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.
The Laser Radial is generally sailed and raced by lighter weight sailors and is usually the choice of women Laser sailors. Men typically sail the Laser Standard which has a larger sail. The only difference between the Laser Standard and Laser Radial is the size of the sail and the length of the lower section of the mast. Everything else is the same and very tightly specified and controlled by the International Class Association to ensure competitive racing in identical boats. Lasers are single person dinghies. Most larger regattas for the Laser class will generally have separate races for the Laser Standard, Laser Radial and Laser 4.7.
The Laser Radial uses the same top section of the mast as the Laser Standard but uses a smaller bottom mast section. The sail itself is 62 square feet (5.8 m2), about 19% smaller than the full Laser Standard rig. Although the one design Laser rig and hull was introduced in 1971, the Radial sail and mast was created in the 1980s. In 1988 the Laser Women's World Championship began using the Laser Radial. They are a good training aid to start learning to sail a Laser but the Laser Radial is a good racing boat in its own right and some sailors (generally women) progress to become professional Radial sailors. The desired weight for sailing a Radial is 135-140 lbs.
Baird joined Team New Zealand as a coach for the 1995 America's Cup, guiding the syndicate to New Zealand's first ever Cup win. In the same year, he won the World Match Racing Championships, and was named the US's Yachtsman of the Year. The following year, he failed to qualify for the 1996 Olympic Games in the Soling class, missing out again in 2000. In 1999, he skippered Young America in the Louis Vuitton series to determine the challenger for the following year's America's Cup, but the syndicate's challenge faltered when one of its two yachts nearly sank in a race against a Japanese team.1 He joined another American syndicate for the challenger series for the 2003 America's Cup, but was again unsuccessful. Baird has also ventured into open water racing, having competed in round the world races in 1997–98 (for Innovation Kvaerner) and 2001–02 (for Djuice Dragons).2
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.