Sailing History and Where it All Started

Sailing dates as far back as prehistoric times. It was used for travel, fishing, or for recreational use. The stories that make up the world’s sailing history are plenty and bountiful. So let’s not waste any more time and jump right in!

History of Sailing Timeline

Sailing is when ships use the strong force of the wind through sails to drive the boat to move at fast speeds. And it has been instrumental when it comes to the development of civilization, creating greater mobility than traveling via land. It has gives the capacity of transporting goods, trade, and fishing.

In 1851, international yacht racing began and a syndicate of members of the New York Yacht Club built a 101-foot schooner called America. It was sailed to England and won a trophy called the Hundred Guineas Cup.

After, it was renamed as America’s Cup and remained in the hands of the United States, but in 1983 an Australian yacht broke the 132-year winning streak of the New York Yacht Club.

Eventually sailing gain popular attraction. So much so that it became a part of the Olympics in the Paris Games in 1900 and it’s own timeline of Olympic sailing history began.  Since then, the classes of boats allowed to compete have continuously evolved to reflect advances in yacht design and technology.

Famous Sailors

The gentleman that made this race famous was Francis Chichester and sailed around the world in 1967 making only one stop. Because of this, in 1968, a new race was introduced where one would sail around the world nonstop, and it was named the Golden Globe race.

One of the famous sailors was Joshua Slocum. He was the pioneer when it comes to sailing around the world – the first to sail solo around the globe.  Although we’re teasing with breaking the “modern age” parameter – he made that famous voyage in the late 1800s, Slocum—in many ways—gave birth to what smooth sailing is.

Sailing in the Modern Age

Equipment progressed over the past 20 years has created a trend towards smaller and lighter craft, placing ever higher demands on both the athletic and technical capacities of the sailors.

Today, millions of people participate in sailing. What used to be perceived as a sport restricted to the wealthier class has become famous around the world. For some, sailing is just a recreation, but others love the beauty of the yachts and they sail to enjoy the luxury of the boat.

World Sailing currently has 145 member nations who are its principal members, and responsible for the decision-making process that governs the sailing world. There are now over 100 recognized and Classic Yacht Classes, ranging from the small Optimist Dinghy up to the largest, the 60ft Monohulls.

In 2007 World Sailing celebrated its Centenary year by commemorating sailing. World Sailing’s members, sailing clubs, regatta organizers, sailors, and fans were encouraged to organize activities to mark the Centenary with the ‘Sail the World weekend’ dedicated to getting as many people out on the water worldwide as possible.

No one knows entirely how the history of sailing ships began, but it’s certainly been going on for thousands of years. The creation of a sail probably started as an accident where someone held a piece of cloth up against the wind and noticed that it made their raft or piece of driftwood move faster. From those humble origins, the idea of using a sail to move through the water went on and changed the world. And if this has inspired you to take on the seas yourself, we have a list of tips and tricks for sailing beginners here.


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