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8 February 2012, 09:11 am
Retracing Roots - London 1908 Olympic Sailing Competition
London 1908 Olympic Games Poster
London 1908 Olympic Games Poster

Olympic Sailing Competition
London, Great Britain

Sailing was declared an integral part of the Olympic Games in 1908, despite it being the only sport that could not take place in a stadium.
Like Paris 1900 the sailing venues were in two locations and at different times. The 6-metre, 7-metre and 8-metre classes raced off Ryde, Isle of Wight and the larger 12-metre classes competed at Hunter's Quay, Clyde. The 15-metre class received no entries.

Royal Victoria Yacht Club was originally chosen to host all of the classes, however with only two entries, both British and from Hunter's Quay, Clyde, a decision was made to use Clyde Corinthian Yacht Club as a second venue.

The 6-metre and 7-metre class sailed the same rectangular 13 mile course, starting and finishing at Ryde Pier. The 6-metres competed in three races whilst the 7-metre sailed two. The 8-metre class sailed a triangular course.

The Olympic Sailing Competition welcomed Belgium, Norway and Sweden whilst France and Great Britain were the only nations who maintained their 100% attendance record.

The Medallists

The IOC Report shows the gold and silver medallist from 1908 (see image below). For a full Medal Table and Results from 1908 check out the London 1908 section on the new ISAF Olympic Games Website here.

No ALT tag specified

No ALT tag specifiedBlair Onslow Cochrane (pictured right), 8-metre class gold medallists, "…the flukiness of the wind - or rather calms - hot sun, and constant shifting of sails, spinnakers, etc., was a magnificent trial of the capabilities of the amateur crew." (1908 Olympic Yacht Races, 2010, p21)

Blair Onslow Cochrane, "One can hardly hope for more honourable men or better sailors than the Norwegian and Swedish competitors we met. They handled their boats well, and it would be impossible to meet keener sportsmen." (IOC Olympic Report, 1908, p350)

Mr T.C. Glen-Coats, owner of 12-metre winner Hera, described the first race, "The distinguishing feature of this race was the extraordinary number of short tacks made during the first heat from Inverkip to Dunoon. Immediately on rounding Inverkip mark Mouchette stayed to get her wind clear; we stayed to try and cover her; and this began the most exciting series of short tacking that I have ever seen or taken part in." (IOC Olympic Report, 1908, p353)


In order to move sailing forward and make it an even playing field at the close of the IOC Report the following suggestion was made, "It has been suggested that in the yacht racing of future Olympic Games it might be better to select a fleet of "one-design" boats in the waters where the Games are held, and let all the crews entered draw lots for them every day, with the proviso that no crew should have the same boat twice." (IOC Olympic Report, 1908, p354)

The Future

Sweden were given the chance to host the fifth Olympiad having first shown an interest in 1894 when they asked for the privilege. But with "wars and rumours of wars" on the horizon and sailing numbers down it was a tough regatta and Olympics for the organising committee.

London 2012 Olympic Sailing Website

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