ANNAPOLIS -- About 80 teams of sailors have assembled for the annual J/24 East Coast Championship Regatta, which will run through Sunday.
The regatta usually attracts sailors from throughout the East Coast, including many from the Chesapeake Bay region, and a few international teams.
This year's fleet includes a typical range of visiting crews from New England, New York, New Jersey, and other parts of the nation, as well as a team from Nova Scotia, Canada and one from Stockholm, Sweden, which brought its own boat, trailer, sails, gear and car.
Among the U.S. team leaders are many top local, regional, and national contenders, as well as two-time Collegiate Sailor of the Year Terry Hutchinson, a native of Harwood now living in Michigan, and Olympic hopefuls Gerard, Peter, and Paul Coleman.
For sailors from J/24 District 6, which includes the Chesapeake Bay, the regatta has special significance because the top District 6 sailor in the fleet will qualify for next October's J/24 World Championships, which also will be held in Annapolis.
Five races are planned for the East Coast championships, with two scheduled for today, two more tomorrow and a single series-ender Sunday.
When the first gun of the starting sequence sounds at about 11 a.m. today on the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Severn River, the teams of sailors will jockey for position from a half-mile long starting line -- one of the longest in yacht racing anywhere in the world.
In a fleet of this size, a good start easily can make the difference between success and mediocrity. The relatively short-legged windward-leeward courses favored by the contestants often leave little room for a big recovery from a poor start or a serious tactical or strategic error.
The J/24 class is perhaps the largest and most popular one-design keelboat class in the world. The 24-foot sloops are sailed by crews of four to six, and offer high-quality competition that has attracted top amateur and professional sailors since the inception of the class in 1977.