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The different types of sailing make this sport a combination of skill, strategy and a deep connection with nature;

From thrilling fleet races, where dozens of boats compete simultaneously, to intense tactical match races, which pit two boats against each other, to demanding long-distance races, which test endurance and navigational skills over long courses, the world of sailing is vast and diverse.

In this article, we’ll explore the main types of sailing races, explaining how each one works and what makes them so special;

We’ve also put together a guide to the sailing disciplines included in the Olympics and explained their particularities;

So if you’ve been looking for a guide to the different types of candle, this is the place for you!

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Types of sailing: learn about the racing options for sailing boats

Fleet regattas

Fleet races are sailing competitions where several boats compete simultaneously on a predefined course;

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This is the most common type of sailing, popular in both amateur and professional events, including the Olympic Games.

All boats start at the same time, from a starting line defined between two buoys or between a buoy and a committee boat.

The sailors then sail along a course marked out by buoys, which can include different directions and sailing angles.

The finish line is also defined by buoys or between a buoy and a boat. The winner is the boat that crosses the finish line first.

Races can be part of a series, where sailors accumulate points based on their position in each race. The overall winner is the boat with the fewest points at the end of the series.

Also read: All about sailing: rules, how it works and the great Brazilian champions

Match Race Regattas

Match races are sailing competitions in which two boats compete directly against each other;

The two boats start the race together, usually after a pre-start period where they try to gain an advantageous position.

The course is similar to the fleet races, but the focus is on the direct confrontation between the two boats. Strategy is therefore essential, perhaps more so than speed itself. This is because the sailors must try to force penalties on their opponents and block their wind, making the course more difficult.

The way to win is very similar to the sailing discipline we presented earlier, i.e. the boat that crosses the finish line first wins the match.

Match races are often part of a series of knockout matches, culminating in a final where the winner of the most matches is declared champion.

Long-distance races

As its name suggests, this is, among the types of sailing, the one that includes long-distance races, involving extensive routes, often sailing from one point to another across open seas and over several days or even weeks;

These races test sailors’ endurance, navigation skills and ability to adapt.

Vessels leave from a designated point, often a starting line in a port or bay.

The route can vary widely, from ocean crossings to long coastal routes. With this comes a series of added difficulties, such as varying weather conditions.

The finish line is usually located at a specific port or point, often in another country or continent.

In addition to the types of sailing, which include variations of regattas, there are other ways of “dividing” this sport into categories, which can also be called disciplines or competitions;

At the Olympic Games, for example, where various events take place, we come into contact with these different sailing alternatives.

Below, we take a closer look at each of the sports that will take part in the Paris 2024 Games.

Also read: Sailing rules for each sport: a practical guide!

Sailing at the Olympics 

At the Olympic Games, sailing competitions will be contested in 10 events:

  1. Dinghy masculino – ILCA 7 (antes conhecida como Laser)
  2. Dinghy feminino – ILCA 6 (antes conhecida como Laser radial)
  3. Skiff masculino – 49er
  4. Skiff feminino – 49erFx
  5. Kitesurf masculino – Classe Formula Kite 
  6. Kite feminino – Classe Formula Kite
  7. Windsurfe masculino – iQFOiL
  8. Windsurfe feminino – iQFOiL 
  9. Dinghy misto – 470 
  10. Multicasco misto – Nacra 17

Find out more about each one below;

Dinghy – ILCA 6 (formerly known as Laser Radial)

The Dinghy ILCA 6 is a single-crew boat known for its simplicity and high performance;

The ILCA 6 is a version of the Laser boat with a smaller sail, suitable for lighter sailors.

This boat is popular in international competitions and is part of the Olympic Games program.

Skiff – 49er

The Skiff 49er is a class of sailing boat for two crew, characterized by its high speed and ease of handling;

This sailing boat is designed to be extremely fast and agile, requiring great skill and coordination from the sailing duo;

With its large sail and lightweight design, the 49er can reach high speeds, making it one of the most exciting boats to watch in competitions;

It is also an Olympic class, popular with both men and women.

This is the discipline in which Brazilians Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze were champions in 2016 and 2020, at the Rio and Japan Olympics respectively;

With their double Olympic gold, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze are undoubtedly among Brazil’s best Olympic athletes today.

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Types of sailing:: Skiff 49er mode


Kitesurfing is a sailing discipline that combines elements of surfing, wakeboarding and paragliding.

Kitesurfers use a board and a sail, also known as a kite, to move across the water, taking advantage of the force of the wind. This “sail” is visually very similar to a parachute.

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Types of sailing: kitesurfing

The sport has several disciplines, including freestyle, wave and race. In the context of sailing competitions, kitesurf racing is the most common discipline, where athletes compete on a course marked out by buoys.

Also read: Kitesurfing Glossary: harnesses, jibe, loop, nose and more


Windsurfing is also one of the types of sailing that uses a board equipped with a fixed sail on an articulated mast;

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Types of sailing: windsurfing

The windsurfer controls direction and speed by adjusting the position of the sail and the balance of the body;

There are several disciplines in windsurfing, including slalom, wave and freestyle. In competitions, windsurfing is known for its combination of speed, technical maneuvers and the need to adapt to wind and wave conditions.


The term Dinghy refers to a broad category of small sailing boats, usually with a single crew or two;

Dinghies are known for their simplicity and versatility, being used both for learning and for high-level competitions;

They vary in design, but are generally light and easy to handle, making them a popular choice for sailors of all ages and skill levels.

Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

OMulticasco Misto Nacra 17 is a class of catamaran (boat with two hulls) designed for high-performance competitions. The Nacra 17 is crewed by a pair;

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Types of sailing: Nacra 17 mode

This boat is known for its speed and stability, combining elements of technical and physical navigation;

It is an Olympic class and stands out for its races that require teamwork and perfect coordination between the crew.

These different classes of boats and types of sailing demonstrate the diversity and complexity of the sport, each with its own characteristics and challenges, attracting a wide range of passionate athletes and fans.

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