At the Olympics, Team GB maintained its status as the most successful sailing team in the world. We’ve remained at the top of the leaderboard for most of the last 120 years.
So, why are Brits so adept in the water? Let’s discuss just a few reasons.
The Brits ruled the waves
As you may be aware, Britain formed the largest empire the world has ever seen during the era of European colonialism. Against the odds, our ships made fools of the Spanish Armada, setting the course for Britain to create the world’s strongest navy (of its time). Due to Britain’s ability to navigate the ocean, it was able to exert its influence all over the globe.
Sailing as a sport originated in the UK
In the UK, sport is almost a religion. The Brits may have a not-so-sterling reputation regarding hooliganism and celebratory binging, but they have a fantastic reputation regarding sailing capabilities. In fact, believe it or not, sailing most likely originated as a sport in England.
Of course, sailing has been integral to trade and transport for millennia. But it didn’t arise as a competitive sport until the 18th century when the Oxford-Cambridge race and the Henley Royal Regatta were established.
The Thames hosts historical, world-renowned sailing events
Three of the world’s most prestigious sailing competitions occur on the Thames. We’ve already mentioned two of them (the Oxford-Cambridge race and the Henley Royal Regatta). And then there’s the world’s oldest rowing contest, the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race, which has been held on the Thames annually since 1715.
To this day, the winner takes home a watermen’s red coat fitted with a silver badge. It may not sound glitzy, but it’s widely considered one of the most prestigious sailing events on the planet.
A British town is widely considered to be the home of rowing
Henley-on-Thames may be a small town, but it’s undoubtedly the home of British rowing history. Back in 1929, Henley hosted the first University Boat Race. It was also here that the Royal Regatta was established in 1839. Since then, it’s hosted Olympic regattas on two separate occasions.
If you want insight into Henley’s links with the Thames and sailing, we highly recommend visiting the River & Rowing Museum, which was officially opened in 1998 by the Queen herself.
The Brits have a history of Olympic sailing greatness
Team GB blew the competition out of the water at the Tokyo Olympics, not for the first time. Great Britain has a history of Olympic greatness in the sailing category.
Since sailing was introduced to the games in 1896 (although sailing didn’t actually appear in the Olympics until 1900), Team GB has taken home 63 medals; 31 gold, 20 silver, and 12 bronze. All those medals position Great Britain as the world’s most successful competitive sailing team.
If you wish to dig further into British history, you can start by taking a day tour from London. We offer a variety of tours to the Lake District, Scotland, and other incredible places.