You might need to be a genius to understand Olympic sailing

You might need to be a genius to understand Olympic sailing

Published Nov. 15, 2016 2:14 p.m. ET

Because the Olympics is the world's greatest viewing buffet, I went back for seconds this morning and sampled some sailing, a sport that doesn't get much coverage on television for reasons that become immediately obvious. To say sailing is confusing is like saying Michael Phelps is comfortable in the water. And it doesn't help that the international feed features no commentators, presumably because everybody who knows how to describe the Mixed Narca 17 (multihull) race I watched today was presumably sailing in it. Thus, I was left to my own devices to try and figure out the most baffling sport in the Summer Games. Join me on my odyssey.

1. This is the start and it seems to have all the order of Black Friday at Walmart or swimming-pool management in Rio. I count at least five different direction those boats are traveling toward. This has all the order of Walmart on Black Friday or check-in at the Rio airport.

2. It looks like the radar for a hurricane.

3. What does the graphic mean? What are the black lines? Why does it look like one of those optical illusions that asks you how many triangles are in the picture? Why is Denmark going all rogue, which seems very anti-Denmark if you'll allow me to stereotype?


4. Okay, I'll buy that Brazil is in first. In this camera shot they're clearing leading what we're to assume is the trio of boats in front of the regatta. (I don't know if this is a proper usage of regatta but as we're flying by the cuts of our jib here I'm going with it.) But wait a second. Brazil first. Got it. Switzerland fourth? In what possible way does this camera shot indicate that Switzerland is fourth? WHERE ARE THE OTHER TWO BOATS?

5. Okay, now this I get. Brazil, Switzerland and Argentina racing on the open water. However, given the confusion, it's entirely possible Brazil was in first, Switzerland was in ninth and the Argentine boat was simply ferrying Juan Martin Del Potro to the tennis venue.

6. What is Italy doing? Here we have Denmark and Brazil again with Italy going away from the buoy and charging at the other two boats like this was rugby sevens, fiberglass division.

7. Speaking of event names, these are the actual names of the sailing competitions in Rio: Laser (dinghy), 470 (dinghy), Laser radial (dinghy), Mixed nacra 17 (multihull), Finn (dinghy), RS:X (windsurfer), 49er (skiff), 49er XF (skiff). Also, we have no idea what 2nd Mark is. It sounds like a Bible chapter.

8. Ahh, digging through the cooler from some cervezas. This is the kind of sport I can ... get on board with.

9. Guys - GUYS - I think that helicopter is about to make a move.

10. Toldja.

11. I imagine this is what Larry Ellison does when he's bored: Sailboat demolition derby.

12. Finally. This one's pretty self-explanatory. The boats, coming in at different angles (because the sea was angry today, like an old man trying to return soup in a deil), are headed toward the finish.

But wait. Where are you going

13. Then, before my stream froze, the United States comes in, finishing 2:07 behind the winner? The U.S. was in 13th place? Shouldn't we be good at sailing? It's called the America's Cup for dinghy's sake! The Kennedy family alone produce enough sailors to win a bronze!