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Sailing: A look at the history of sport and India at the Olympics

Here, we look at the history of Sailing in Olympics, how Indians have fared in the sport at the prestigious event.

Sailing: A look at the history of sport and India at the Olympics

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 12 Jun 2021 1:21 PM GMT

Sailing as a sport was relatively unknown in India until, four Indian sailors – Nethra Kumanan, Vishnu Saravanan, Ganapathy Chengappa and Varun Thakkar confirmed their ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, during the recently concluded Mussanah Open Sailing Championship.

Here, we look at the history of Sailing in Olympics, how Indians have fared in the sport at the prestigious event:

History of Sailing at the Olympics

Sailing at 1900 Olympics

Sailing has been a part of the Summer Olympics in the very first edition of modern Olympics held at Athens in the year 1896. But, the sport had to be called off then due to rough weather conditions before being held for the first time during the 1900 Paris Games.

Though the sport was not organised during the 1904 St. Louis Games, it has been a part of the Olympics in every edition after that.

Over the years, the United States of America has clinched the most number of sailing medals at the Olympics – 60 medals including 19 gold, 23 silver and 18 bronze. While Great Britain has been the most successful nation in the sport with a total of 58 medals including 29 gold, 19 silver and 11 bronze.

How many events of Sailing will be conducted at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

Throughout all these years, more than 40 different categories of Sailing have made an appearance at the Olympics.

As for the 2020 Tokyo Games, sailors from across the world would be seen competing in the following categories:

· RS:X - Windsurfer (Men/Women)

· Laser - One Person Dinghy (Men)

· Laser Radial - One Person Dinghy (Women)

· Finn - One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) (Men)

· 470 - Two Person Dinghy (Men/Women)

· 49er - Skiff (Men)

· 49er FX - Skiff (Women)

· Nacra 17 Foiling - Mixed Multihull

How are scores decided in Sailing?

Each event in Sailing consists of a series of races. Points awarded according to the position a sailor finishes in i.e. if a player finishes first he/she is awarded one point and if someone finishes second he/she is awarded two points. The sailor with the least amount of points after completion of all the races is named the winner.

Sailing in India

National sailing School , Bhopal

Even though sailing is still not very popular in India, the country does have a very old history with the sport. The very first sailing race in India can be traced to have been held in the city of Bombay as far back as the year 1830.

By the time India became an independent nation in the year 1947, the country already had five sailing clubs located in cities like Bombay, Madras, Bangalore, Nainital and Barrackpore.

Sailing in India is regulated by the Yachting Association of India (YAI) which was constituted in the year 1960. Along with sailing, the YAI also looks after windsurfing and motorboating in the country.

The country's first sailing school was opened at Upper Lake, Bhopal in 2006 by the name National Sailing School (NSS) with the support of Indian Navy and the Yachting Association of India. Currently, sailing clubs affiliated with the YAI are located in Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi, Lakshwadeep, Pondicherry and Andaman and Nicobar.

Indian Sailors at the Olympics

India competed in sailing at the Olympics for the first time during the 1972 Munich Games where the duo of Soli Contractor and AA Basith finished at the 29th position in the Flying Dutchman Class.

Since then quite a few sailors have represented India at the Olympics. The following table represents the list of all the Indian sailors at the Olympics

Farokh Tarapore





Soli Contractor and AA Basith

1972 Munich Games

Flying Dutchman Class


Farokh Tarapore and Dhruv Bhandari

1984 Los Angeles

470 Class


Farokh Tarapore and Kelly Rao

1988 Seoul

470 Class


Farokh Tarapore and Cyrus Cama,

1992 Barcelona

470 Class


Malav Shroff and Sumeet Patel

2004 Athens

49er Class


Nachhatar Singh Johal

2008 Beijing

Finn Class


The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo would be the first time India would have representations in multiple events of sailing at the same edition of the Games. The Tokyo Olympics would also see the first ever Indian woman sailor in action at the Olympics.

The following sailors will represent India at the 2020 Tokyo Game



Nethra Kumanan

Laser Radial Class

Vishnu Saravanan

Laser Standard Class

Ganapathy Chengappa and Varun Thakkar

49er Class

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