Sailing is a well organized and recognized sport. There is a broad variety of kinds of races and sailboats used for racing. Much racing is done around buoys or similar marks in protected waters, while some longer offshore races cross open water. All kinds of boats are used for racing, including small dinghies, catamarans, boats designed primarily for cruising, and purpose-built raceboats. The Racing Rules of Sailing govern the conduct of yacht racing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, model boat racing, dinghy racing and virtually any other form of racing around a course with more than one vessel while powered by the wind.
Over a period of more than 112 years, in a sport that uses complex technical equipment, it goes without saying that classes will be discontinued for use at the Olympics. Reasons for discontinuation of a class did vary from economical, logistical and technological to emotional and even political. Some of the discontinued classes remain very strong International - or National classes. Others filled a niche in a specific area like sailing schools or local club racing. Some faded away.
The “Former Olympic Sailing Classes”, together with their crews form an important and significant part of the history of sailing in general and Olympic Sailing in particular. These tables give an overview of the classes and when they were used for Olympic sailing.
Although the Finn hull has changed little since 1949, there have been developments to the rig. The original spars were made of wood until the late 60’s and early 70’s when there was a slow change to Aluminum masts. Aluminum is significantly more flexible and gives more control over sail shape. It became common place after the 1972 Summer Olympics in Kiel when they were first supplied to Olympic sailors. Recently, carbon fiber masts have become common place in competitive Finn fleets. The sails too have gone through revolution and are now commonly made of Kevlar.
Sir Russell Coutts, KNZM, CBE (born 1 March 1962 in Wellington New Zealand) is a competitive sailor. His achievements include a Gold medal in the Finn Class in the 1984 Olympic Games, winning the America's Cup four times, the ISAF World Youth championships, three World Match Racing Championships, numerous international match race wins and IOR, IMS and One Design World Championship victories. He has a perfect record in America's Cup racing with 20 wins to 0 losses.
In 2005, he designed – together with Slovenian designer Andrej Justin – a new boat called the RC 44; a high performance one design racer created for top level racing in international regattas under strictly controlled Class Rules. The concept and the design features of the RC 44 are dedicated to the amateur helmsmen racing in fleet racing sailing events.
Throughout history sailing has been instrumental in the development of civilization, affording mankind greater mobility than travel over land, whether for trade, transport or warfare, and the capacity for fishing. The earliest representation of a ship under sail appears on a painted disc found in Kuwait dating to the late 5th millennium BC. Advances in sailing technology from the Middle Ages onward enabled Arab, Chinese, Indian and European explorers to make longer voyages into regions with extreme weather and climatic conditions. There were improvements in sails, masts and rigging; navigation equipment improved. From the 15th century onwards, European ships went further north, stayed longer on the Grand Banks and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and eventually began to explore the Pacific Northwest and the Western Arctic.