After watching the Olympics and seeing that Australia had fewer points than other teams but was guaranteed a gold or silver medal in the Laser class. We were confused as to how sailing is scored.

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The Low point scoring system is used. The winner is the boat with the lowest score at the end of the event or series of races.

The first boat across the line gets 1 point, the second 2 points, the third gets 3 and so on. For boats who are entered but did not start (cross the start line legally)(DNS), Did not finish (DNF) or were disqualified (DSQ), they will be given scores equal to the number of boats entered - (minus) 1, 2 or 3. Often DNF has a slightly lower score than DNS and DSQ.

In a longer series it is common for one or more result to be "discardable". Most sailing scoring software will automatically discard each competitor's worst result.

So, across a series of 5 races each with ten boats, a boat which one every race would be given 5 points. If they missed a race (and weren't able to discard the result), they might get 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 11 = 15 points.

In the case of points ties, the later results are usually given more weight (as in the case of the Olympic medal race).

The advantages of this system are as follows:

  1. Boats can skip a race and still compete in the rest (especially if it is discarded).
  2. It easily handles variable numbers of entrants in different races. A first is still worth as much, even if many boats didn't show up.
  3. Applying penalties is straightforward.

Details of the scoring can be found on the USA Sailing site or the UK's RYA.

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    As a side effect of that, the margin of victory in a single race does not matter. If you are 1 sec ahead of your next competitor, you still get the same score as if you were 10 mins ahead. – Oliver Mason Sep 16 '16 at 8:55

Scoring system in sailing works on negative points , for winning you need to score the least points..

The fleet racing is run on a low points scoring system - the boat at the end of the competiton who has the least number of points wins.

All of the events finish their competition with a Medal Race, before that they are scheduled to sail 10 races, except the 49er which will sail 15 races. The boat who finishes first in a race scores one point, second place scores two points, third place scores three point and so on. Sailors are allowed to exclude their worst score in the first 10 (15) races.

After completing 10 (15) races, the top ten boats with the lowest score go on to compete in the Medal Race. The points scored in the Medal Race cannot be excluded and are worth double.

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