2024 Olympic Events: Open Letter from US Sailing

To U.S. sailors,

Many American sailors care deeply about Olympic sailing and the equipment that gets used in one of the most exciting events in our sport. US Sailing has elected to be a proactive participant as World Sailing works to clarify the future of Olympic sailing. As part of that effort, we would like to provide a bit more information to U.S. sailors about our vision and some context regarding what’s happening. 

Recently, all World Sailing Member National Authorities (MNA’s, such as US Sailing) were requested by to submit proposals for what events should be used at the Paris 2024 Olympic sailing competition.  

It is important to remember that while most knowledgable sailors think in terms of what classes/equipment are used, the IOC and World Sailing think in terms of “events.” To ensure that Olympic sailing survives well into the future, US Sailing must do the same. 

Here is US Sailing’s proposal, which was recently posted by World Sailing.

These recommendations were made based on many factors, including our views on what changes will increase participation in sailing, what will modernize the pathway for aspiring Olympians, and what will help the US Sailing Team achieve excellence on the international stage. Also at stake here is the sport of sailing’s ongoing position in and involvement with the Olympic Games itself. US Sailing chose to make these recommendations based on what we felt would best secure sailing’s future participation in The Games, and the overall health of the sport. 

Certain events are already in place, and also guided our process. World Sailing has previously “locked in” five sailing events for 2024. These are the men’s Laser, women’s Laser Radial, men’s 49er, women’s 49erFX and the mixed Nacra 17. 

The International Olympic Committee has also requested certain changes be made in Olympic sailing in general. These include:

  • Gender equality (the same number of men and women competing in Olympic sailing)
  • To have two or four mixed events as part of the sailing competition
  • Not to include “duplicate events,” or events that are very similar in the eyes of the IOC, such as the men’s Laser and men’s Finn  

World Sailing and many of the MNA’s, including US Sailing, believe that if these IOC mandates are not met, then sailing’s athlete count, medal count, or even its inclusion as an Olympic sport will be threatened. The IOC has already demonstrated their resolve by reducing the athlete count for 2020 from 380 sailors to 350. The next step could be to remove events, which means a (likely permanent) loss of medals for sailing.

So what’s next? World Sailing will decide on the five remaining events for Paris 2024 in May of this year, to go along with the pre-selected five classes mentioned above. The equipment used in those events will then be decided at the World Sailing annual meeting in November, assuming there are no changes in the by-laws during the interim period. 

US Sailing had a choice when considering a submission. We could let other countries dictate proposals and then vote on them, or try to propose a slate that would meet the IOC mandate, and show leadership. We took the second option. We also think American athletes can excel if keelboats, a significant platform in our sport, are restored to the games, and if team racing and kiting, which are also widespread in the U.S., are added.

We chose to encourage the growth and visibility of significant areas of our sport beyond dinghies, boards and multihulls, such as keelboats and kites. We also think it could be beneficial for sailors to showcase their versatility by having a chance at multiple medals at a single games, as is the case in other sports. 

If sailing does this right, it could mean more participation, medals and visibility for sailing athletes. This was proven with how World Sailing managed sailing’s involvement with the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), when our sport was rewarded sailing with an extra medal opportunity. Sailing was the only sport to receive the extra IOC medal offer at the YOG, based on their responsiveness to IOC mandates. US Sailing simply believes that collaboration and innovation is the best way to grow medal events and the athlete head count for sailing. Continued participation in event like the Olympics will allow us to showcase our sport to a wider audience. 

That being said, US Sailing’s proposal will now be considered along with the suggestions of all other MNA’s. The event and equipment selection process will continue throughout the rest of the year at the MNA and World Sailing level, and in 2019 at the IOC level.

Stay tuned, and again, thank you for your time and attention. I hope this explanation added some context to US Sailing’s equipment submission.


Bruce Burton
US Sailing

Jack Gierhart 
Chief Executive Officer 
US Sailing