Jim Brady, skipper of Team Chesapeake in the Cadillac Columbus Cup regatta being sailed here this week, is one of those sharp, young men with a plan he hopes will put some gold in his pocket.
Not that Brady hasn't accumulated a strongbox of loot already: World champion in J/22s and J/24s, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Yachting's Skipper of the Year and winner of the One Ton World Championship.
But Brady, 28, has his eye on the gold medal in the Soling Class in the 1992 Olympics, and the Columbus Cup is one more carefully planned stroll along the road to Spain.
In a benefit-celebrity fleet race yesterday, Brady took another small step, finishing several boat lengths ahead of second-place John Kostecki, an archrival in the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials.
"You had to get a little bit lucky to win that race," Brady said, "and we did get lucky at the top of the first leg. We got a fantastic spinnaker set, the boat behind us didn't and that gave us a jump on the fleet."
A good spinnaker set. A simple moment in a benefit regatta in which guest crews were built around a core of three sailors who will stay with their skipper through the week.
But that spinnaker set was the result of the little things that top-flight sailors do -- leading the crew through the motions before the start, explaining step-by-step what should be done and when.
It is something that Brady and his core crew of Glen Sowry, Geordie Shavers and Greg Tawastjerna did thoroughly even though they have sailed together. But all three have extensive experience in big-boat sailing, an area in which Brady admits he is lacking as a skipper.
The Columbus Cup this year is a combination of fleet racing, where all eight boats compete in one race, and match racing, in which four pairs race one-on-one.
"Smaller boats is what I have been used to," said Brady. "So for this event I have brought along some bigger boat sailors to try to help me tactically with the match-race stuff."
For Brady, the importance of match racing is that the Soling finals in the Olympics next year will be sailed under a match-race format.
Last year, Brady was the skipper in only three match-race competitions -- J/22s, J/24s and Freedom 30s -- and won all three.
"But two of them were in classes in which I was a world TC champion," Brady said, "so we had a boat-handling advantage. We didn't out-match race those people, we out-sailed them."
Outsailing people in the Columbus Cup, which opens fleet racing today, may take some doing.
Brady is in a 44-foot boat -- the largest used in match racing outside the America's Cup -- that is not as maneuverable as the 22- to 27-footers he is used to, and the field of skippers may be more balanced than in previous Columbus Cups.
There also is the matter of sailing inside the Key Bridge off Ft. McHenry, where there usually is a breeze, but the wind can be shifty.
"With a small separation of distance between two boats," Brady said, "one might have twice the amount of wind because of the way puffs will roll through the course.
"Because of that, I think we are going to see more lead changes than you would see in most other events in a more open body of water."
In his Olympic campaign, Brady sails with Kevin Mahaney of Bangor, Maine, and Doug Kern of Austin, Texas. They started working as a team in 1988 and have been ranked No. 1 in class by the U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee since.
"And I am doing something a little different in the Soling," Brady said. "Normally I skipper the boat. Instead, I am working the front of the boat, trimming the jib and helping out with the tactics."
It seems to be working because the Brady bunch has been beaten by another U.S. team only three times in four years.
While Brady hones his big-boat skills against some of the best match racers in the world, Mahaney and Kern are preparing for the Omega Gold Cup in Bermuda later this month.
Meanwhile, Ed Baird, full-time coach of Brady's group, recently won the Land Rover Nations Cup. Not coincidentally, the Nations Cup was sailed in Barcelona, Spain, where the Soling competition will be held.
"Preparation and practice make it perfect," Brady said.
What: Fleet and match racing among 8 teams from the United States, Spain, France, England and Canada.
Where: Regatta headquarters will be at the HarborView Marina and Yacht Club on Key Highway. Racing will take place on the Patapsco River inside the Key Bridge.
Spectator boats: The public is invited to observe from the shoreline or to reserve space on boats that will be going out to the course. For spectator boat information, call 752-1667.
1 p.m. -- First starting gun.
p.m. -- Race recap on the docks. Volleyball tournament and bull roast to benefit Child Abuse Prevention Center of Maryland. Tickets are $20 each and may be obtained by calling 783-0034.