The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 8-24, 2008
Competition format and rules


                                                                                     As of 8 Aug 2008


Format of the Race Course

Races are conducted around a course of marker buoys laid by the organisers, referred to as the Race Committee.There may be one, two or possibly three laps to complete a race. The decision on how many laps in a particular race is determined by the Race Committee immediately prior to the start of the race and depends upon the wind conditions and the size of the course.


The Race Committee will alter the course and number of laps to have a race of certain length of time as shown in the table below. The orientation of the course is set so that the first leg of the race is always into the wind. The start is between two boats anchored so that the start line is at right angles to the wind. The time to the start is signalled by the raising of flags on one of the start boats. Because the first leg is orientated to be directly into the wind, and boats cannot sail directly into the wind, they must take a zig zagging course to the first mark and as a result, the boats can spread out over a wide area.


There are up to five race courses laid at the same time with one or two classes racing on the same race area at the same time. The shapes of the courses vary for each event, with some sailing a straight upwind/downwind course,while others sail around four marks laid out in a trapezoid shape.



Each event is an 11 race series (16 races for the 49er). The last Medal Race - will be scheduled on the day designated for each class's medal ceremony, even if the full schedule has not been completed by that day.


Opening series

Scoring uses a low-point scoring system whereby the winner of each race is awarded 1 point; second place is awarded 2 points, etc. A boat that did not start, did not finish or was disqualified will be scored points for the finishing place one more than the number of the boats entered, e.g. if there are 20 boats, a boat that failed to finish will get 21 points.


When five or more races have been completed, a boat's series score will be the total of race scores excluding the worst score. The top 10 boats with the best overall score advance to the Medal Race. All boats advancing will be required to compete in the Medal Race.


Medal Race 

Boats will carry their series scores (total of race scores after discard) through to the Medal Race. Race scores for the
Medal Race will be doubled (i.e. 2 points for first, 4 points for second, and so on) and added to the series score.


Scores for the Medal Race shall not be discarded. For boats assigned to compete in the medal race, ties in the regatta score are broken in favour of the boat finishing higher in the Medal Race.


Any remaining ties will be broken by using the tied boats' opening-series scores according to the rules. If the Medal Race is not completed, medals will be awarded based on the series score for all the prior races. 



During the Medal Race on-the-water umpiring is used. All judges decisions will be made during the race, and immediately after the race final result will be calculated, and medallists awarded. This is possible because there are 10 crews participating in the Medal Race.


This would not be possible in the opening series as it is not practical for-on-water umpires to cover all of the racing area for up to 40 boats. Unlike sports such as Football or Baseball, where all the action is centred around a single location near the ball, the action in sailing is spread out over a wide area with up to 40 boats often taking different routes to sail the course as fast as possible.


Therefore, Sailing has a system of self policing whereby if a team feels that they have been infringed by another team on the water, they can call to the other boat to sail a penalty turn (sailing in a tight circle twice, commonly referred to as a 720).


If the team fails to accept the penalty, or an official observes an infringement of the rules, a protest is filed by the competitor or official after racing has finished and a hearing is convened. There is a time limit of one hour after the end of racing for the day in which a protest may be filed with officials. Therefore it is quite common for results to be amended one to two hours after the completion of racing. Protests are more common than in most other sports and are normal part of Sailing.


In Athens there were 91 protest hearings conducted. The most common rule infringements for disqualification are when two boats are crossing on opposite tacks and when rounding marks. 


Schedule of races 

Because Sailing is very weather dependant, the competition schedule is regularly changed as a result of not enough wind, too much wind, or unstable wind. Any changes to the schedule for the next day are posted in INFO no later than 6 p.m. every evening. The schedule will show the scheduled time of the first race, the number of races for the day, and also which event will be on each racing area. If weather conditions on any given day are not ideal, racing may also be

delayed from the scheduled start time until such time as the wind is considered suitable for racing by the race officials, referred to as the Race Committee.


It is intended that all events sail two races on each day of the scheduled competition except the 49ers, for which it is intended to sail three races on each day of the scheduled competition. Due to weather conditions, up to one extra race per day may be sailed, with no event being more than one race ahead of the schedule. To complete the series, all events will sail 11 races except the 49ers, which will sail 16 races. If a race cannot be started due to the prevailing weather conditions, which may be not sufficient or unstable wind, or too much wind, that race is postponed to a later day.


The Medal Race will be scheduled on the day designated for each class medal ceremony, even if the full schedule has not been completed by that day.


It is possible that due to unacceptable wind conditions that not all scheduled races will be completed by the end of competition. In such cases, the minimum number of races to award a medal is one race. If the Medal Race is not completed, medals will be awarded based on the series score for all the prior races.


Qualification for the Olympic Games

The maximum quota of sailors is 400, split between events as follows:


This number consists of 153 men, 137 women and 110 open (men/women). NOCs are qualified in World Championship events nominated by ISAF and held during the previous two years. After qualification of the NOC, the NOC selects whether or not to accept the qualification, and which team shall represent the NOC. 


Event Name Host NOC Other NOC Entry Quota Sailors per Entry Sailors Number of Races Approx Race Length(minutes)
RS:X-Men's Windsurfer 1 34 35 1 35 11 45
RS:X-Women's Windsurfer 1 27 28 1 28 11 45
Laser-Men's One Person Dinghy 1 25 26 1 26 11 60
Laser Radial-Women's One Person Dinghy 1 25 26 1 26 11 60
Finn-Heavyweight Dinghy 1 39 40 1 40 11 60
470-Men's Two Person Dinghy 1 29 30 2 60 11 60
470-Women's Two Person Dinghy 1 18 19 2 38 11 60
49er-Skiff 1 18 19 2 38 16 60
Tornado-Multihull 1 15 16 2 32 11 60
Star-Men's Keelboat 1 15 16 2 32 11 60
Yngling-Women's Keelboat 1 14 15 3 45 11 60
Total: 400

NB:The actual number of competitiors in the event may vary slightly from these numbers.


Differences between the ISAF World Championship and Olympic Games

At the Olympic Games there is only one representative per NOC, whereas at an ISAF World Championship there may be many representatives. Therefore the number of boats is significantly higher at an ISAF World Championship, requiring a more complex format due to the difficulties in managing a single race with large numbers of boats. Therefore an ISAF World Championship usually is run using a format of splitting competitors into groups and having an opening series and final phase of competition. In the Olympic Games, there is only a final phase, with series of races followed by Medal race. All other areas of competition format are the same in terms of courses sailed and number of races. 


Changes since Athens 2004 Olympic Games

Medal Race, with on water judging only, has been introduced at the 2005 ISAF Congress.

In the RS:X Men and RS:X Women, the type of windsurfer has changed from the Mistral One Design to the Neil Pryde RS:X board and in the Laser Radial – Women's One Person Dinghy (former Single-handed Dinghy Women – Europe) the equipment has changed from the Europe Dinghy to the Laser Radial. In both cases, the equipment is similar to that used in Athens.