Olympic Sailing - London 2012

2012 is the year the Olympic Games comes to London, but the Olympic and Paralympic Sailing competitions will be held in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour in Dorset, using the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) and the adjoining commercial marina.

The Venue

The area around Weymouth is a natural choice as a venue for such a prestigious event, providing some of the best sailing waters in the UK, with equally good facilities on land. It has already hosted many international sailing events, but one as important as the Olympics calls for many improvements to enhance the sailing facilities. These include a new permanent 250m slipway and new lifting and mooring facilities. The project was one of the first to be completed and was on budget and ahead of schedule, and now will provide world class facilities, not only for the Olympic athletes but also for the local community.

The WPSNA is a £7.85 million purpose built academy and was officially opened on 9th June 2005, by HRH The Princess Royal. Set up as a “Sailing Centre of Excellence”, the academy covers approximately seven acres, adjacent to the sheltered waters of Portland Harbour.

The Racing

The racing schedule will comprise 10 medal events, 6 for men and 4 for women, during the 14 days between 29th July and 11th August. 380 athletes will take part, 237 men and 143 women, in a variety of crafts from dinghies and keelboats to windsurfing boards. There are three disciplines – match racing (one against one), fleet racing (mass start) and windsurfing. The competitors will be accommodated on a cruise liner in the bay, while race officials will stay at local hotels.

The Paralympic events are scheduled for September 1st to 6th, with 80 athletes competing in 3 medal events. These are keelboat competitions for one, two and three persons. The keelboats used provide greater stability for the paralympic athletes and have open cockpits to allow more room for the sailors.

How to watch

There is no seated ticketing for the sailing events so spectators will sit on the ground or stand. For those without tickets, the local authority will be providing a big screen on Weymouth beach and also a range of free sporting and cultural activities.

After the Games

The improved amenities will be of huge benefit to the National Sailing Academy, providing a state-of-the-art facility for competitions, training and local community use. In fact this has already started, with the hosting of the Olympic Windsurfing discipline, RS:X class World Championship in 2009, and the IFDS (Paralympic Sailing) World Championship in 2011.

A little bit of history

London has hosted the Olympic Games on two past occasions, in 1908 and in 1948. The 1908 Games were intended to take place in Rome but the venue was changed after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius required the Italian government to redirect funds. The British team topped the medal count on this occasion. The Olympics of 1944 were due to be held in London, but were cancelled due to World War 11. However, the event in 1948 was held in London, but this time Great Britain only finished 12th in the medal count.

Sailing made its debut in the Olympics held in Paris in 1900 and with the exception of 1904 has appeared in every Olympic Games since then. Until 2000 the sport was known as “yachting” but it was changed to “sailing” at the Sydney 2000 games. Team GB was the most successful nation in the sailing competitions at the last 3 Olympic Games, at Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, led by the triple gold medallist Ben Ainslie CBE.

How to learn more

During 2012 the RYA are touring an exhibition entitled “Our Sporting Life – Sail for Gold”. It is a celebration of the British Olympic and Paralympic sailing heritage and will guide us through our sailing history. A range of memorabilia and photographs from pre-war to present day will be on view and famous past Olympic sailors have shared some of their personal items, which can be seen on display. The exhibition will tour from February to September and will visit Largs in Scotland, Alexander Palace – London, Liverpool, Falmouth and Colchester.

And finally

Our very best wishes to all the competitors. We look forward to a fascinating 14 days of fights and dramas, resulting hopefully in some medals for team GB once again.

Author – Dee White

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