In the dinghy category, the ever-popular Laser will be a featured one-person sailboat. Lasers, which, unlike other sailboats, are planing craft with mainmasts that are set far forward, almost at the bow, have been included in Olympic competition since the 1970s.
First introduced around 1970 by Bruce Kirby, Lasers have been called the world's most popular sailboat because of their speed and maneuverability. The feature a single centerboard and while they don't have the same kind of harness that other larger small sailboats have to help steady the sailboat in a quick, windy race, they feature toe straps and so the skipper can act as a counterweight to the boat's heeling in the wind.
Lasers are quick and popular but if they aren't handled correctly, as many of us have seen in Olympic videos, they can also end up in the drink giving the skipper a quick bath.
Lasers are roughly 14 feet long with a five-foot beam and mount about 24-square-feet of sail.
If you watch all of the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics, you will find they have included 10 single-skippered events for men and women. There are six for men and four for women.
One of the women's events will feature the Laser Radial, whose basic specifications are standard -- 14 feet long, five-foot beam. The key difference, sailing authorities note, is the amount of sail area mounted. Where the men's dinghy class mounts 24-feet of sale, the women's Radial class mounts just about 19-feet of sail. The reason given is that since women tend to be lighter than men, the lessened amount of sail will keep the single-skippered craft safer when it is heeling because the Radial takes into account the woman's lighter body frame.
Actually, without being sexist, this is a true statement as most Laser dinghy skippers -- male -- are in the six-foot-five, 250-pound category (all of it honed muscle), while women, who may approach six feet, usually don't go 250 pounds. They are more likely to be in the 170-pound category if they work out.
Another single-skippered class to be featured in the summer Olympics is the Finn, which has been included in Olympic competition for half-a-century next year. The Finn, a centerboard dinghy, has become the Olympics longest-running sailing event.
The Finn was designed by Rickard Skarby in the late 1940s and is about twice as heavy as the Laser and mounts more than 33-square-feet of sail on a mainmast that is set almost at the bow. This type of boat requires a big skipper but it is said that handling one of them is the ultimate experience in single-person racing.
These are just a few examples of the type of excitement you will find in the single-skipper events at the Olympics.
Equally as exciting are the two-person dinghy categories such as the Women's 470 competition.
The 470, whose overall length is about 15-feet and whose beam is just over 5.5-feet mounts two sails, a mainsail of roughly 40-square-feet and a smaller headsale of about 11 feet.
Competitive 470s for men and women have the same specifications and each is crewed by a two-member team. The skipper and tiller-handler tends to be smaller than the crew as the crewmember must hang out as far as he or she can to counteract the heel of this dinghy.
It was designed by Andre Cornu in the early 1960s and made its debut as an Olympic event in 1976.
According to authorities on the sport, the men's 49er, a high-performance two-crewmember dinghy, is perhaps the fastest small sailboat competition.
Crews sailing the 49ers have to be very well coordinated in that they have to have worked together for some time to get maximum performance out of these large performance sailing dinghies.
To that end, each side features an adjustable wing so that crewmembers can hang out as far as possible to maintain a balanced peformance.
The 49er is, by small boat standards, a giant in that it mounts three sails, a 52-square-foot mainsail, set about admidships, with a 20-square-foot headsail mounted just forward of the main. The 49er, though, mounts a 124-square-foot jib that gives this centerboard dinghy its speed. Its overall length is 16 feet with a 10-foot beam.