What is the scoring system in sailing?

After watching the Olympics and seeing that Australia had fewer points than other teams but was guaranteed a gold or silver medal in the Laser class. We were confused as to how sailing is scored.

2 Answers

The Low point scoring system is used. The winner is the boat with the lowest score at the end of the event or series of races.

The first boat across the line gets 1 point, the second 2 points, the third gets 3 and so on. For boats who are entered but did not start (cross the start line legally)(DNS), Did not finish (DNF) or were disqualified (DSQ), they will be given scores equal to the number of boats entered – (minus) 1, 2 or 3. Often DNF has a slightly lower score than DNS and DSQ.

In a longer series it is common for one or more result to be “discardable”. Most sailing scoring software will automatically discard each competitor’s worst result.

So, across a series of 5 races each with ten boats, a boat which one every race would be given 5 points. If they missed a race (and weren’t able to discard the result), they might get 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 11 = 15 points.

In the case of points ties, the later results are usually given more weight (as in the case of the Olympic medal race).

The advantages of this system are as follows:

  1. Boats can skip a race and still compete in the rest (especially if it is discarded).
  2. It easily handles variable numbers of entrants in different races. A first is still worth as much, even if many boats didn’t show up.
  3. Applying penalties is straightforward.

Details of the scoring can be found on the USA Sailing site or the UK’s RYA.

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