Sailing has been a part of our way of life since the dawn of history; evidence of humanity’s earliest seafaring voyages and maritime trade dates from as far back as 8,000 years ago. Like so many other dominant human activities, sailing gradually morphed into a sport.
The first hub of the sailing sport appeared in the Netherlands towards the mid-17th century. In a stroke of luck, the sport quickly found a de facto royal patron in 1652 when King Charles II, who was on the run from Oliver Cromwell after the Battle of Worcester during the Second Civil War, developed a fondness for the sport while living in exile in The Hague.
Upon the restoration of the monarchy following Cromwell’s death in 1660 and his subsequent ascension as King of England, Scotland and Ireland, King Charles II provided strong support for the growth of the fledgling sailing sport, which eventually led to the establishment of numerous yacht clubs in the United Kingdom. Before long, the sport followed the new world explorers and colonialists to North America.
Sailing cemented its status as one of the premier sports in the world when it was included in the first ever Olympics in 1896, held in Athens, Greece. Unfortunately, bad weather conditions prevented the appearance of even a single participant of the regatta in Piraeus, which forced the cancellation of the event. However, with the exception of the third Olympics in 1904, sailing has become of an indispensable part of the Olympic Games. This is incredible, considering that the sport is regarded by many as elitist, as sailing has arguably the wealthiest viewing demographic of any sport (with the highest number of viewers earning over $250,000).
There are currently 144 member countries of World Sailing, the governing body of the sport – a testament to the global appeal of sailing.