Sailing at the 1948 Summer Olympics


Sailing/Yachting is an Olympic sport starting from the Games of the 1st Olympiad (1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece). With the exception of 1904 and the canceled 1916 Summer Olympics, sailing has always been included on the Olympic schedule. The Sailing program of 1948 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 places 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 we quote 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."

The sailing event had, since the distance to the London area a, separate opening ceremony which took place in Torquay. The opening was made by IOC chairman: Mr. J. Sigfrid Edstrom.

A 14-nm course was created for the Dragons and 6 Metres. The Star and Swallow sailed a little more inshore on a 10-nm course, while for the Firefly a 6-nm course was set close to the coast.

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 1980s.[2]

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 Cardenas
Carlos de Cardenas, 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
Carl 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 nations)55515



  • Modern techniques like hot moulded plywood in an autoclave and Aluminum mast and booms made their entrance in the Firefly.
  • This Olympic sailing event was gender independent, but turned out to be a Men-only event. This was one of the triggers to create gender specific events. This however had to wait until 1988.
  • The series were scheduled over the two Olympic weeks. race 1–4 in each class were sailed from 3–6 August. race 5–7 took place on 10–12 August. This was done so that boats could be overhauled after the first set of races.
  • The best feature of this Olympic was the scoring system. Quote from the officiel report: – "The number of points awarded to each other competitor diminishes under a given formula, according to the placing of his boat at the finish." – This system was invented by an Austrian sailor. 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
    • Less 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
  • The two major Axis powers of World War II, Germany and Japan, were not invited to the Games.


During the Sailing regattas at the 1948 Summer Olympics among others the following persons were competing in the various classes:

  •   Rickard Sarby (SWE), The future designer of the Finn, in the Firefly
  •   Jean-Jacques Herbulot (FRA), The future designer of the Vaurien, in the Firefly. He also designed the "Herbulot"-spinnaker. (A spinnaker with large circulair holes. This makes large spinnakers more stable and faster. This type of spinnaker is now in most classes prohibited).
  •   Agostino Straulino (ITA), Between 1949 and 1956 he won eight consecutive European championships in the starboat class, here also in the Star
  •   Enrique Sieburger, Sr. (ARG), Oldest of the Sieburger-Salas "clan". A family that in total had 20 entries in the Olympic Sailing competition, in the 6 Metre
  •   Tore Holm (SWE), Two times gold and twice silver medalist since 1920, in the 6 Metre[3]
  •   Magnus Konow (NOR), Spanned the longest periode in Olympic sailing (1908–1948), in the 6 Metre[4]
  •   Paul Elvstrøm (DEN), Although he did not finish the first race he won his first, out of four consecutive, Gold medals. This one in the Firefly.
  •   Australia (AUS), Jock Sturrock in the Star. Became the first Australian to sail in the Olympic Games. He would eventually represent Australia in four Olympic Games, and be flag-bearer for the Australian team at the opening ceremony of the 1960 Rome Olympics (in recognition of becoming the first athlete to represent Australia at four Olympic Games). He later skippered "Gretel" and "Dame Pattie", the first two Australian challengers for the America's Cup.


  1. ^ "Sailing at the 1948 Summer Olympics". Olympedia. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sailed in 1920, 1928, 1932, 1936 and 1948 Olympics.
  4. ^ Sailed in 1908, 1912, 1920, 1928, 1936 and 1948 Olympics.


  • Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948 (1951). The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948 (PDF).
  • Hugh Drake & Paul Henderson (2009). Canada's Olympic Sailing Legacy, Paris 1924 – Beijing 2008. Toronto: CYA.
  • "London 1948". International Olympic Committee.

Coordinates: 50°27′27″N 3°31′49″W / 50.4574°N 3.5303°W / 50.4574; -3.5303