Sailing at the 1908 Summer Olympics

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at the Games of the IV Olympiad
Olimpiad medal 1908.jpg Olimpiad medal 1908 2.jpg
1908 Gold Medal (Obverse and Reverse)
Venues ● Ryde, Isle of Wight
● Hunters Quay, Scotland
Dates First race: 27 July 1908 (1908-07-27) (Ryde)
Last race: 29 July 1908 (1908-07-29)
First race: 11 August 1908 (1908-08-11) (Hunters Quay)
Last race: 12 August 1908 (1908-08-12)
Sailors 65 from 5 countries
Boats 13
Top ranked countries
Great Britain: 1st  2nd  3rd  
Belgium: 1st  2nd  3rd  
Sweden: 1st  2nd  3rd  
← 1900
1912 →

Sailing was an Olympic sport at the 1908 Summer Olympics. The Sailing program of 1908 was open for a total of five sailing classes (disciplines), but actually only four Sailing events were contested. It turned out that no entries were made in the 15 Metre. The planned venue of all races, named matches was Ryde, Isle of Wight.


Royal Victoria Yacht Club
Flag of Royal Victoria Yacht Club
Coordinates: 50°43′37″N 1°9′42″W / 50.72694°N 1.16167°W / 50.72694; -1.16167
Clyde Corinthian Yacht Club
Skyline of Clyde Corinthian Yacht Club
Flag of Clyde Corinthian Yacht Club
Coordinates: 55°58′30″N 4°54′30″W / 55.97500°N 4.90833°W / 55.97500; -4.90833

At the 1907 The Hague Conference of the IOC Ryde at the Isle of Wight was appointed to host the sailing regattas, for all classes, of the games of the IVth Olympiad. However when there were only British entries for the 12 Metre matches, and both yacht were located at the Firth of Clyde, the decision was made to use Hunter’s Quay as a second venue.

At Ryde the race committee used the available shipping buoys as marks for the courses. 16 nm for the 8 Metre and 13 nm for the 6 and 7 Metre.


The number of entries was not high. This was because the decision of the classes to use was taken less than one year before the games. Building wooden boats, in a class not proven yet, varying in length between 12 and 30 meters, practice with them and ship them to the games in time was for many owners a challenge. Overlooking the circumstances 13 boats from 5 countries was an achievement.


Continents Countries Classes Boats Male Female
1 5 5 13 64 2


  • Europe


Countries that participated in the Sailing event of the 1908 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

Classes (equipment)[edit]

Although one of the oldest organized sporting activities, sailing in the early first part of the 20th century was not uniformly organized. This had a lot to do with national traditions as well as with the fact that there were no standardized boat types with uniform building instructions and measurements. Also a lot of development was done in the area of boat design and boat building. The shape of a boat, specifically its length, its weight and its sail area, are major parameters that determine the boat's speed. Several initiatives were started to create a formula that made it possible to have boats race each other without having to calculate the final result. But the different countries initially could not agree on an international system. At the Olympics of 1900 it was clear that sailing was not ready for international competition, and something had to be done.

In 1906 international meetings were organize to solve the problem. Finally in Paris, October 1907 the first International Rule was ratified. Delegates from this meeting went on to form the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU), the precursor to the present International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

The agreed formula gives a result in meters (Metre). During the meeting in 1907 the IOC made the decision to open the 1908 Summer Olympics for the following Metre classes:

Class Type Event Sailors Trapeze Mainsail Jib/Genoa Spinnaker First OG Olympics so far
6 Metre Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 3 + + + 1908 1
7 Metre Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 2 + + + 1908 1
8 Metre Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 2 + + + 1908 1
12 Metre Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 2 + + + 1908 1
15 Metre Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 3 + + + 1908 1

Mars symbol.svg = Male, Venus symbol.svg = Female, Cercle noir 100%.svg = Open

1908 Olympic Classes designs
1908 Olympic Classes in action

Medal summary[edit]

Event Gold Silver Bronze
6 Metre insigna.png

1908: 6 Metre

 Great Britain (GBR)
Gilbert Laws
Thomas McMeekin
Charles Crichton
 Belgium (BEL)
Léon Huybrechts
Louis Huybrechts
Henri Weewauters
 France (FRA)
Henri Arthus
Louis Potheau
Pierre Rabot
7 Metre insigna.png

1908: 7 Metre

 Great Britain (GBR)
Charles Rivett-Carnac
Norman Bingley
Richard Dixon
Frances Rivett-Carnac
No further competition No further competition
8 Metre insigna.png

1908: 8 Metre

 Great Britain (GBR)
Blair Cochrane
Charles Campbell
John Rhodes
Henry Sutton
Arthur Wood
 Sweden (SWE)
Carl Hellström
Edmund Thormählen
Eric Sandberg
Erik Wallerius
Harald Wallin
The Duchess of Westminster
 Great Britain (GBR)
Philip Hunloke
Alfred Hughes
Frederick Hughes
George Ratsey
William Ward
12 Metre insigna.png

1908: 12 Metre

 Great Britain (GBR)
Thomas Glen-Coats
John Downes
John Aspin
John Buchanan
James Bunten
Arthur Downes
David Dunlop
John Mackenzie
Albert Martin
Gerald Tait
 Great Britain (GBR)
Charles MacIver
James Kenion
James Baxter
William Davidson
J.A. Gardiner
John Jellico
Thomas Littledale
Cecil R. MacIver
Charles MacLeod-Robertson
John Spence
No further competition

Medal tables[edit]

Sailing 1908[edit]

 Rank  Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Great Britain (GBR) 4 1 1 6
2  Belgium (BEL) 0 1 0 1
 Sweden (SWE) 0 1 0 1
4  France (FRA) 0 0 1 1
Total 4 3 2 9

Sailing 1896–1908[edit]

 Rank  Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  United Kingdom 7 1 2 10
2  France 2 6 6 14
3   Switzerland 1 0 0 1
 Mixed team (ZZX) 1 0 0 1
5  Germany 0 1 0 1
 Belgium 0 1 0 1
 Sweden 0 1 0 1
8 USA 0 0 1 1
Total 8 11 10 9 30


  • This Olympic sailing event was gender independent, but only two women, Frances Rivett-Carnac in the 7 Metre, and the Duchess of Westminster as extra on her 8 Metre, participated. The duchess of Westminster also distributed the diplomas of special merit to the competitors of the other Olympic sports on July 25, 1908.
  • The matches at Ryde were held in light air conditions.
  • All members of a team had to be a citizen of the country they represent. However the boats used did not have to be built in the same country that the team was representing since the Olympic games are considered a test of skills and handling for the team and not a test of the yacht. This in contrast with the matches for the America's cup of that time.
  • A second 7 Metre yacht was entered under command of Capt. Sloan Stanley but failed to make it to the starting line.
  • At the end of the official report the following suggestion was made:

    It has been suggested that in the yacht racing of future Olympic Games it might be better to select a fleet of “one-design” boats in the waters where the Games are held, and let all the crews entered draw lots for them every day, with the proviso that no crew should have the same boat twice.

    Sailing had to wait until 1920 before the first “one-design” class was selected for the Games.


During the Sailing regattas at the 1908 Summer Olympics among others the following persons were competing in the various classes:

8 Metre Sailors at the 1908 Olympic Games
In Fram:
Johan Anker 
In Sorais:
William Dudley Ward 
Crew of:
8 Metre Owners at the 1908 Olympic Games