A fleet of 11 of the world's most famous sailboats converged on Edgartown harbor this weekend for the annual 12-Metre regatta.
The entrants were all built to race for the America's Cup, and all came from Newport. For two days each summer, the 12-Metres race in what has turned out to be the Edgartown Yacht Club's premier event of summer.
Time and changes in technology mean these 70-foot boats of wood and steel and aluminum, with 90-foot masts, are now obsolete, but they remain impressive sailing machines. Oldest of the entrants was Onawa, built in 1928; the youngest, Kiwi Magic, built in 1986.
Saturday morning started out with air so light that the morning races were canceled. But the breeze kicked in for the rest of the weekend, and the skies were clear and blue. Ned Brooks, race committee chairman, called it "the best racing weather I've seen in three years."
For Mr. Brooks, this was a return to a childhood memory of riding his first 12-Metre at the age of 12. Mr. Brooks is an avid sailor, deeply involved in the sailing of the Edgartown Yacht Club, and a strong advocate for Sail Martha's Vineyard, a nonprofit organization committed to giving Island children an opportunity to experience sailing.
The Vineyard favorite was Onawa, a vessel with plenty of Island connections and co-owned by Chuck Parrish of Vineyard Haven and San Francisco. This was her second year in the regatta. Her crew members included familiar Island faces: Rick Villa of Chilmark was her captain for the first year. She was crewed by Brock Callen, Nat Benjamin and Sebastian and Julia Reeves.
Mr. Benjamin designs and builds wooden boats at the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven.
Said Mr. Villa of Onawa: "She is so balanced you can let go of the wheel while she sails. It amazes me to think that in 1928 they had figured it all out. She sails like a new boat."
Mr. Parrish, 57, is a retired businessman who founded Openwave, a Silicon Valley software company. He now lives on the Vineyard Haven waterfront in a new house on the site where Lillian Hellman once lived.
Mr. Parrish and a friend, Will Lobb, restored the vessel four years ago. The vessel has new sails this year. "What impresses me the most about her," said Mr. Parrish, "is that she is so fast, despite her age. We can hold our own with some of the newer boats."
Sailing a 12-Metre has enormous rewards for those who crew or captain. Many 12-Metre sailboat owners are corporate leaders, and on these boats, there can be interesting parallels. With crews numbering 15 to 18, there has to be team spirit.
In competition, captain and crew work to get the vessel up to its best performance. For the man at the helm, Mr. Parrish said, the issues of the day are left behind; he gets into a zone of sailing. "Any sailor would understand," he said. "It takes you out of everyday life; there is no room for daily business."
Wind, water and vessel become parts of a great balancing act in the mind of the sailor. It all boils down to the ability of captain and crew to anticipate wind shifts and puffs, and to keep the boat moving around the course in the most efficient and speedy way.
Lars Guck, of Bristol, R.I., is a crew member. He founded the company Guck Inc., a custom boat shop that builds catamarans and other vessels, and is a star sailor in his own right, having placed first in the 2001 Tornado Nationals.
Mr. Benjamin is charged with sharing his Island knowledge of the waters and advises the helmsman about channel markers, shoreside landmarks and how he believes wind and current will behave.
Brent Harrill, another crew member, is a race coach at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club.
Mr. Parrish comments that on some vessels crew members are known to yell at each other. To him, that is not a well-tuned vessel.
"My role is very much the same as it was when I was in the company," he said. "On the first day we sail, we always talk about the way we will sail. I say let's be safe, let's work together, let's have fun and let's sail," he said.
The wind on Saturday picked up and boats competed hard and fast.
On Sunday, the air was near calm at dawn but picked up quickly to gusting winds.
The start of the first race of the morning on Sunday had to be abandoned; a crew member of Kiwi Magic fell overboard and was rescued without incident.
Along with the sailing, the club offered special shoreside events. On Saturday night there was the 12-Metre ball, where sailors and friends gathered at the clubhouse.
Mr. Brooks said that while this year was a big event, the sailors and organizers are already talking about next year, when Newport is hosting the 12-Metre World Championship. Mr. Brooks said that he hopes the Edgartown regatta will attract not only its regular participants but some of the vessels from around the world.
The results of the race are as follows:
Grand Prix: Kiwi Magic beat Hissar.
Moderns: 1, Freedom; 2, Courageous; 3, Intrepid.
Classic Traditional: 1, Nefertiti; 2, Columbia; 3, American Eagle.
Classic Vintage: 1, Onawa; 2, Northern Light; 3, Gleam.