Olympic cheatsheet: A guide to watching the sailing events in Rio 2016

From the diving pool turning green to a kayak competitor capsizing on a submerged sofa, the Olympic water events have been anything but ordinary at Rio 2016.

But the marine event that grabbed the most headlines before the Games has yet to make any serious waves, as sailing made its debut in the teeming waters of Guanabara Bay earlier this week.

Olympic sailing dates back to 1900, and is one of the oldest events to allow female competitors. This year’s competition features 10 events: including men’s, women’s, and mixed discipline.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect, and what to watch for when the winds pick up at Rio 2016.

A Look Back

Also known as yachting until 2000, the sport was part of the inaugural Athens Games in 1896, but was cancelled due to bad weather and made its debut in 1900. While the United States leads the overall medal count in all sailing competitions, it is Great Britain that holds the crown for most gold medals with 25.

The Competition

Featuring 10-boat heats, the event sends vessels around a course of buoys, with the first boat to cross the line declared the winner. The races are tournament style, and culminate with a 10-team final.

In each race, competitors race in identical boats, a simple (yet often underutilized) way to level the playing field and eliminate equipment advantages. Often events last over an hour, but the contained course makes the action relatively easy to follow — even for mainlanders.

Highlighting this year’s bill is the Finn dinghy, considered the most physical and tactical race in the Games, and the Laser Radial, which features small, aggressive vessels for optimal handling.

The Venue

A photo posted by US Sailing (@ussailing) on

This year’s sailing events are being held in Guanabara Bay, a Rio bay infamous for being host to garbage, oil, human waste and dead animals.

Rio officials claim to have been working overtime to clean up the area — even employing a helicopter to spot specific concentrated areas of pollution — but environmental experts say the cleanup has been massively underwhelming.

This all in a sport where hitting a plastic bag could be enough to throw a boat off course and cost a medal, and it looks like the sailing world is in for a new level of drama this summer.

(Not So) Fun Fact

Australia’s sailing team is taking no chances at this year’s Rio Games, creating a uniform that reportedly “doesn't get wet,” a preventative measure against the pollution floating around Guanabara Bay that has forced one Belgian athlete to withdraw due to illness.

The hydrophobic fabric uniform made its debut earlier this summer, and definitely screams a little bit more lycra body suit than boat shoes, but if it prevents waterborne bacterial infection, can we really blame them?

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