The sailing at the 1920 Summer Olympics consisted of a total of 16 sailing classes (disciplines), but actually only 14 Sailing events were contested. Two of these classes (8.5 Metre and 9 Metre) finally did not have entries. For each class three races were scheduled from 7 July 1920 to 9 July 1920 of the coast of Ostend North Sea. On 10 July 1920 sail-off races could be held.
Two courses were used for the races, each equilateral triangles. One of 6 nmi (11 km) and one of 12 nmi (22 km).
Ostend offers a fair condition for sailing. However there are tidal conditions the current is reasonable predictable local knowledge does not have too much influence of the races. The wind conditions are also good for sailing. However in the case of the 1920 Summer Olympic regatta's the prevailing breeze did not show. Most races had to be sailed under light air conditions.
An unprecedented and unique Olympic situation happened with the races in the 12' Dinghy. When in the second race one of the marks was taken hostage by the tidal current and went drifting the race had to be nullified. Since the organizers did not have the time to resail the race and both teams were of Dutch origin the Belgian organization requested the Dutch Olympic Committee to resail the finals in The Netherlands. As a result the first Olympic event held in the Netherlands was not in 1928 but already in 1920. As venue of this final the Buiten IJ in Amsterdam was chosen.
The Olympic Sailing event of 1920 was without any doubt the most strangest in history so far. With a program of no less than 16 classes and an entry list that consists of 7 out of 14 classes with just competitor and only one class with more than 3 yachts.
After World War I the International Sailing Authority had obvious no clue in what direction sailing had developed since 1912. The Nordic countries had developed the Skerry Cruiser classes and the International rule classes had adopted in 1919 a new edition of the rule which was not yet implemented in the countries. Therefore the entries were open for the old, as well the new rule and two Skerry classes. Besides that, an advice from 1908 was followed by putting two one design classes on the program. By doing this the 1920 Olympics acted as a test laboratory from which the IYRU could draw conclusion for the further development of the sport. These lessons learned, not too many different classes and moving towards one design classes, did show during the next Olympic Sailing event and are still taken into account.
Countries that participated in the Sailing event of the 1920 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
The agony athletes develop after finishing fourth at the Olympics must have started at the Olympic Sailing event of 1920. The Belgium 6 Metre team of Louis Depiere, Raymond Bauwens and Willy Valcke finished 4th and became the only sailing team at the 1920 Olympics that went home without a medal.