The Canadians won the 2,000-metre heat in five minutes and 19.35 seconds to break the previous world's best (5:19.85) set at the 2004 Athens Olympics by the U.S.
Poland was second Friday in 05:21.75, while Britain was third in 05:22.71. Only Canada advanced directly to the final from this heat.
"At the start, I was thinking about all the training we have done and all the confidence I have in these guys," said 2008 Olympic gold medallist Andrew Byrnes of Toronto. "I think we went out there, and we showed we have the strength and the speed to do really well this year.
"I'm always nervous in the first race of the season, it's when you see if your winter training has paid off and I think it has this year.”
The Canadians men's eight team includes, coxswain Brian Price of Belleville, Ont., Will Crothers of Kingston, Ont., Jeremiah Brown of Cobourg, Ont., Byrnes, Victoria's Malcolm Howard, Conlin McCabe of Brockville, Ont., Rob Gibson of Kingston, Ont., Doug Csima of Oakville, Ont., and Gabe Bergen of 100 Mile House, B.C.
Germany won the other heat in 05:22.44 to also advance to the A final.
The Canadian women's eight also advanced on Friday with a first-place time of 05:55.71. The Netherlands was second (05:58.38), and Australia finished in third (06:00.47).
"It's our first international race of the season, so it's a stepping stone for the next race," said veteran coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie of London, Ont.
The other Canadian women's eight is: Darcy Marquardt of Richmond, B.C., Ashley Brzozowicz London, Lauren Wilkinson of North Vancouver, B.C., Montreal's Andreanne Morin, Regina's Rachelle Viinberg, Krista Guloien of Port Moody, B.C., Cristy Nurse of Georgetown, Ont., and Natalie Mastracci of Thorold, Ont.
“Today's race was a solid confirmation that the work we've done over the winter has paid off and we're looking forward to tweaking some things for the final,” said two-time Olympian Marquardt. “It’s going to be a barn-burner final!”
In the second heat, the U.S. women's eight boat won in 05:54.17, setting a world's best time. Canada and the U.S. advance directly to the A final in the women's eight event.
Earlier Friday, the men's pair of Scott Frandsen of Kelowna, B.C., and David Calder of Victoria finished second (6:30.41) in a heat to advance. New Zealand, 2011 World Champions, won the heat in 6:27.02.