How is sailing scored at the Olympics?

During the opening series, boats earn points equivalent to the position in which they finish each race (the first boat to finish receives one point, the second boat to finish receives two points, etc.).

The medal race is both shorter and closer to the shore. Scores in the medal race are doubled (two points for first place, four points for second place, etc.). On-the-water umpires oversee the race, and sailors make any protests during competition.

Scores from the medal race are combined with competitors' scores from the opening series to determine their final ranking. In the event of a tie in the overall score, the better ranking will go to the boat that finished with a better time in the medal race.

There are many rules sailors must follow in fleet racing. The violation of these rules adds points to a final score. Depending on the violation, letter scores are awarded, which usually have a point-score equivalent to the number of boats in the race, plus one.

What are the rules for right-of-way in Olympic sailing?

Strict right-of-way rules govern how boats may move among each other in a race. The right-of-way rules revolve around the direction of the boats in relation to the wind.

The basic right-of-way rules are:

  1. When two boats on opposite tacks meet, the onus is on the port-tack boat to stay clear of the starboard boat. A boat is on port tack when the wind comes from the left side of the boat; a starboard tack is when the wind is on the right side.
  2. When two boats on the same tack overlap or are roughly side-by-side, the most leeward (downwind) craft has the right of way, and the boat closest to the wind must stay clear.
  3. When two boats on the same tack are not overlapped, the overtaking boat must stay clear. Boats that breach a right-of-way rule can exonerate themselves by voluntarily sailing two complete circles, a penalty known as a 720. The men's and women's skiff classes and the mixed multihull are required to sail only one circle, known as a 360. Boats that elect not to do so risk disqualification at the end of the race if they cannot justify their actions.

What is a general recall Olympic sailing?

A general recall occurs when the race committee determines that a fair start was not achieved and decides to recall all boats to restart the race. This decision is typically made if a significant portion of the fleet is over the starting line or if there are other issues affecting the fairness of the start, such as a shift in wind direction or a boat being over the line at the start signal. 

When a general recall is signaled, the race committee displays the "First Substitute" flag and fires a sound signal (usually a horn). This indicates to sailors that the race is being postponed and that they should return to the starting area for a new start. 

What is the time limit for a sailing protest at the Olympics?

A competitor may lodge a protest against another boat or the race committee by hailing "Protest" to the alleged violator, displaying a red protest flag and submitting the relevant forms within 90 minutes of the last boat finishing the race. Five independent jurors from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) hear the protest, and other competitors may appear as witnesses for either side.

Other rules

  • A boat is considered to have finished a race as soon as any part of its hull or equipment, in its usual position, crosses the finish line in the direction from the last mark
  • Each competitor must wear a personal flotation device
  • The maximum weight of competitors' clothing and equipment is specified. It usually is limited to 8 kilograms (17 pounds), not including a hiking or trapeze harness and clothing worn only below the knee