|Date||23 – 31 July 1996|
|Location||Wassaw Sound, Savannah, Georgia|
|Participants||56 from 56 countries|
|Format||Points awarded for placement in each race. Best nine of eleven scores to count for final placement.|
The Laser class was designed in 1970 by Canadians Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce, who designed it as a “car-topped” dinghy, meaning one small enough that it could be transported on top of a car. In 1996 it was chosen for a mixed one-person dinghy event, although there were also one-person dinghy events for men (Finn) and women (Europe). There were 56 sailors in the class, but no women competed.
After 10 races Brazil’s Robert Scheidt had a slight lead on Britain’s Ben Ainslie, but the gold and silver were not yet fully decided. There were four false starts in the final race so the officials raised the black flag, meaning that any further false start would lead to a premature start and disqualification. On the fifth start Scheidt raced aggressively for the line and Ainslie had to follow. They both crossed the line early and were disqualified, giving Scheidt the gold medal.
The silver medal would not occur again for Ainslie. He won gold in this class in 2000 and then switched to Finn and won three consecutive golds in 2004, 2008, and 2012, making him only the second sailor to win four Olympic golds, after Denmark’s Paul Elvstrøm, who four straight golds in one-person dinghy from 1948-60.
The rivalry between Ainslie and Scheidt is one of the best ever at the Olympics, and in sailing. Scheidt won the silver medal in 2000 behind Ainslie, but won the Laser gold again in 2004 when Ainslie raced in the Finn class. By 2008 Scheidt had switched to the Star class, winning a silver medal that year and a bronze in 2012. Through 2014, Ainslie had also won eight World Championships but he was topped by Scheidt, who could claim 12. After the 2012 Olympics, both had five Olympic sailing medals, a record only matched by Scheidt’s countryman Torben Grael, who also raced at Savannah in 1996, winning gold in the Star class.
|39||John van Batenburg Stafford||CAY||318.0||415.0|