The Flying Dutchman: Olympic Sailing at the 1980 Games

TALLINN, Soviet Union—Here’s a dateline you won’t see anymore, as the Soviet Union no longer exists, and Tallinn is now more than a coastal outpost of the USSR – it is the capital city of Estonia. But Tallinn was the epicenter of Olympic Sailing events during the 1980 Olympics (which was mostly played in Moscow).

The 1980 Games in the Soviet Union was mostly notable for the absence of the United States – we had boycotted the Summer Olympics, and the Soviets would return the favor when the Olympiad came to Los Angeles in 1984.

Also notable at the 1980 Games: medals won by Spain and Ireland in Sailing. Both countries finished first (Spain) and second (Ireland) in the Flying Dutchman class. It was the first time Spain finished with a gold medal in Olympic Sailing. Ireland, meanwhile, won its first-ever Olympic Sailing medal.

The Spaniards have won 19 total medals in Olympic Sailing, the first one a bronze finish at the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. Santiago Amat finished third in the Snowbird class, giving Spain its first podium finish in a Sailing event. Spain would earn silver medals in Sailing (470 class) and Canoeing (Men’s K-4 1000 meter) at the 1976 Games in Montreal, but 1980 would be a breakthrough year for the Spaniards. Teammates Alejandro Abascal and Miguel Noguer would win the Flying Dutchman class in Tallinn, bringing the gold medal home to Iberia.

Spain would also win gold medals in Sailing at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, 1988 Seoul Games, 1992 Barcelona Games, 1996 Atlanta Games, 2004 Sydney Games, 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games.

Teammates David Wilkins and James Wilkinson, meanwhile, both won silver at the 1980 Games – and, to date, they are the only Irish men to have ever medaled in Olympic Sailing. Annalise Murphy won silver for the Irish at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro; she earned her medal in the Women’s Laser Radial.

The next Olympic Sailing events will take place next year, as the 2020 Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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