Sailing at the 1956 Summer Olympics
at the Games of the XVI Olympiad
|Venues||Port Phillip Bay|
|Dates||First race: 26 November 1956
Last race: 5 December 1956
|Sailors||153 from 28 countries|
|Top ranked countries|
Sailing/Yachting is an Olympic sport starting from the Games of the 1st Olympiad (1896 Olympics in Greece. With the exception of 1904 and possible 1916 sailing was always a part of the Olympic program. The Sailing program of 1956 consisted of a total of five sailing classes (disciplines). For each class seven races were scheduled from 26 November to 5 December 1956 at Port Phillip Bay.
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.
Port Phillip Bay a natural bay of about 725 square miles (1,900 km2) of water, free of reefs a mere 8 miles (13 km) from the Main Stadium of the Olympics. One can enter the bay from the Southern Ocean a narrow gap of about 3 km. Therefore the course areas are almost free of tidal streams. However there is a 0.5 m tidal rise. The winds are ideal for sailing. The predominant southerlies generates light airs in the morning. It freshens in the afternoon to up to 18 knots (33 km/h), and then easing and backing south-east in the evening.
Three circular courses were planned for the northern end of Port Phillip Bay, each using the 1936 system with 8 fixed buoy's with the start in the middle of the circle. At Sandringham for the Finn a course length of approximately 6 nautical miles (11 km) was used. For the 12 square metres and Star the length was set to about 10 nautical miles (19 km). The Dragon and 5.5 Metre were using a course length of 14 nautical miles (26 km).
- Australian continent
|Class||Type||Event||Sailors||Trapeze||Mainsail||Jib/Genoa||Spinnaker||First OG||Olympics so far|
|1956 Olympic Classes designs|
1956: 12 Square meter Sharpie
1956: 5.5 Metre
|3||United States (USA)||1||0||1||2|
|4||New Zealand (NZL)||1||0||0||1|
|5||Great Britain (GBR)||0||1||2||3|
|Mixed team (ZZX)||1||0||0||1|
1956 was the first time in history that several countries decided to boycott the Olympics. The boycott that influenced the sailing the most was probably that of The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. They withdrew to protest against the Soviet Union invasion of Hungary during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Soviet presence at the Games. At that time The Netherlands dominated at the International competition in the 12m2 Sharpie.
- This Olympic sailing event was gender independent, but tuned out to be a Mens only event. This was one of the triggers to create gender specific events. This however had to wait until 1988.
- Classes were hosted by several local yacht clubs:
- Sandringham Yacht Club: Finn
- Elwood Sailing Club: 12m2 Sharpie
- Royal St. Kilda Yacht Club: Star
- Royal Brighton Yacht Club: Dragon
- Royal Yacht Club of Victoria: 5.5 Metre
- The Royal St. Kilda Yacht Club was also the Sailing Headquarters
- Thirty-five Finn boats were built by a Melbourne firm of yacht builders. Other than in Helsinki, they were cold moulded shells of Queensland maple veneer. The mast and boom were of sitka spruce.
- The weather, throughout the series, was fine, with moderate sea breezes and pleasant sunshine. Except on 29 November th when the races in the Finn were postponed, several 12m2 Meter Sharpies capzised, only 5 out of 13 Sharpies could finish and the 5.5 Metre's of the Soviet Union and South Africa were dismasted.
- The courses were set by the Royal Australian Navy. The vessels: H.M.A.S. Warramunga, H.M.A.S. Swan and H.M.A.S. Sprightly acted as starting vessels.
During the Sailing regatta's at the 1956 Summer Olympics among others the following persons were competing in the various classes:
- Denmark (DEN), Paul Elvstrøm in the Finn won his third consecutive Gold medal
- Canada (CAN), Bruce Kirby in the Finn, yacht designer of the Olympic Laser.
- New Zealand (NZL), Peter Mander won the first New Zealand Olympic gold medal in the 12m2 Sharpie, became later president of the New Zealand Yachting Federation.
- Great Britain (GBR), Graham Hargrave Mann helmed the dragon Bluebottle the wedding gift to Her Majesty the Queen.
- Thailand (THA), Prince of Thailand, Prinz Bhanubanda Bira in the Star
|At the 1956 Olympic Games|
- The Organizing Committee of the XVI Olympiad, Melbourne, 1956 (1958). The Official Report of the Organizing Committee for the Games XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956 (pdf).
- Hugh Drake & Paul Henderson (2009). Canada's Olympic Sailing Legacy, Paris 1924 – Beijing 2008. Toronto: CYA.
- "Melbourne 1956". Olympic.org. International Olympic Committee.