And two contrasting events, lined up for the program of the 2012 Olympic Games, in London:
Sailing, and Shooting.

My thanks as usual to the good people at, for additional facts and figures.



Sailing is the technique by which a boat moves through water using a sail – a piece of fabric spread to catch the wind.

In generic terms, a sailboat describes any boat that can be propelled by sails.

A yacht is a vessel propelled by sail or power, used for cruising or racing. Also known as an expensive sailboat.

International yacht racing began in 1851, when members of the New York Yacht Club built a 101-foot schooner (a sailing ship) named America. The yacht was sailed to England where it won a trophy called the Hundred Guineas Cup, in a race around the Isle of Wight.  

The trophy was promptly renamed The America’s Cup, and remained in the hands of the United States until 1983, when an Australian yacht finally brought an end to the New York Yacht Club’s 132-year winning streak.

Sailing was first contested as an Olympic sport at the 1900 Paris Games.

The sport is organized under a single set of rules for racing, published by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Most are geared toward avoiding collisions between competing vessels.

Olympic racing is now conducted with boats categorized into classes based on similar weights and measurements.

Races are sailed in what is known as a fleet racing format: fleets of equally-matched boats, racing around the same course area, at the same time.

Courses are designed to incorporate a variety of different sailing angles:
1. Upwind, or in the direction opposite to the direction the wind is blowing.
2. Downwind, or in the direction the wind is blowing, and
3. Reaching, or sailing off the wind, where the wind reaches the craft from the side, or beam, and the sails are set at approximately 45° from the axis of the craft.

A new feature for the 2012 Games is the introduction of a match racing event for women: a head-to-head contest of strategy and tactics, between teams on two identical boats.

The full schedule of events looks like this:


    470 – Two Person Dinghy men
    49er – Skiff men
    Finn – One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) men
    Laser – One Person Dinghy men
    RS:X – Windsurfer men
    Star – Keelboat men


    470 – Two Person Dinghy women
    Elliott 6m – match racing women
    Laser Radial – One Person Dinghy women
    RS:X – Windsurfer women

For the uninitiated (ie. most of us):

A dinghy is a small sailing boat or rowing boat.

A skiff is a lightweight, high performance dinghy used for the men’s competition.

A windsurfer or sailboard is a lightweight, surfboard-like craft with a mast, boom and sail, on which the rider stands.

A keelboat is a sailing boat with a fixed keel – which is the fin-shaped protrusion on the bottom of the hull, that prevents a boat from sliding sideways.

The Elliott 6m is a three-person keelboat used for women’s match racing at the Olympic Games. This event is making its debut in 2012.

The 49er is a two-person, high-performance dinghy class with a low hull and wings, used for open competition.

The Laser is a one-person centerboard dinghy, used for the men’s competition in the Olympic Games.

The Laser Redial is a one-person centerboard dinghy, with a slightly smaller rig and sails than the Laser. It is used for the women’s competition.



Shooting as a sport has been practised for hundreds of years in European countries, with some German shooting clubs dating back more than 500 years.

The sport of small-arms target shooting dates from the invention of the pistol and the rifle in the 16th century. For several centuries the sport was contested only in sporadic fashion, because the firearms of that period were too undependable and inaccurate to meet the requirements of large-scale, organized competition.

Popular interest in rifle shooting reached new heights after the American Civil War (1861-1865), when the sport became a favorite diversion of city dwellers, groups of whom organized weekend target-shooting excursions into the countryside.

The popularity of shooting grew in English-speaking countries with the formation of the National Rifle Association (USA) in 1871, and an organization of the same name, in the UK.

At the inaugural 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, there were just 5 shooting events.

There are 15 events in the Olympic program today, divided into three different groups: rifle, pistol and shotgun.

The rifle and pistol competitions are held on shooting ranges, where marksmen (precision shooters; the competitors) aim at targets at distances of 10, 25 and 50 meters. The bullseye, or center of the target, appears as no more than a tiny dot, at these distances.

In the shotgun event, competitors shoot at flying clay targets propelled at a series of different directions and angles.

Marksmen need to be as steady as possible, to be accurate. In order to achieve this, they use relaxation techniques to drop their heartbeat to half its normal rate, and fire between heartbeats.

Many use blinkers – devices fixed to the sides of their protective shooting glasses. Blinkers keep the wind out of the shooters’ eyes, and prevent distractions from motion to the side.

The program of shooting events for London 2012 looks something like this:


    10m air pistol (60 shots) men
    10m air rifle (60 shots) men
    25m rapid fire pistol men
    50m pistol (60 shots) men
    50m rifle 3 positions (3×40 shots) men
    50m rifle prone (60 shots) men
    double trap (150 targets) men
    skeet (125 targets) men
    trap (125 targets) men


    10m air pistol (40 shots) women
    10m air rifle (40 shots) women
    25m pistol (30+30 shots) women
    50m rifle 3 positions (3×20 shots) women
    skeet (75 targets) women
    trap (75 targets) women

An air pistol uses compressed air or carbon dioxide to discharge lead pellets.

The rifle is a shoulder firearm with spiral grooves cut in the inner surface of the gun barrel (known as rifling) to give the bullet a rotating motion and render its flight more accurate.

The prone position has the marksmen shooting while lying face downward.

The double trap is a device for suddenly releasing or tossing two clay targets into the air, in trapshooting.

Skeet is the sport of shooting at clay pigeons that are hurled upward in such a way as to simulate the flight of a bird.

Karoly Takacs was part of Hungary’s world champion pistol-shooting team in 1938, when an army grenade exploded, crippling his right hand. Ten years later, having taught himself to shoot with his left, he won two gold medals in the rapid-fire class.

Class over, for now.

I’ll be back with more, shortly.

Till then.