Sailing guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to sailing ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China  - 21 Aug 2008

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China - 21 Aug 2008 Photograph: Top Photo Group / Rex USA

Converted: Great Britain is the Brazil of sailing – this is their true national sport. 

Confused: A posh pastime for aspiring Romneys, also beloved by Rod Stewart.

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Sailing - The essential guide

Street cred: A misunderstood sport. Olympic sailors do not wear funny blue-and-white outfits, while in reality Rod Stewart’s nautical credentials are weak.

Who’s good? Aside from the British, Australia also has some able seamen and women.

The basics: There are 10 different types of boat, divided into three disciplines – match racing (one against one), fleet racing (mass start) and windsurfing. Teams with the top 10 scores from the opening races compete in the grand finale – the medal race.

Athlete to watch: Blanca Manchón, a dazzlingly photogenic Spanish windsurfer who is favourite to win the Women’s RS:X.

Almost useless fact: The sport’s name was changed from ‘Yachting’ to ‘Sailing’ at the Sydney 2000 games, presumably because it sounded a bit too posh.

Not to be confused with: Yachting.

As featured in: Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’, Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘I’m on a Boat’ by The Lonely Island.

Do say: ‘Sailors compete not just against each other, but also the elements, and the good old British weather will make this event enthrallingly unpredictable.’

Don't say: ‘Fabulous deck shoes, these guys are totally on trend.’