ANNAPOLIS — ANNAPOLIS -- Ken Read of Portsmouth, R.I., three-time world champion in the class, won Race 1 of the J/24 World Championships yesterday after sailing away from Jim Brady of Annapolis on the last leg of the course.
Brady, also a former world champion in this class, finished second. Larry Klein of San Diego and Dave Curtis of Marblehead, Mass., finished fifth and sixth. Both are former class world champions.
Winds on the eight-mile Olympic triangle course were from the northeast and ranged from 6 to 12 knots during the two-hour race sailed off the mouth of the Severn River.
Regatta officials said there are 81 boats entered, making this the largest J/24 world championships ever held. The regatta is based at the Severn Sailing Association and the Eastport Yacht Club.
"On the first day of a world championship, any finish in the top five is a good finish," said Brady, a silver medalist in the Soling class at the Summer Olympics. "The wind was puffy but fairly steady in direction, but there were big velocity changes with big holes and big puffs and it took a lot of changing gears."
The right side of the course was favored, and on the first leg, most of the top 10 finishers headed off together.
"We were leading the first four marks, and during the fourth leg, Ken Read passed us for one moment in time and then we passed him right back right at the mark," Brady said.
"Then he passed us back right before the next mark. We had a good duel going with him for a while, but then he stretched out to a pretty nice lead on the last leg."
With Read clearly in command in Race 1, Brady said, he and his crew began to sail defensively to ensure they did not lose second place.
In fleet racing, it is possible for a crew to fail to win a race all week and still win the championship with consistently high finishes -- so long as those boats that win are inconsistent.
"We are not out there to win races," Brady said. "We are out there trying to get our top consistent finishes. [Avoiding] anything that would really put you out of contention for the rest of the week."
In this regatta, each crew may eliminate its worst performance, but if that worst performance comes early in the week, then the pressure builds as the week goes on.
Among the 81 crews here, one competitor said, there is a wide range of talent, and perhaps as many as 20 boats that could win the world championship.
The weather may, Brady said, have quite a bit to do with the outcome.
"In light air, everybody in this fleet pretty much goes the same speed," he said. "But when it blows 25 to 30 is when you will see the top group separate from the rest."
Racing continues daily through Friday.