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Sailing is one of the oldest modes of transportation for humans. It became a competitive sport when the Americas Cup Race started in England in the late 1800s. Since then, sailing has grown into a worldwide competitive sport. Sailing covers a wide range of disciplines from high-tech Americas Cup yacht racing, Olympic class dinghy racing, and regional or local events to the newest sport of windsurfing.

Even with technological advances, the small boat sailor has seen increases in related injuries within the sport. To date, little research has been done regarding injuries specific to the sport of dinghy sailing. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of sailing and the sport-specific injuries that occur for a competitive dinghy sailor. The chapter will explore the fitness dinghy sailing requires, including the muscular strength and endurance, forces on the sailor, and the injuries common to the sport. The chapter will then aid the clinician in understanding the biomechanics of the sport and the appropriate treatment interventions that will allow the athlete to return to competition.

History of Sailing

Sailboats appeared more than 4000 years ago when the water was the only prudent mode of transportation and exploration. These vessels included Polynesian rafts that sailed from island to island in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Egyptians also used sailing in their civilization. The Egyptians developed sailing ships for cargo trade across the Mediterranean Sea, the Dead Sea, and the Red Sea.1 Sailboats became invaluable vessels used in trading over the centuries. It was not until the 19th century, however, that sailboat racing gained international acclaim with the introduction of the Americas Cup. Most people around the world are familiar with Americas Cup racing. Yet, for the competitive athlete, the Olympics are considered by most the premiere sailing competition. In Sydney, Australia, for the 2000 Olympics, there were 10 classes of Olympic sailing. This included the men’s and women’s mistral windsurfing, women’s Europe dinghy, men’s fin class, men’s laser class, men’s and women’s 470 double-handed, the 49er, and the Toronado class.

Biomechanics of Sailing


In any type of sailing, there is heeling, a situation where the boat leans over or tips to one side because of pressure on the sails from the wind. In a small dinghy, the sailor counteracts this pressure by hiking, or leaning out over the side of the boat to counteract the heeling effect (Fig. 8.1). In light air, from 0 to 8 knots, the dinghy sailor does not need to hike out. Position is critical in light air to decrease surface area under the boat. The sailor balances his or her weight and allows the small amount of wind to play over the sails when racing. The position used in light air for the sailor is ...

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