No one will ever forget YouTube’s drunk Irishman Olympic sailing commentary, but there’s a little more to the whole Olympic sailing thing than that. Okay, a lot more.
Olympic sailing has evolved over the years from one event into an 10-event sport that features both men’s and women’s disciplines as well as a mixed discipline (the only Olympic sport to currently do so). Featuring 10-boat heats of chaos, the events send vessels around a series of buoys, with the first boat to cross the line declared the winner. The races are tournament style, and culminate with a 10-team final. In each race, competitors race in identical boats, a simple (yet often underutilized) way to level the playing field and eliminate equipment advantages. Often events last over an hour, but the contained course makes the action relatively easy to follow—even for the mainlanders.
This year’s sailing events are being held in Guanabara Bay, a Rio bay infamous for being host to garbage, oil, human waste, and dead animals. Rio officials claim to have been working overtime to clean up the area—even employing a helicopter to spot specific concentrated areas of pollution—but environmental experts say the cleanup has been underwhelming. This all in a sport where hitting a plastic bag could be enough to throw a boat off course and cost a medal, and it looks like the sailing world is in for a new level of drama this summer.
Believe it or not, sailing is one of the oldest continuous sports on the Olympic bill. Also known as yachting until 2000, the sport was part of the inaugural Athens Games in 1896, but was cancelled due to bad weather. Sailing is also one of the first gender-independent sports, with women participating with the men from as early as 1900 until 1968. And while the United States leads the overall medal count in all sailing competitions, it is Great Britain that holds the crown for most gold medals with 25.
The German sailing team has teamed up with analytics giant SAP to gain its competitive advantage at this year’s Rio Games. Using GPS technology, the company has worked with Team Germany to break the sport into a series of statistics, removing the idea of “sailing by feel” by providing an accurate breakdown of training and race results. To see if Germany goes full-on Ivan Drago with this thing, keep an eye on the crew from Deutschland.
Australia’s sailing team is taking no chances at this year’s Rio Games, creating a uniform that reportedly “doesn’t get wet”, a preventative measure against the pollution floating around Guanabara Bay. The hydroponic fabric uniform made its debut a week ago, and definitely screams a little bit more lycra body suit than boat shoes, but if it prevents waterborne bacterial infection, can we really blame them?