Olympic Sailing History

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Paralympics History

1996 — Present

Sailing first appeared as a Paralympic demonstration sport at Atlanta 1996 before being included as a full medal sport for Sydney 2000. The 2.4mR and Sonar were the two classes contested in Australia with 15 entries in the Sonar and 17 in the 2.4mR.

In Athens 2004 the same classes were contested this time the Sonar attracting 15 entries and 16 sailors competing in the 2.4mR.

Beijing 2008 saw the introduction of a third class – the SKUD 18 – and a record entry of 80 athletes sailing in 41 boats from across 25 nations.

  • 16 x 2.4mR
  • 11 x SKUD
  • 14 x Sonar

Internationally sailing for disabled people began in the 1980s. The first International Handicap Trophy Regatta was officially recognised and held in Switzerland and subsequent regattas with that name were held in Germany, the Netherlands, France and again in the Netherlands.

In 1988 the International Handicap Sailing Committee (IHSC) was established. IHSC organised regattas, provided a forum for exchanging information and acted as a medium for promoting sailing for disabled people.

In 1990 disabled sailing for recognised by the International Disabled Sports Organisations when it was included in the World Games for the Disabled held in Assen in the Netherlands.

A year later IHSC was recognised by the world sailing body, then the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU) and the first IYRU World Disabled Sailing Championship was held in Nyon, Switzerland.

Later in 1991 IHSC took on its current name of the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS). In 1992 the IFDS constitution was formally adopted and the IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championship was sailed in Spain, alongside, but not part of, the Barcelona Paralympics.

Since 1992 numerous regional, international and world championships have been organised under the IFDS banner in locations such as Spain, the USA Greece, Italy, China and Australia. Equipment has included multihulls as well as monohulls. All kinds and levels of disability are reflected in the competitors, including persons with visual impairments and very severely disabled sailors.

The first Paralympic sailing demonstration regatta took place at Atlanta 1996. In the Sonar (plus reserve), the gold medal was won by the British crew of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis, Tony Downs and Ian Harrison.

After sailing had been formally contested as a full Paralympic sport in Sydney and Athens, in 2004 the IFDS applied to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for an additional Paralympic classes event specifically for severely disabled sailors. The inclusion of a third event – the SKUD – for Beijing 2008 was approved by the IPC in 2005, providing the current, line-up of classes.

In 2012 Great Britain won their first ever Paralympic medal. Helena Lucas, the only women in the open 2.4mR class won gold, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell followed this up with bronze in the SKUD.

In 2014 IFDS merged with World Sailing to create the Para World Sailing Committee. At the start of 2015 the IPC announced the sailing would not be part of the 2020 Paralympic Games, World Sailing have been working to reverse this decision for 2020 and beyond.  

Olympics History

Total Medals

Over the course of our history we’re proud to have won 55 medals, won by 127 different atheletes at different disciplines. 1/4 of all British medals ever won.

26Gold
18Silver
11Bronze

1900 — 1936

The first Olympic regatta was held on the River Seine at Paris 1900, following the birth of the modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. Britain won five medals - the first of 50 Olympic sailing medals the nation has won in total.

It wasn’t until the first London Games in 1908 that the sport became a permanent Olympic fixture. These Games also saw Scotland host its first and only Olympic event when the 12m class was contested between just two entries - an English boat, Mouchette, and a Scottish entry, Hera – on the River Clyde. Hera won the historic series.

Britain didn’t compete at Stockholm 1912 while Berlin 1916 was cancelled due to World War I.

Ton and Metre classes dominated the early years but at Antwerp 1920 dinghies (12ft and 18ft) were raced for the first time.

Few competitors contested Olympic yachting during this era and only those of independent means. However it wasn’t unusual for women to compete. Brits Frances Rivett-Carnac (1908 London) and Dorothy Wright (1920 Antwerp) won Olympic titles with their husbands.

Berlin 1936 was the last Games before World War II broke out in 1939.

8m Olympic Class racing off Ryde
4Gold
0Silver
1Bronze

Paris, France

Gold Medalists

  • CAMPBELL, Lorne - 0.5 - 1 Ton Under the Thames Measurement Rule
  • CURRIE, Lord - 0.5 - 1 Ton Under the Thames Measurement Rule
  • GRETTON, John H. - 0.5 - 1 Ton Under the Thames Measurement Rule
  • HOPE, Linton - 0.5 - 1 Ton Under the Thames Measurement Rule
  • SHAW, William - 2 - 3 Ton Under the Thames Measurement Rule
  • TAYLOR, Howard - 3 - 10 Ton Under the Thames Measurement Rule
  • CAMPBELL, Lorne - Open Class
  • CURRIE, Lord - Open Class
  • GRETTON, John H. - Open Class
  • HOPE, Linton - Open Class
Bronze Medalists
  • HORE, Edward - 10 - 20 Ton Under the Thames Measurement Rule
0Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

St Louis, USA

No British sailors competed at these Games.

4Gold
1Silver
1Bronze

London, England

Gold Medalists

  • GLEN-COATS, Thomas - 12 Metre
  • DOWNES, John Henry - 12 Metre
  • BUCHANAN, John - 12 Metre
  • BUNTEN, James Clark - 12 Metre
  • DOWNES, Arthur Drummond - 12 Metre
  • DUNLOP, David - 12 Metre
  • MACKENZIE, John - 12 Metre
  • MARTIN, Albert - 12 Metre
  • TAIT, Thomas Gerald - 12 Metre
  • ASPIN, John Symington - 12 Metre
  • MCMEEKIN, Thomas D. - 6 Metre
  • LAWS, Gilbert Umfreville - 6 Metre
  • CRICHTON, Charles William Harry - 6 Metre
  • RIVETT-CARNAC, Charles James - 7 Metre
  • BINGLEY, Norman - 7 Metre
  • DIXON, Richard Travers - 7 Metre
  • RIVETT-CARNAC, Frances Clytie - 7 Metre
  • COCHRANE, Blair Onslow - 8 Metre
  • WOOD, Arthur Nicholas Lindsay - 8 Metre
  • SUTTON, Henry Cecil - 8 Metre
  • RHODES, John Eastwood - 8 Metre
  • CAMPBELL, Charles Ralph - 8 Metre
Silver Medalists
  • MACIVER, Charles - 12 Metre
  • KENION, James G. - 12 Metre
  • BAXTER, James - 12 Metre
  • DAVIDSON, William P. - 12 Metre
  • JELLICO, John F. - 12 Metre
  • LITTLEDALE, Thomas A.r. - 12 Metre
  • MACLEOD-ROBERTSON, Charles - 12 Metre
  • SPENCE, John F.d. - 12 Metre
  • ADAM, John M. - 12 Metre
  • MACIVER, Cecil R. - 12 Metre
Bronze Medalists
  • HIMLOKE, Philipp - 8 Metre
  • HUGHES, Collingwood Alfred - 8 MetreHORE
  • HUGHES, Saint John Frederick - 8 Metre
  • RATSEY, George Ernest - 8 Metre
  • WARD, William Dudley - 8 Metre
0Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

Stockholm, Sweden

No British sailors competed at these games.

2Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

Antwerp, Belgium

Gold Medalists

  • WRIGHT, Cyril Macey - 7 Metre
  • WRIGHT, Dorothy Winifred - 7 Metre
  • COLEMAN, Robert Henry - 7 Metre
  • MADDISON, William J. - 7 Metre
0Gold
1Silver
0Bronze

Paris, France

Silver Medalists

  • JACOB, Edwin Ellis - 8 metre
  • RIGGS, Thomas Cooper - 8 metre
  • RIGGS, Walter - 8 metre
  • RONEY, Ernest John Roney - 8 metre
0Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

Amsterdam, Holland

No medalists

0Gold
1Silver
0Bronze

Los Angeles, USA

Silver Medalists

  • JAFFE, Peter - Star
  • RATSEY, George Colin - Star
1Gold
0Silver
1Bronze

Berlin, Germany

Gold Medalists

  • BOARDMAN, Christopher Alan - 1936 Olympic Monotype (later called O-Jolle Class)
  • BELVILLE, Miles Aubrey - 1936 Olympic Monotype
  • HARMER, Russell Thomas - 1936 Olympic Monotype
  • LEAF, Charles Symonds - 1936 Olympic Monotype
  • MARTIN, Leonard Jack - 1936 Olympic Monotype
Bronze Medalists
  • SCOTT, Peter Markham - Flying Duchman

1940 — 1944

No games due to war.

1948 — 1956

‘The Austerity Games’ of London 1948 signalled the resumption of Olympic competition.

The fleet of 78 sailors in Torquay was then the biggest Olympic sailing fleet ever. The Swallow class gold won by David Bond and Stewart Morris provided the British highlight.

London 1948 also saw the debut of the most successful Olympic sailor of all-time – Denmark’s Paul Elvstrøm. He won Firefly gold, the first of four consecutive golds, and over 40 years went on to appear at an incredible eight Olympics.

Competition during this era was strictly amateur - sailors had full-time careers and Olympic sailing was a hobby. Competition got tougher with bigger fleets. Britain won five medals between 1948 and 1956, compared to 16 between 1900 and 1936.

Helsinki 1952 saw the Olympic debut of the Finn class, with Charles Currey winning Britain’s only sailing medal, taking silver behind Elvstrøm.

Melbourne 1956 provided different challenges altogether not least getting there!

Bluebottle, a Dragon class boat given to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as a wedding gift in 1948, won bronze while there were also British medals in the 12m2 Sharpie (bronze) and 5.5m (silver) classes.

1Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

Berlin, Germany

Gold Medalists

  • MORRIS, Stewart Harold - Swalllow
  • BOND, David John Were - Swalllow
0Gold
1Silver
0Bronze

Berlin, Germany

Silver Medalists

  • CURREY, Charles Norman - Finn
0Gold
1Silver
2Bronze

Berlin, Germany

Silver Medalists

  • PERRY, Robert Stanley Gr. - 5.5 Metre
  • KENNEDY-COCHRAN-PATRICK, Neil Aylmer - 5.5 Metre
  • DILLON, John Desmond - 5.5 Metre
  • BOWKER, David Graham - 5.5 Metre
Bronze Medalists
  • BLACKALL, Jasper Roy - 12 Square Metre Sharpie
  • SMITH, Terence James George - 12 Square Metre Sharpie
  • MANN, Graham Hargrave - Dragon
  • BACKUS, Ronald - Dragon
  • JANSON, Jonathan - Dragon

1960 — 1964

Vernon Stratton

Medals may have been in short supply for Britain at Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 but these Games witnessed the emergence of a number of men, not least Vernon Stratton, Keith Musto and Robin Aisher, whose lasting legacy was arguably more significant.

Stratton finished 12th on his Olympic debut in the Finn class in Rome but his experience shaped him indelibly and as RYA Olympic Manager for Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 he orchestrated a revolution in approach and professionalism still seen in today’s set-up.

Olympic Trials

Musto, with Tony Morgan, won Flying Dutchman silver, Britain’s only sailing medal at Tokyo 1964, the first time Asia hosted an Olympics. But Musto and Morgan pioneered cutting-edge sports science techniques and Keith went on to establish the Musto clothing brand.

Although still a strictly amateur competition, the first signs of a more professional approach began creeping in as nations in the East and West started aligning their Olympic medal hauls with the ‘success’ of their particular political ideology and global status.

In Rome, Jean Mitchell, competing in the Star class with husband Roy, was the last woman to represent Britain in sailing until 1984.

0Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

Rome, Italy

No medalists.

0Gold
1Silver
0Bronze

Tokyo, Japan

Silver Medalists

  • MUSTO, Franklyn Keith - Flying Dutchman
  • MORGAN, Anthony William Crawfort - Flying Dutchman

1968 — 1976

Rodney Pattisson on the Podium

Rodney Pattisson’s historic achievement of two golds at Mexico 1968 (with Iain MacDonald-Smith) and Munich 1972 (with Christopher Davies) and one silver at Montreal 1976 (with Julian Brooke-Houghton) in the Flying Dutchman remained unbeaten until Ben Ainslie won his third gold – and fourth Olympic medal in total – at Beijing 2008.

Benefiting from Vernon Stratton’s professionalism, Britain’s sailors enjoyed a golden period winning six medals altogether at these three Games, making this Britain’s longest spell of consistent success since the early years.

Olympic Sailing

Twins Adrian and Stuart Jardine were the last siblings to date to sail for Britain at the same Games in 1968 while it was third time lucky for Robin Aisher, who finally won an Olympic medal, 5.5m bronze, in Mexico.

In Munich the number of classes increased from five to six, while for Montreal, two established keelboats, the Star and Dragon, were replaced by the modern, glassfibre, trapezing 470 and the multihull Tornado in a bid to modernise the Games.

Reg White, with brother-in-law John Osborn, won Tornado gold with a race to spare. The victory was even sweeter as White played a lead role in the catamaran’s development.

1Gold
0Silver
1Bronze

Mexico City, Mexico

Gold Medalists

  • PATTISON, Rodney Stuart - Flying Dutchman
  • MACDONALD-SMITH, Iain Somerled - Flying Dutchman
Bronze Medalists
  • AISHER, Robin Allingham - 5.5 Metre
  • JARDINE, Adrian - 5.5 Metre
  • ANDERSON, Paul Richard - 5.5 Metre
1Gold
1Silver
0Bronze

Munich, Germany

Gold Medalists

  • PATTISON, Rodney Stuart - Flying Dutchman
  • DAVIES, Davies - Flying Dutchman
Silver Medalists
  • WARREN, Alan Kemp - Tempest
  • HUNT, David Charles Gower - Tempest
1Gold
1Silver
0Bronze

Montreal, Canada

Gold Medalists

  • WHITE, Reginald J. - Tornado
  • OSBORN, John - Tornado
Silver Medalists
  • PATTISON, Rodney Stuart - Flying Dutchman
  • BROOKE-HOUGHTON, Julian - Flying Dutchman

1980 — 1996

Star Olympic Class

The period 1980 – 1996 started in controversial circumstances, with the British sailing team’s absence from Moscow 1980, but ended with the emergence of the country’s biggest ever Olympic sailing star, Ben Ainslie.

Britain won just five Olympic sailing medals at Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, with Bryn Vaile and Mike McIntyre bringing home Britain’s only gold, thanks to their unforgettable Star victory in monstrous conditions in Seoul.

Ainslie’s arrival was a much-needed shot in the arm. The then shy 19-year-old won the first of his four consecutive Olympic medals – Laser class silver - on his Games debut in 1996.

This was an era of significant evolution in Olympic sailing.

Windsurfing was first introduced in 1984 for men and in 1992 for women, while in 1988 the first women-only event - the two-person 470 class - was included to address the paltry number of women competing in Olympic sailing.

The first Paralympic sailing demonstration regatta also took place in 1996. In the Sonar three-person keelboat (plus reserve), the gold medal was won by the British crew of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis, Tony Downs and Ian Harrison.

Andy Cassell winning Paralympic Gold
0Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

Moscow, Russia

No British sailors competed at these games.

0Gold
1Silver
0Bronze

Los Angeles, USA

Bronze Medalists

  • RICHARDS, Jonathan - Flying Dutchman
  • ALLAM, Peter Frank - Flying Dutchman
1Gold
0Silver
0Bronze

Seoul, Korea

Gold Medalists

  • MCINTYRE, Michael Mackay - Star
  • VAILE, Philip Brynolf - Star
0Gold
0Silver
1Bronze

Barcelona, Spain

Bronze Medalists

  • SMITH, Lawrie - Flying Duchman
  • CRUIKSHANK, Robert Gordon - Flying Duchman
  • STEWART, Ossie - Flying Duchman
0Gold
2Silver
0Bronze

Atlanta, USA

Silver Medalists

  • MERRICKS, John - 470
  • WALKER, Ian - 470
  • AINSLIE, Ben - Laser

2000 — 2012

Ben Ainslie in the Olympic class Finn in Bejing 2008, where he won a gold medal

The most successful period in Britain’s sailing history with 16 medals won in total - nine gold, four silver and three bronze - at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

The reason? The RYA was quick to capitalise on the arrival of National Lottery funding in 1997 and implemented a highly-strategic Olympic programme enabling sailors to run professional, full-time campaigns underpinned by access to an extensive support network of coaching, sports science, logistics, technical projects and meteorology experts. The sailors also have greater support with the costs of training and competing internationally.

Ben Ainslie’s golden Finn class hat-trick provides the headline achievement but Shirley Robertson, Iain Percy, Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb all became two-time Olympic champions. Nick Rogers, Joe Glanfield and Simon Hiscocks also twice won Olympic silverware while Ian Walker made it back-to-back silvers in Sydney.

Yngling Girls celebrate

Athens 2004 saw Nick Dempsey claim Britain’s first Olympic windsurfing medal, bronze, and Bryony Shaw became the first British woman to achieve the same feat at Beijing 2008.

Sailing also became a full Paralympic sport at Sydney 2000 and at Beijing 2008 a third class, the SKUD two-person skiff, was introduced.

Bryony Shaw, British Windsurfing Medallist in 2008

Sailors brought home five medals from their home waters of Weymouth and Portland during London 2012. Ben Ainslie became the most successful sailor in Olympic history winning a fourth gold medal. British 470 stars Luke Patience - Stuart Bithell and Hannah Mills-Saskia Clark both won gold in their respect fleets.

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson won their second Olympic medal together, missing out on gold by just two points. Nick Dempsey won his second windsurfing medal.

Great Britain also won their first ever Paralympic medal, Helena Lucas won gold in the 2.4mR class, meanwhile Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrel won bronze in the SKUD.

3Gold
2Silver
0Bronze

London, Great Britain

Gold Medalists

  • ROBERTSON, Shirley - Europe
  • AINSLIE, Ben - Finn
  • PERCY, Iain - Finn
Silver Medalists
  • BARKER, Ian - 49er
  • HISCOCKS, Simon - 49er
  • WALKER, Ian - Star
  • COVELL, Mark - Star
2Gold
1Silver
2Bronze

Athens, Greece

Gold Medalists

  • AINSLIE, Ben - Finn
  • ROBERTSON MBE, Shirley - Yngling
  • WEBB, Sarah - Yngling
  • AYTON, Sarah - Yngling
Silver Medalists
  • ROGERS, Nick - 470
  • GLANFIELD, Joe - 470
Bronze Medalists
  • DRAPER, Chris - 49er
  • HISCOCKS, Simon - 49er
  • DEMPSEY, Nick - Mistral
4Gold
1Silver
1Bronze

Beijing, China

Gold Medalists

  • AINSLIE, Ben - Finn
  • GOODISON, Paul - Laser
  • PERCY, Iain - Star
  • SIMPSON, Andrew - Star
  • AYTON, Sarah - Yngling
  • WEBB, Sarah - Yngling
  • WILSON, Pippa - Yngling
Silver Medalists
  • ROGERS, Nick - 470
  • GLANFIELD, Joe - 470
Bronze Medalists
  • SHAW, Bryony - RS:
2Gold
4Silver
1Bronze

London, United Kingdom

Gold Medalists

  • AINSLIE, Ben - Finn
  • LUCAS, Helena - 2.4mR
Silver Medalists
  • MILLS, Hannah - 470
  • CLARK, Saskia - 470
  • DEMPSEY, Nick - RS:X
  • PATIENCE, Luke - 470
  • BITHELLl, Stuart - 470
  • PERCY, Iain - Star
  • SIMPSON, Andrew - Star
Bronze Medalists
  • RICKHAM, Alexandra - SKUD
  • BIRRELL, Niki - SKUD