Life after the Olympic Games

Published on May 9th, 2019

Changes within the Olympic Sailing Program bring frustration. Class organizations like the connection, countries invest in the events, and sailors commit to the pathway.

Yet, change is part of the history of Olympic Sailing. Since the 1896 Olympics, there have been 49 different boat types. Looking toward Paris 2024, more change is proposed.

There was a time when boat types were viewed as Olympic events, and selected as such. What’s different now is how Olympic events are envisioned, and then boat types are selected to fulfill the vision. This has led to more boats being created specifically for the event.

The key difference, in general, is how with the older model, these class organizations are already established, and the foundation of the class can better endure change. With the later model, elimination from the Olympics likely means the dissolution of the class.

Here is how it breaks down for Tokyo 2020:

Established classes
Laser, Laser Radial

Created classes

49er, 49erFX
Nacra 17

The Dragon Class, which was used in seven Olympic Games (1948 to 1972), is among the established classes that remain strong today, a tribute to those that embrace this 29-foot keelboat. Originally designed by Johan Anker in 1929, its initial intent was as a simple weekend cruiser for the islands and fjords of the Scandinavian seaboard.

The Dragon’s long keel and elegant metre-boat lines remain unchanged, but today Dragons are constructed using the latest technology to make the boat durable and easy to maintain. However, exotic materials are banned throughout the boat, and strict rules are applied to all areas of construction to avoid sacrificing value for a fractional increase in speed.

Fiberglass is now the most popular material, but both new and old wooden boats regularly win major competitions while looking as beautiful as any craft afloat. Additionally, the Dragon’s enduring appeal lies in the careful development of its rig, which provides a well-balanced sail plan to make boat handling easy for lightweights.

The Dragon Gold Cup is one of the most famous trophies in the history of yachting, launched in 1937, and remains a popular event today. Entries for the 2019 edition, to be held June 9-14 in the Netherlands, exceed 100 boats with teams from sixteen countries and four continents participating.

Quoting from the original deed, the intention of this competition is to “bring together as many competitors of different nationalities as possible in a friendly spirit.” Seems to be working.

* NOTE: The Finn arguably deserves to be in both groups. It was designed in 1949 to be the dinghy at the 1952 Olympic Games, but it has an immensely strong and devoted class that extends far beyond the Olympics, exemplified at the 2018 Finn World Masters which attracted 348 competitors.

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