Olympics preview - the Yngling

Two time Olympic medallist and Yngling coach Ian Walker looks at the women's keelboat and the form of the competitors
‘Yngling’ means ‘youngster’ in Norwegian but this boat is anything but a youngster. First designed in 1967 before many of this year’s Olympians had been born, the Yngling is making its Olympic debut in Athens as the new women’s keelboat. At 6.3m long with 14sqm of sail and a crew of three, the Yngling is a relatively underpowered and awkward boat to sail by modern standards. Total crew weight is limited to 205kg with each team being check weighed daily. With most teams weighing between 200 and 205kg there is no obvious physical advantage to be gained by any team other than the benefits of power, strength and endurance to those that have best prepared physically. Typically the biggest of the three sailors is the ‘middleman’ and they spend their time upwind hanging upside down over the side in the ‘hobbles’ to generate the most righting moment. Downwind they trim the spinnaker which is heavily loaded in strong winds. The bowman is the busiest team member with the jib to control upwind and the spinnaker pole to set and gybe downwind. In addition they will drop the spinnaker and in most some cases hoist it too. Sometimes this is left to the helmsman who hikes conventionally in order to steer and control the mainsail upwind and down. The standard of boathandling has improved dramatically over the last three years with mistakes now rare at the front of the fleet. It is still worth watching in a breeze however as the tiny rudder makes the boats very prone to broaching out - especially after a gybe. Even the best crews could end up ‘standing on the keel’ if it is over 25 knots. The competitors for this new Olympic class have been drawn in from a variety of other disciplines in