Sailing at the 1948 Summer Olympics

Sailing at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London consisted of a total of five sailing classes (disciplines). For each class, seven races were scheduled from 3‍–‍12 August 1948 Torquay/Torbay, on England's south coast.[1]

at the Games of the XIV Olympiad
1948 Sailing symbol.png
Sailing symbol of the 1948 Summer Olympics
DatesFirst race: 3 August 1948 (1948-08-03)
Last race: 12 August 1948 (1948-08-12)
Competitors217 from 23 nations
← 1936
1952 →

The sailing was done on the triangular type Olympic courses. The start was made in the center of a set of 8 numbered marks that were placed in a circle. During the starting procedure, the sequence of the marks was communicated to the sailors. By picking the mark that was most upwind, the start could always be made upwind. This system is, at least in certain German lakes, still in use.

Great Britain's last surviving Gold Medal Champion from the 1948 Summer Olympics was David Bond, who sailed for Great Britain in the Swallow Class.


As quoted from the official report, "Torquay was, perhaps, an inevitable choice as the venue. It is exposed only to easterly winds, which are rare in summer. Moreover, it is remarkably free from strong tides and currents and other navigational hazards, and thus there is nothing or next to nothing to be gained from the " local knowledge " which is so profitable in difficult waters."[2]

The sailing event a separate opening ceremony which took place in Torquay, due to its distance from London. The opening was made by IOC chairman J. Sigfrid Edström.

A 14 nmi (26 km; 16 mi) course was created for the Dragon and 6 Metre. The Star and Swallow sailed a little more inshore on a 10 nmi (19 km; 12 mi) course, while a 6 nmi (11 km; 6.9 mi) course was set close to the coast for the Firefly.

The closing ceremony was observed by 10,000 spectators. The medals were handed by Sir Ralph Gore, President of the International Yacht Racing Union.



Continents Countries Classes Boats Male Female Reserves
4 23 5 75 221 0 37


  • Africa
  • Oceania
  • Europe
  • Americas


Countries that participated in the Sailing event of the 1948 Olympic Games.
Blue: Water
Gray: Never participated in OG
Dark Gray: Participated in earlier OG
Green: Country participated for the first time
Dark Blue: Country participated also on previous games
Red: Country boycotted the sailing event of the OG
  Argentina (ARG)   Australia (AUS)   Austria (AUT)
  Belgium (BEL)   Brazil (BRA)   Canada (CAN)
  Cuba (CUB)   Denmark (DEN)   Spain (ESP)
  Finland (FIN)   France (FRA)   Great Britain (GBR)
  Greece (GRE)   Ireland (IRL)   Italy (ITA)
  Netherlands (NED)   Norway (NOR)   Portugal (POR)
  South Africa (RSA)   Switzerland (SUI)   Sweden (SWE)
  Uruguay (URU)   United States (USA)

Classes (equipment)Edit

Prior to 1948, sailing had been a gender-neutral sport where male and female competitors competed together. For the 1948 Games, the IOC decided the events should only be open to male sailors. This was the only time this happened until separate male and female events were introduced in some classes in the 1988 Summer Olympics.[3]

Class Type Event Sailors Trapeze Mainsail Jib/Genoa Spinnaker First OG Olympics so far
Firefly Dinghy   1 0 + + - 1948 1
Star Keelboat   2 0 + + - 1932 3
Swallow (Golondrina) Keelboat   2 0 + + + 1948 1
Dragon Keelboat   3 0 + + + 1948 1
6 Metre Keelboat   5 0 + + + 1908 8

  = Male,   = Female,   = Open

Medal summaryEdit

Event Gold Silver Bronze

1948: Firefly

  Denmark (DEN)
Paul Elvstrøm
  United States (USA)
Ralph Evans
  Netherlands (NED)
Koos de Jong

1948: Star

  United States (USA)
Hilary Smart
Paul Smart
  Cuba (CUB)
Carlos de Cárdenas
Carlos de Cárdenas Jr.
  Netherlands (NED)
Adriaan Maas
Edward Stutterheim

1948: Swallow

  Great Britain (GBR)
Stewart Morris
David Bond
  Portugal (POR)
Duarte de Almeida Bello
Fernando Pinto Coelho Bello
  United States (USA)
Lockwood Pirie
Owen Torrey

1948: Dragon

  Norway (NOR)
Thor Thorvaldsen
Haakon Barfod
Sigve Lie
  Sweden (SWE)
Folke Bohlin
Gösta Brodin
Hugo Johnson
  Denmark (DEN)
William Berntsen
Klaus Baess
Ole Berntsen

1948: 6 Metre

  United States (USA)
Herman Whiton
Alfred Loomis
Michael Mooney
James Smith
James Weekes
  Argentina (ARG)
Enrique Sieburger Sr.
Emilio Homps
Rodolfo Rivademar
Rufino Rodríguez de la Torre
Enrique Sieburger Jr.
Julio Sieburger
  Sweden (SWE)
Tore Holm
Karl-Robert Ameln
Martin Hindorff
Torsten Lord
Gösta Salén

Medal tableEdit

1  United States (USA)2114
2  Denmark (DEN)1012
3  Great Britain (GBR)1001
  Norway (NOR)1001
5  Sweden (SWE)0112
6  Argentina (ARG)0101
  Cuba (CUB)0101
  Portugal (POR)0101
9  Netherlands (NED)0022
Totals (9 entries)55515



  • Modern techniques like hot-molded plywood in an autoclave, aluminum mast, booms and decks made their entrance in the Firefly.
  • The series was scheduled over the two Olympic weeks. Races 1–4 in each class were sailed from 3–6 August. Races 5–7 took place from 10–12 August. This was done so that boats could be overhauled after the first set of races.
  • Regarding the scoring system, per the official report, "[t]he number of points awarded to each other competitor diminishes under a given formula, according to the placing of his boat at the finish."[2] Advantages of this system are:
    • Winning races is well-awarded, so sailors are likely to fight till the end of the race for each place.
    • Fewer ties than with the point-for-place system.
    • The score of the winner reflects the number of entries.
  • Together with the scoring system, it was introduced that each team could discard its worst result.
  • The courses were laid and patrolled by vessels of the Royal Navy.


During the Sailing regattas at the 1948 Summer Olympics, the following people (among others) competed in the various classes:

  •   Rickard Sarby (SWE), the future designer of the Finn.
  •   Jean-Jacques Herbulot (FRA), the future designer of the Vaurien and the Herbulot spinnaker.
  •   Agostino Straulino (ITA), who won eight consecutive European championships in the starboat class between 1949 and 1956.
  •   Enrique Sieburger Sr. (ARG), the oldest of the Sieburger-Salas "clan", a family that had 20 total entries in Olympic Sailing competitions.
  •   Tore Holm (SWE), a two-time gold and silver medalist in the 6 Metre.
  •   Magnus Konow (NOR), spanned the longest period in Olympic sailing (1908–1948), in the 6 Metre.
  •   Paul Elvstrøm (DEN), who, although he did not finish the first race, won his first of four consecutive gold medals in the Firefly.
  •   Jock Sturrock (AUS), who became the first Australian to sail in the Olympic Games.


  1. ^ "Sailing at the 1948 Summer Olympics". Olympedia. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948 (1951). The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948 (PDF).
  3. ^ Henshall, Dougal (10 August 2018). "70 years ago this week: The story of singlehanded sailing at the London 1948 Olympics". Retrieved 22 March 2023.

Further readingEdit

  • Drake, Hugh; Henderson, Paul (2009). Canada's Olympic Sailing Legacy, Paris 1924 – Beijing 2008. Toronto: CYA.
  • "London 1948". International Olympic Committee.
50°27′27″N 3°31′49″W / 50.4574°N 3.5303°W / 50.4574; -3.5303