130-strong fleet for J/22 worlds has local, international flavor



The largest fleet of one-design racing keelboats ever assembled begins the four-day J/22 World Championships regatta today in Annapolis.

Competitors from five countries and the United States and four past winners of the J/22 Worlds, including defending champion John den Engelsman of the Netherlands (2003) and two-time winner Chris Larson of Annapolis (1992, '94), will be among the 130 entries.

Faced with the prospect of so many 22-foot sloops fighting for position on one starting line, the race committee randomly placed the fleet in four groups. The smaller fleets will compete head-to-head in three round-robin qualifying races today and tomorrow.

The half of the overall fleet that performs best will advance to the Gold fleet, from which the champion will be determined. The regatta will be in the Chesapeake, off the mouth of the Severn River.

"The fleet is so deep in talent, this will be an very competitive regatta," said Ray Wulff, race chairman.

More than 60 J/22 teams are from the Annapolis area.

"There are some sailors in town for this race who expect to light up the scoreboard. But you just don't jump on a J/22 and win," said Geoff Oxnam, who hopes for a top 20 finish. "These boats take time to learn to sail really well. So I wouldn't be surprised to see a mix of the world's best sailors and some of our local sailors among the top 10 finishers."

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