What type of sailing boats are used at the Olympics?

ILCA 6 and ILCA 7

Designed by Bruce Kirby in 1969, the ILCA 7 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 Olympic debut in 2008, the ILCA 6 is essentially a smaller version of the ILCA 7, using the same fiberglass hull. With a shorter lower-mast and a sail 14 feet smaller than that of the ILCA 7, the boat is more conducive for lighter sailors, making it a great boat for women's racing.


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. Starting at the Paris 2024 Games, the boat will be sailed by a mixed-gender crew for the first time. 

Narca 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, the Nacra 17 made its Olympic Games competition debut at the Rio Games.

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.


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 three 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.


Developed by Mackay Boats, the FX rig was trialed and selected by the ISAF as the women's 49er event for 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).

What type of boards are used at the Olympics?


iQFoil is the newest windsurfer class and will make its Olympic debut at the 2024 Paris Olympics, replacing the RS:X class, which had been a staple of Olympic windsurfing for years. It involves windsurfers equipped with hydrofoils, known as foiling boards, which lift the board out of the water to reduce drag and increase speed. The average speed of the iQFoil is approximately 42 km/h (26 mph), which is significantly faster than the RS:X. In order to achieve maximum speeds, a high level of focus on balancing the board is essential. 

The iQFoil performs best in light winds. The board is wider and shorter than the RS:X, making it compact and agile. 

IKA Formula Kite 

Also making its Olympic debut in Paris is the kiteboarding class Formula Kite. Similar to the iQFoil, Formula Kite also involves hydrofoils. Kiteboarders use a large controllable kite to propel themselves across the water on a small surfboard-like board. The design of Formula Kite boards prioritizes stability, control, and efficiency, enabling competitors to maneuver quickly and smoothly across the water while harnessing the power of the kite. 

The boards are typically lightweight and highly responsive, allowing for precise control during the race. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Olympic sailors use their own boats?

Typically, all boats and equipment are provided by the organizing committee of the Olympic Games or by event organizers. For each class or event, a fleet of class-approved boats are made available for training and racing. This ensures a level playing field for all. However, competitors may bring their own personal equipment, such as sails, rigging, and personal gear. 

What equipment is used for Olympic sailing?

In addition to the boats or boards used at the Olympics, competitors also use sails and rigging specific to their boat. (These include mainsails, jibs, the mast, the boom and rigging components like sheets, halyards, and control lines.) 

Competitors are also required to wear appropriate safety gear including personal flotation devices, wetsuits or drysuits, and helmets in some classes. Competitors may also use GPS devices and radios to aid in racing and communication with support boats or race officials.