What Sailboats Are Used In The Olympics?

What Sailboats Are Used In The Olympics? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

May 19, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Laser is the most popular Olympic sailboat brand in the world
  • Men and women compete with similar sailboats in the Olympics
  • Olympic sports have evolved over time and so have the types of boat classes
  • iQFoil and kiteboarding are making their first appearance in Olympic sailing
  • Sailors have to adapt to certain boat types and be used to a course

Various types of sailboats are specifically used for Olympic sailing. But what sailboats are used in the Olympics?

The Laser Radial, RS:X, and Nacra 17 are a few of the sailboats used for Olympic games. These are used in different sailing competitions such as dinghy, high performance skiff, and mixed multihull. The Olympic sailing classes will vary and so will the boats being used.

Upon closer analysis, the Laser Radial is arguably the most popular boat when it comes to olympic sailing. A lot of these boats are also great for other activities on the water, not just Olympic competition.


Table of contents

The Types of Sailboats Used in the Olympics

Each time the Olympics occurs the types of races slightly change. This also changes the type of boat that is going to be used. The International Sailing Federation chooses the types of sailboats used in each Olympic games.

For the following boats we will look at the 2024 Olympics taking place in Paris. Men and women will use different boats. There will also be two new events for the first time ever known as iQFoil and kiteboarding so they will be making their Olympic debut.

Men’s Boat Types

The men’s class will be using the following boat types:

  • Single handed or one person dinghy sailing: ILCA 7
  • Men’s skiff boats: 49er
  • Windsurfer (new) – iQFoil and kiteboarding

Women’s Boat Types

The women will compete with very similar boat types as follows:

  • Single handed dinghy: ILCA 6
  • Skiff: 49er FX (lighter and slightly smaller than the 49er)
  • Windsurfer (new): iQFoil and kiteboarding.

Mixed Class

When looking at the mixed class of Olympic sailing they showcase:

  • Mixed multihull for both men and women: Nacra 17 Foiling
  • Mixed Two Person Dinghy for both men and women: 470

Boat Classification for Olympic Sailing

As mentioned, the boat types vary based on men’s and women’s racing events for Olympic classes. Each year the classification might change so sailors must be prepared to do their best for a medal race. But what do the boat classifications mean for Olympic world sailing?

Dinghy Sailing

Dinghy Sailing
Dinghy Sailing

Dinghy sailing uses a small boat meant for one individual to sail and is present in all events across the board for Olympic games. The most common dinghy boat that is raced for Olympic sailing is the ILCA 7 and was used recently in the Tokyo Olympics. The main difference is that the mixed class features a two person sailing competition or referred to as two person dinghy racing.



Windsurfing requires strong winds in order to be successful. With a combination of strong wind conditions and the waves sailors must utilize both in order to succeed. For the first time ever in the Olympic games the men’s windsurfer and women’s windsurfer will be racing with iQFoil.

Skiff Racing

Skiff Racing
Skiff Racing

Skiffs are a flat bottom boat that are withered powered by sails or you can use oars. The women’s skiff uses the 49er FX which is slightly smaller and less weight than the men’s skiff. This allows easier handle for the women’s skiff races since there is less crew weight on board.

Multihull Racing

Multihull Racing
Multihull Racing

In multihull races it means that boats with more than one hull are competing. The Nacra 17 Foiling is a catamaran that uses a foil to help race. Depending on the type multihull race that is being ran will determine the type of multihull being used.

Boat Features That Make a Great Olympic Sailboat

A racing boat that is used for a sailing competition on the water is only as good as the person sailing it. However there are boats that are designed to go faster than others and make the difference in gold medals or none at all.

Types of Sails

The perfect combination of sails that are optimized for Olympic games are a bermuda sail and gaff sail. This allows the sailor to utilize more sailing area since there is limited pole space.

Since you have the combination of both sails, it allows you to powerfully sail without having the drawbacks from a longer pole such as difficulty maneuvering and strength needed to change direction. This means you can control the boat more efficiently.

Types of Rigging

Bermuda is the most common sail but gaffs are a close second. With a combination of both this means the rigging setup is likely different the just one or the other. Depending on the rig setup it might be best to operate a few different types in order to see which rigging is best for you.

Easy to Use

The best sailing boats in the Olympic games are ones that sail the fastest but are also the easiest to use. With proper training the boat might not matter a lot if you are experienced but every second matters. You want boats that allow you to execute a sailing plan and remain steady while using in medal events.

What is Olympic Sailing?

Olympic sports have had a variety of changes since the 1900’s. Sailing was introduced during this time and has been a part of the Olympics around 1908. Women were allowed to compete in 1988 for sailing and two Americans won a gold medal.

The phrasing was originally called yachting and then sailing in the 2000’s to help mirror the common way to describe boats on the water with sails. There have been many variations of sailboats that are used as well as the race types conducted. The boat types have grown into specific monotypes due to their size and weight.

How to Be an Olympic Sailor

In order to compete for the 2024 Paris Olympics sailors must compete in a variety of events in order to earn quotas such as the 2023 Sailing World Championships. There are certain qualifications that you must meet before applying.

Sailing World Championships

In August 2023 sailors will compete in the Netherlands to try to earn quotas for various racing events. The following events will take place and the amount of quotas will be given:

  • Windsurfing: 11 for both men and women
  • Kite: eight for both men and women
  • Dinghy: 16 for both men and women and eight for mixed
  • Skiff: 10 for both men and women
  • Mixed Multihull: Nine

ILCA World Championships

Men and women that are not yet qualified for the Sailing World Championships can qualify for the dinghy events. The highest rated in the National Olympic Committee can compete for this in 2024 if they are not able to land a spot in the 2023 Sailing World Championships.

Continental Qualification

Sailors that have not yet qualified for the Sailing World Championships and the ILCA can receive quotas among various regions. There are 74 quotas in total that will be awarded which are going to be used for:

  • 31 for men
  • 31 for women
  • 12 for mixed

Last Chance

The highest ratings in the National Olympic Committee that are not yet qualified from the previous events can receive 34 quota places in the Last Chance Regatta. This event will take place some time in 2024 and include:

  • Windsurfing: Five for both men and women
  • Kite: Five  for both men and women
  • Dinghy: Three for both men and women and four for mixed
  • Skiff: Three for both men and women
  • Mixed Multihull: Three

Emerging Nations and Universality

Those that are part of the World Sailing Emerging Nations Program who have not yet qualified must compete in the Last Chance Regatta. Based on those results one man and women each per windsurfing and dinghy sailing can earn quotas.

In Universality places there will be four quotas total. Two are for the men’s while the other two are for the women’s. These are only for the dinghy races and are accounted for by the Tripartite Commission once the Last Chance Regatta has been completed.

What Sailboats Are Used In The Olympics?
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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