Sailing at the 1956 Summer Olympics

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at the Games of the XVI Olympiad
Venues Port Phillip Bay
Dates First race: 26 November 1956 (1956-11-26)
Last race: 5 December 1956 (1956-12-05)
Sailors 153 from 28 countries
Boats 71
Top ranked countries
Sweden: 1st, gold medalist(s)  2nd, silver medalist(s)  3rd, bronze medalist(s)  
Denmark: 1st, gold medalist(s)  2nd, silver medalist(s)  3rd, bronze medalist(s)  
United States: 1st, gold medalist(s)  2nd, silver medalist(s)  3rd, bronze medalist(s)  
← 1952
1960 →

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).



Continents Countries Classes Boats Male Female
5 29 5 71 153 0



Countries that participated in the Sailing event of the 1956 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
 Argentina (ARG)  Australia (AUS)  Austria (AUT)
 Bahamas (BAH)  Belgium (BEL)  Bermuda (BER)
 Burma (BIR)  Brazil (BRA)  Canada (CAN)
 Cuba (CUB)  Denmark (DEN)  Fiji (FIJ)
 Finland (FIN)  France (FRA)  Great Britain (GBR)
 Germany (EUA)  Greece (GRE)  Ireland (IRL)
 Italy (ITA)  Norway (NOR)  New Zealand (NZL)
 Portugal (POR)  South Africa (RSA)  Singapore (SIN)
 Sweden (SWE)  Thailand (THA)  Soviet Union (URS)
 United States (USA)

Classes (equipment)[edit]

Class Type Event Sailors Trapeze Mainsail Jib/Genoa Spinnaker First OG Olympics so far
Finn Dinghy Cercle noir 100%.svg 1 0 + 1952 2
12m2 Sharpie Dinghy Cercle noir 100%.svg 2 0 + + 1956 1
Star Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 2 0 + + 1932 5
Dragon Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 3 0 + + + 1948 3
5.5 Metre Keelboat Cercle noir 100%.svg 3 0 + + + 1952 2

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

1956 Olympic Classes designs

Medal summary[edit]

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Finn insigna.png

1956: Finn

 Denmark (DEN)
Paul Elvstrøm
 Belgium (BEL)
André Nelis
 United States (USA)
John Marvin
12m² Sharpie insigna.png

1956: 12m² Sharpie

 New Zealand (NZL)
Peter Mander
Jack Cropp
 Australia (AUS)
Rolland Tasker
John Scott
 Great Britain (GBR)
Jasper Blackall
Terence Smith
NO Class insigna.png

1956: Star

 United States (USA)
Herbert Williams
Lawrence Low
 Italy (ITA)
Agostino Straulino
Nicolò Rode
 Bahamas (BAH)
Durward Knowles
Sloane Farrington
Dragon insigna.png

1956: Dragon

 Sweden (SWE)
Folke Bohlin
Bengt Palmquist
Leif Wikström
 Denmark (DEN)
Ole Berntsen
Cyril Andresen
Christian von Bülow
 Great Britain (GBR)
Graham Mann
Ronald Backus
Jonathan Janson
5.5 Metre insigna.png

1956: 5.5 Metre

 Sweden (SWE)
Lars Thörn
Hjalmar Karlsson
Sture Stork
 Great Britain (GBR)
Robert Perry
David Bowker
John Dillon
Neil Kennedy-Cochran-Patrick
 Australia (AUS)
Jock Sturrock
Douglas Buxton
Devereaux Mytton

Medal table[edit]

 Rank  Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Sweden (SWE) 2 0 0 2
2  Denmark (DEN) 1 1 0 2
3  United States (USA) 1 0 1 2
4  New Zealand (NZL) 1 0 0 1
5  Great Britain (GBR) 0 1 2 3
6  Australia (AUS) 0 1 1 2
7  Belgium (BEL) 0 1 0 1
 Italy (ITA) 0 1 0 1
9  Bahamas (BAH) 0 0 1 1
Total 5 5 5 15


Olympic boycott[edit]

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 turned out to be a Men 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 regattas at the 1956 Summer Olympics among others the following persons were competing in the various classes:

At the 1956 Olympic Games