance the boat depending on the conditions.

Originally an open-class boat, the event was divided in 1988 when the women's 470 was introduced.

Nacra 17
NACRA started in the U.S. as an acronym for "North American Catamaran Racing Association" in 1975. Selected by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) in May 2012 as the equipment for the mixed multihull event in Rio 2016, the Nacra 17 will make its Olympic Games competition debut on August 10th.

Designed by Morrelli & Melvin of Huntington Beach, Calif., the Nacra 17 was created fully in line with the specifications given by ISAF. An agile high speed machine, the hull of the Nacra 17 measures 5.25 meters long (approximately 17 feet, 2 inches), the beam measures 2.59m long (approximately 8-6) and the mainsail has an area of 14.45 square meters (approximately 155 square feet). The curved daggerboards add a distinct dimension to the multihull catamaran making for reduced sheet loads and mitigating the impact of the crew weight.

49er
Designed by Australian Julian Bethwaite specifically for the 2000 Games in Sydney, the 49er is a high speed, high performance boat.

The name of the 49er derives from its hull length of 4.99 meters (approximately 16 feet). A mainsail, jib, and spinnaker comprise the 3 sails of this two-person skiff. It has twin trapezes and retractable wings that spread 2.74 meters (approximately 9 feet) in width, giving the boat the appearance of a manta-ray. The trapezes allow the crew to use their weight to balance the boat. With a 38 square meter spinnaker area (approximately 409 square feet), it is very large for such a small boat, making the 49er one of the fastest at the Olympics. While its speed is certainly a draw, the 49er is also one of the hardest boats to operate and requires agility and successful teamwork, without which the boat can easily flip.

49erFX
Developed by Mackay Boats, the FX rig was trialed and selected by the ISAF as the women's 49er event at the Rio Games. The FX was specifically designed to accommodate lighter crews and be perfectly suited for the 49er hull. Similar to its 49er counterpart, the 49erFX is a high performance skiff that demands athleticism, skill and balance.  The FX mast height is 7.5 meters (approximately 24 feet), with the mainsail measuring 13.8 square meters (approximately 149 square feet).

More from {{firstLevel.more_from}}

{{firstLevel.data.roofline_text}}

{{firstLevel.data.title}}

{{firstLevel.data.short_desc}}

See More Coverage

More from {{secondLevel.more_from}}

More from Olympics

+