ANNAPOLIS -- America's Cup veteran John Wright of Gulph Mills, Pa., a newcomer to big-fleet J/24 racing despite a long list of impressive yachting achievements, topped a tough fleet of 79 boats from across the United States and several foreign countries in yesterday's single opening-day race in the J/24 East Coast Championships.
"It went our way out there," Wright said. "The main thing is that the boat was pretty good. I had never done this kind of big-fleet J/24 sailing before, but I got married and my father-in-law had this thing sitting around, about 12 years old, so I fixed it up, and here we are."
Like dozens of others from the J/24 Class Association's District 6, which covers southern New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, Wright is interested in more than simply doing well in the regatta. He also hopes to qualify for next October's World Championships in Annapolis by finishing tomorrow as the top District 6 competitor.
Extremely light air forced postponement of the yesterday's racing until about 2 p.m. A single race of the day's scheduled two was completed before dark in light and shifty breeze over a five-legged windward-leeward course slightly more than six miles long.
Although the starting line for so many boats entered is extremely long, virtually all of the contestants bunched into the right half of the line, clearly aiming to sail the right side of the course in the breeze, which continued to shift to the right throughout the race.
"The start was bad," Wright said. "I was like in the 20th row. When we had a chance, we went right, but not that far. We just sort of went up the middle, and got into the top four at the windward mark. We just hung in there and tried to be patient."
Wright said that he continued to pick off the competition through the race, and was pleased to discover at the finish that the two boats which had crossed the line ahead of him had been premature starters, leaving him to relish the victor's gun.
"The key to it all is getting a conservative start and working into the top ten at the first mark," Wright said. "It's too bad the guys ahead of me were over early, but I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em."
A number of protests arose in yesterday's racing. Several of the 22 skippers who were premature starters filed for redress and the judges' protest committee worked into the evening deciding the final results.
Racing continues today and tomorrow out of Severn Sailing Association.
1. Kadaman, John Wright, Gulph Mills, Pa.; 2. No name, Pete Coleman, Coronado, Calif.; 3. Lead Sled, David Ferguson/John Loomis, Excelsior, Minn.; 4. HPI, Harry Bellwoar, Norristown, Pa.; 5. Sail No. KC4457, Peter Allen, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 6. Bunky's Boat, Chip Carr/Bunky Hines, Severna Park/Annapolis; 7. Bandit, Steven Hunt, Hampton, Va.; 8. Dusty Work, Doug Clark, Annapolis; 9. Not To Worry, Geoff Moore, Portsmouth, R.I.;
10. Love Shack, Chris Larson, Clearwater, Fla.