World Sailing

World Sailing (WS) is the world governing body for the sport of sailing recognized by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

World Sailing
Year of formation14 October 1907
Former namesInternational Yacht Racing Union;
International Sailing Federation
Membership size144
Other affiliation(s)
PatronKing Harald V of Norway
Constantine II of Greece
PresidentKim Andersen
Executive Office
Chief ExecutiveAndy Hunt
Events DirectorAlastair Fox
Legal Affairs & Governance DirectorJon Napier
Number of staffApprox. 30
SponsorsRolex, SAP, Volvo
Continental Association


The creation of the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU) began in 1904, when Major Brooke Heckstall-Smith AINA, then Secretary of the Yacht Racing Association (now the Royal Yachting Association) wrote to the Yacht Club de France, pointing out the desirability of holding a conference for the purpose of devising an International Rule of Measurement for Racing Yachts acceptable to all European countries. As a result, an International Conference of Yacht Measurement was held in London in January and June 1906, at which the Metre Rule was developed. This group went on to adopt a formal Constitution after a meeting at the Yacht Club de France in Paris on 14 October 1907 which is seen as the formation date of the International Yacht Racing Union.[1]

On 5 August 1996, the IYRU changed its name to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).[2]

On 14 November 2015, ISAF changed its name to World Sailing.[3][4]

Competition formats

Competitive sailing regatta contain events which are defined by a combination of discipline, equipment, gender and sometimes categories. These criteria are defined by the race purpose.


The following are the main disciplines:

  • Fleet Racing – The commonest form of competitive sailing involving boats racing around a course.[5]
  • Match Racing – Two identical boats race against each other. This is one-on-one duel requires strategy and tactics. The first to cross the finish line wins.[6]
  • Team Racing – Two teams each of normally three boats compete against each other. Fast paced racing depends on excellent boat handling skills and rapid tactical decision making.[7]
  • Offshore/Oceanic – Any offshore race over 800 miles, including races around the world.[8]
  • Speed Sailing - Is managed by World Speed Sailing Record Council
  • Wave riding is common to board sports
  • Both windsurfing and kiteboarding are experimenting with new formats.
  • Cruising – Can be a coastal day sail or a longer distance international journeys, it is the most commonly enjoyed sailing discipline.[9]


Common categories of equipment include the following: dinghies, multihulls, keelboats, sailing yacht, windsurfers, kiteboarding and radio-controlled sailboats. Within these categories normally specific class or rating system are used.


The majority of sailing events are "open" events in which males and females compete together on equal terms either as individuals or part of team. Sailing has had female only World Championships since the 1970s to encourage participation and now host more than 30 such World Championship titles each year. For the 2016 Olympics, compulsory mixed gender in the event was added for the first time.

Sailor categories

In addition the following categories are sometimes applied to events:

  • Age
  • Nationality
  • Disabled Classification
  • Sailor Classification

Rules and regulations

World Sailing is now most familiar to sailors for defining the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS), the international standard used to define competition rules and the framework within which racing is conducted.

Para sailing regattas for para sailors likewise follow the World Sailing rulebook with a minor change to permit things like powered adoptations. Strict classification requirements are enforced in the Paralympic Games for fair competition in Paralympic-class keelboats.

The key documents under control of World Sailing are:

  • Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS)[10] – The RRS Rulebook is updated on every Olympic year.
  • Equipment Rules of Sailing (ERS)[11]
  • Offshore Special Regulations (OSR)[12]
  • World Sailing Regulations and Constitution


National members

Like all sports federations, World Sailing is composed of "Member National Authorities" (MNA's) from over 140 countries all of whom have the right to make submissions to determine World Sailing's policies.[13]

Persons with a physical impairment who are interested to learn to sail are encouraged[14] to locate their national World Sailing Member National Authority (MNA), Disabled Sports Organization, or visit the local sailing club, as World Sailing seeks to integrate the differently abled into the sport.

Class associations

The federation recognizes over 80 classes which are each entitled to hold world championships.[15]

Affiliated members


Sailing and the Olympics

World Sailing is responsible for administration of the Olympic Sailing Regatta. Sailing (called yachting in the early years) has been a mainstay of the modern summer Olympic games since 1896, omitted only from the 1904 summer games in St. Louis.[19][20]

To help encourage high level international competition in the Classes used for the Olympic Games, World Sailing arrange the following events:

  • Sailing World Championships this is held every four years and is the combined World Championships for the Olympic classes and used as part of the Olympic Qualifying procedure
  • Sailing World Cup and annual global sailing tour

Sailing in the Paralympic Games

Sailing as an equipment based sports allows one of the largest ranges of paralympians to compete under equal terms. Sailing was included for the first time in the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games program as a demonstration event. It became a full medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games up to 2020 were IPC removed sailing from the paralympic program. Lots of changes are underway to get sailing reinstated for 2024 starting with the administration of the sport moving from affiliated member of the World Sailing the International Association for Disabled Sailing to being directly controlled.

Sailing in these paralympics was open to athletes with physical impairments.[21] The classification system was based on: hand function, stability, mobility and vision. Athletes compete in three events, which are non-gender specified but were discipline (equipment) specific.

World Sailing classes world championships

Each World Sailing class is entitled to hold a world championship

World Sailing initiated world championships and events

The following World Championships are held:[22]

World Sailing recognised world championships

World Sailing Special Events

Disabled Sailing

Sailing is a versatile sport that can accommodate many types of disability primarily because it is equipment based. Sailing is one of the few sports where disabled sailors compete on equal terms to able body sailors in a large section of the sport. Almost any boat can be sailed though some are more suitable for larger ranges of disabilities or specific categories of impairment.

World Sailing is also responsible for disabled sailing worldwide under the guidance of its own brand Para World Sailing.[14] This is since the merger of International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) in November 2014, and re-forming of the World Sailing Committee later rebrand Para World Sailing. The rational was given as follows: "The creation of a single governing body for Member National Authorities (MNAs) and sailors will better serve the needs and interests of sailors with disabilities, and provide consistency within the sport, from relationships with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to technical support and operational efficiencies."[24][25]

The IFDS Foundation was dissolved during the 2015 Annual Conference in Sanya, China. The Disabled Sailing Committee then re-branded as the Para World Sailing Committee.[26]



From 1906 to 1946 a chairman was elected from time to time to orchestrate the annual meetings.

Vice presidents

Vice presidents have been elected since 1955.

  • 1998–2008: David Kellett
  • 2004–2012: David Irish, Teresa Lara, Teo Ping Low
  • 2008–2012: Alberto Predieri, Eric Tulla, Tomasz Holc
  • 2008–2016: Nazli Imre
  • 2012–2016:  Georg Andreadis (GRE), Chris Atkins (GBR), Adrienne Greenwood
  • 2008–present: Gary Jobson (USA), Quanhai Li (CHN), Scott Perry (URU)
  • 2016–present:  Jan Dawson (NZL),  Torben Grael (BRA),  Ana Sanchez (ESP),  Nadine Stegenwalner (GER)

Presidents of Honour

Race officials

There are four types of race officials used to conduct sailing events recognised by World Sailing as follows:

Official awards

World Sailing hold the following awards together with service medals.

Rolex World Sailor of the Year

The main annual award the "Rolex World Sailor of the Year" that is sponsored by ROLEX in the following categories:

  • Male World Sailor of the Year
  • Female World Sailor of the Year

When a crew of 1, 2 or 3 people is nominated, the awarded is presented to the entire crew. When larger crews win the award, normally only the skipper is recognised.

Hall of Fame

On 5 November 2007 in Estoril, Portugal, the International Sailing Federation announced the first six inductees for the ISAF Sailing Hall of Fame.[28][29]

At the 2015 Annual Conference in Sanya, China, there were seven further inductees.[29]

Beppe Croce Trophy

The Beppe Croce Trophy is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding voluntary contribution to the sport of sailing. The roll of honour is an impressive one, including multiple Olympic medallists, rules gurus and designers, and all have dedicated an outstanding amount of time to the sport of sailing. Recipients are presented with a replica trophy.

See also


  1. "A Short History of the International Sailing Federation". Archived from the original on 21 December 2015.
  2. "A Short History of the International Sailing Federation". Archived from the original on 12 September 2015.
  3. Minutes from the Annual General Meeting of the International Sailing Federation, page 3, "5. Special Business – Change of Name". 40 voted in favour, 1 reject.
  4. "ISAF Changes Name to World Sailing". 8 December 2015.
  5. "Fleet Racing".
  6. "Match Racing".
  7. "Team Racing".
  8. "Offshore & Oceanic Sailing".
  9. "Cruising".
  10. "Racing Rules".
  11. "Equipment Rules Index".
  12. "Offshore Special Regs Index".
  13. "Member National Authorities".
  14. "Para World Sailing".
  15. "Classes & Equipment Index".
  16. "Offshore Racing Congress".
  17. "World Sailing Speed Record Council".
  18. "International Radio Sailing Association".
  19. "Sailing". 18 October 2018.
  20. "Olympics".
  21. "Sailing - Paralympic Athletes, Photos & Events".
  22. "Sailing World Cup Series Set To Launch For 2008-2009". 29 June 2008. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013.
  23. "SailGP gains World Sailing Special Event Status". World Sailing. 4 October 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  24. Anderson, Gary (16 November 2013). "ISAF and IFDS announce plans for merger at Annual Conference at Muscat". Inside the games. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  25. "ISAF Conference 2014".
  26. "2015 Annual Conference - 8 November Summary". 8 November 2015. Archived from the original on 12 November 2015.
  27. "Submission 124-12".
  28. "Inductees". ISAF Sailing Hall of Fame.
  29. "Seven Sailors inducted into World Sailing's Hall of Fame". 13 November 2015. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015.

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