Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille, France. Day 6 Race Day on 14th July 2023.
©Mark Lloyd/World Sailing

Sailing events at the 2024 Olympics in Marseille

On May 8th and 9th 2024, Marseille will have the immense honour and privilege of welcoming the long-awaited arrival of the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, unity and celebration of sport. During these two days, Marseille will be decked out in its finest colours, embracing the passion, excitement and competitive spirit that will stir the hearts of all residents and visitors alike. But that’s not all, as this event also marks the start of an extraordinary maritime adventure, as the city of Marseille will be the venue for the 10 sailing events of the Olympic Games, from July 28th to August 8th 2024. Marseille was chosen for its ideal sailing conditions, with favourable winds and spectacular seascapes.

History of Sailing at the Olympic Games

Key moments

Sailing was first included as an Olympic discipline at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris.

This was due to the cancellation of the events scheduled for the first Games of the modern era in Athens in 1896, due to unfavourable weather conditions.

With the exception of the 1904 Games, sailing has always featured on the Olympic programme. As early as 1900, women took part in sailing events alongside men. It wasn’t until 1988, in Seoul, Korea, that the first all-women’s competition was held!

Developments in the sport over the years

Over the years, significant changes have been made to the boats used, marked in particular by the introduction of kitefoil and foil windsurfing at the 2024 Paris Games. The foil is an appendage that allows the craft to emerge and give the impression of flying above the water.

Great Britain and the United States have long been the dominant sailing nations, occupying first and second place in the medal table.

History of sailing in Marseille

From its origins to the present day: the evolution of sailing in Marseille

The history of Marseille has always been closely linked to the sea and sailing. This has been the case since the city was founded in 600 BC by the Phocaeans, Greek sailors who came by sea to set up a trading post in the Lacydon inlet and establish trade with other Mediterranean regions.

During the Middle Ages, Marseille continued to prosper as a major Mediterranean port. Sailing ships were the main means of transport and the people of Marseille were renowned for their navigational skills.

In the 19th century, with the advent of the industrial revolution, sailing ships gradually began to be replaced by steam-powered vessels. Marseilles played a key role in trade with the French colonies and the other continents of the world.

Between the 19th and 20th centuries, pleasure sailing gained in popularity in Marseille. Former mayor Gaston Deferre may also have had something to do with it. He had a passion for ocean racing and owned several sailing boats, which used to be moored at the pontoons of the Société Nautique de Marseille.

Today, Marseille continues to develop its image as a dynamic maritime city. Every year, it hosts top-level sailing competitions (an America’s Cup event in 2004, the Marseille One Design GC32 in 2015, the 49er, 49er FX and Nacra 17 youth world championships in 2018, the SailGP final in 2019, the 58th edition of the Semaine Nautique Internationale de Méditerranée (SNIM) in 2024, etc.), reinforcing its reputation as the destination of choice for sailing enthusiasts in the Mediterranean.

And for almost thirty years, the municipal sailing centre has been home to a ‘France’ centre dedicated to sailing. And it’s here that the Olympic marina is being built. Since 1996, this platform has been supporting athletes, teams and tomorrow’s hopefuls, helping them to realise their individual projects and medal hopes in competitions of all kinds. Often with the Olympic Games in their sights. The French Sailing Centre in Marseille has been awarded the ‘Olympic Centre’ label. Of the five centres in France, it is the only one to hold this accreditation.

Marseille, birthplace of historic sailing clubs

The oldest sailing club in France is based in the English Channel. It is the Société des Régates du Havre, founded in 1838. But Marseille is not to be outdone, and the city can be proud to be home to two clubs that have contributed to the renown of sailing in the Mediterranean for 142 years in the case of the Union Nautique Marseille (UNM) and 137 years in the case of the Société Nautique. The YCPR and CNTL complete the list of organisations involved in organising sailing competitions for top-level sportsmen and women and experienced amateurs alike.

As you sail along the Quai de Rive-Neuve, you can admire the sailboats from the Société Nautique’s traditions centre. Among them is a marvel: Alcyon 1871. This is a replica of a Houaris sailing ship, which was exceptionally fast for its time and contributed to Marseille’s fame at the end of the 19th century. It won all the trophies.

Major sailing events: Marseille on the international stage

In winter, between November and March, the sailing clubs take it in turns to organise the Florence Arthaud challenge, which is essential training for sailors from Marseille and the surrounding area, keen to keep their crews up to scratch despite the often harsh weather conditions.

Then comes the SNIM, organised by the Société Nautique de Marseille, which takes place every year at Easter and kicks off the racing season. The CNTL then organises the Massilia Cup. Other events for sailboats, both racing and traditional, punctuate the competition calendar.

And for some years now, foreign crews and athletes have been coming here to ‘study and tame’ the water, with a view to the Olympic Games. Sailing events depend essentially on the natural elements. And as it is impossible to control the force of the wind, the waves, the role of the weather, the relief of the islands and hills surrounding Marseille, the competitors have no choice but to come here to learn how to deal with all these factors. And so, in addition to their physical preparation and mastery of their sailing equipment, the athletes, in their bid for victory, have to get to know the water and its subtleties.

L’espace de jeux : plan d’eau

Comme durant le “test event” de juillet 2023, la répétition générale organisée un an avant les compétitions de voile olympique, les athlètes quitteront la marina olympique pour rejoindre en mer un rond qui leur sera attribué chaque matin. Le rond est un espace sur lequel se déroulera la compétition en fonction du support. Le plan d’eau compte 4 ronds (Frioul, Corniche, Marseille et Calanques) plus un cinquième facultatif “Maire”.

Guide to sailing events and boats

All the sailing events at the Olympic Games are contested in a fleet race format, where all the boats and athletes, classified by category, compete simultaneously on the same course. The boats sail a triangular course, marked by buoys, with the aim of reaching the finish line as quickly as possible.

How the events unfold

Each event is divided into opening heats and medal races. Depending on the event, the number of races in the opening heats varies.

In dinghy racing there are 10 races, in skiff and multihull 12. Windsurfers need 20 and kitesurfers 16 before they can compete for a medal. In general, only the top 10 finishers are allowed to take part in the medal race. In windsurfing and kitesurfing the rules are different, with more direct eliminations.

Categories of boats

During the Olympic sailing events, the public will be able to follow six types of boats and sailing disciplines. These include

Single-handed laser dinghies (laser radial and laser standard: ILCA 4.23 metres long). This is a light, versatile monohull boat, helmed by a single male or female athlete.

The 49er or skiff ‘forty-niner’, another type of dinghy with very sleek lines and wings that can be manoeuvred by two people and which has become very popular since it was included in the events at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. There will be both men’s and women’s crews.

The 470, another dinghy designed until now for a duo of men or women competitors. What’s new for the Olympic events taking place in Marseilles is that for the first time it will also be used by both men and women.

The Nacra 17, a 5.25-metre long sports catamaran with foils, has been ideal for a mixed crew since the Rio Olympics in 2016. The foils are an appendage that allows this small boat to fly above the water. A great show is in store.

The IQ foil windsurf helmed by a man or a woman.

Kite foiling, a new Olympic discipline in 2024, for men and women.


The sailing events at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will take place over a 12-day period in Marseille.

During this period, a total of ten Olympic titles and thirty medals will be awarded between Sunday 28 July and Thursday 8 August.

The events will take place between 11am and 7pm. Details for each day are given here.

The days on which the public can watch the medal ceremonies:

On Thursday 1 August, you can watch the men’s and women’s single-handed races for the medals.

Friday 2 August will be the day for the men’s and women’s windsurfing medal races.

Tuesday 6 August will be the day for the men’s and women’s dinghy medals.

Wednesday 7 August will be the race day for the medals in mixed dinghy and mixed multihull.

Thursday 8 August, the last day of competition, will be devoted to the men’s and women’s kite medal races.

Athletes to follow

Here is a non-exhaustive list of French athletes to keep an eye on:

Lauriane Nolot from Toulon, world number 1 and reigning kitefoil world champion. She is a great hope of winning a medal, as well as having the opportunity to write the first pages of her discipline, which is entering the Olympic programme. Good to know: in December 2023 she was awarded the prestigious title of “Sailor of the Year 2023”.

The duo of Charline Picon and Sarah Steyaert, who are now competing in the 49er class, have our best wishes for another medal. Charline won a gold medal in 2016 in RS:X windsurfing.

Jean Baptiste Bernaz hails from Fréjus and already has four Olympic titles to his name. World champion in 2022 in the Ilca, he is well placed to win his first Olympic medal in the laser.

Camille Lecointre and Jérémie Mion in a mixed crew on the 470. Camille has been competing in the Olympics since London 2012. Jérémie, who lives in Marseille, entered the Olympics in 2016 in Rio. Last year, the duo won the test event in the mixed 470, confirming their position at the top of the hierarchy of competitors in this category.

Disciplines of the competition

The 2024 Summer Olympic Games will feature a range of sailing disciplines, with mixed, women’s and men’s events.

This year, the IQFoil board model will have pride of place at the Games. The IQFoil features a high-speed foil, even in light winds, and a classic fin for stronger winds.

The World Sailing Federation has revealed the list of disciplines and boats that will be present at the event in Marseille in 2024.

Here is the list:

  • Windsurf Men – IQFoil
  • Windsurfing Women – IQFoil
  • Single-handed Dinghy Men – Laser Radical ILCA 7
  • Women’s Single-handed Dinghy – Laser Radial ILCA 6
  • Double Dinghy Women – 49er
  • Double Dinghy Men – 49er
  • Mixed Kiteboard – Formula Kite
  • Mixed Double Dinghy – 470
  • Mixed double foil catamaran – Nacra 17
  • Formula Kite Women

A windsurfing event at the Olympic Games is simply a competition in which athletes use windsurfing boards to navigate the water using the force of the wind. Races generally take place over several days and several heats, with competitors competing in a series of races with a points system awarded according to their ranking at the end of each race. The course is determined by the configuration of the water and the weather conditions. Courses may vary in length and configuration, but they are designed to test athletes’ speed, technique and strategy. The racing rules are established by the International Sailing Federation (World Sailing). These rules govern aspects of the race, such as starting, priorities on the water, penalties, etc.

In other words, windsurfing events at the Olympic Games showcase the athlete’s speed, agility, balance and control on the water. Wind conditions and race strategies can vary, making each event unique and exciting for spectators to watch.

To find out who will win a medal among the athletes selected for the sailing events, the city of Marseille invites you to this historic event from July 28th to August 8th 2024 at the Base Nautique du Roucas Blanc.

Base Nautique du Roucas Blanc: an exceptional venue

The Base Nautique du Roucas Blanc is a unique venue in Marseille. Dedicated to water sports and maritime activities, it offers facilities and infrastructure for the practice of various water sports, including sailing, canoeing, paddling, windsurfing and other water sports.

Located in the bay of Marseille, the Base Nautique du Roucas Blanc enjoys a privileged location with direct access to the Mediterranean. It includes areas for parking boats, pontoons, storage facilities for nautical equipment, changing rooms and reception areas for participants.

The Base Nautique du Roucas Blanc is often used as a training and competition venue for athletes practising water sports, including sailing. It can also host events, training courses and courses for water sports enthusiasts. All year round (excluding the winter season), the Roucas Blanc water sports base offers activities accessible to all levels, with the aim of helping participants acquire technical skills while discovering Marseille’s maritime heritage. The park also boasts a number of services and facilities, including boat storage, changing rooms, showers, vehicle parking, relaxation areas and picnic areas.

Of all the locations in the harbour, the Roucas Blanc nautical complex was the obvious choice, because of its ideal infrastructure and the fact that it provides all the conditions required for a successful sporting event.