They are among the fastest sailors in the world and they’ve been having a ball over the past two weeks on Vineyard waters. Eleven world-class kitesurfers are participating in the first North American Speed Sailing Invitational, racing across the Island coastal ponds at speeds faster than most cars travel on Vineyard roads. Yesterday they raced across Sengekontacket at high tide under dark skies, with large rollers coming onto the Joseph Sylvia Beach and wind coming from the north-northeast at well over 25 knots.

Robert (Rob) S. Douglas, of the Black Dog Tavern family, has already clocked an average speed of over 53 mph, with speeds sometimes faster than that. As of today he is a first place contender for winning $10,000 of the $27,000 purse, for being the fastest. Mr. Douglas is already a world record holder.

Brock Callen Jr., 32, race director, organizes the daytime racing which takes place in all kinds of weather. He said sailors are having a wonderful time and may want to come here again.

Racing has taken place in Sengekontacket Pond, Katama Bay and Cape Pogue Pond, unencumbered by the traffic of summer boaters. “Maybe it is an annual event,” Mr. Callen said.

In kite sailing, a sailor is towed across the water by an unusual crescent-shaped kite high aloft. It is surfing, waterskiing, sailing and racing all rolled into one. Mr. Callen said the race course is simple, two points in a pond, about 250 metres apart, or as much as 500 metres. Sailors race the course, not so much against each other, but against the clock. “It is about trying to sail as fast as you can,” Mr. Callen said. At the conclusion of each race, usually 60 minutes, they turn in a GPS device they’ve worn, which is plugged into a computer. Sailors are ranked based on the information gathered.

Mr. Callen has been posting race results, notes and photographs almost daily on a Facebook page.

The racers include the three Douglas brothers: Rob, Jamie and Morgan. There is also Bill Lynch of the Vineyard and Brookline. Mr. Lynch and Robert Douglas were prime movers in organizing the competition. The two are active in the the North American Speed Sailing Project (NASSP), and are part of the International Kiteboarding Class Association. The Black Dog and Lynch Associates are key sponsors along with others. Another local sponsor is the CornerFive Surf Company.

Mr. Callen said the sailors participating in the competition come from as far away as southern France. The names include Alex Calzergues, Sylvain Hoceini, Seb Salemo, Christophe Prin-Guenon, Patrice Menossi, Jerome Bila and Charlotte Consorti.

Mr. Callen said for the last three years these fast sailors spent this time of year competing in Namibia, Africa. The idea of bringing the competition to the Vineyard came from Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lynch. “March and October are the windiest months on the Vineyard,” Mr. Callen said, adding:

“We want the strongest winds possible. They don’t race when the wind is under 20 knots. When most sailors are putting reefs on their sails, or complain that it is too windy, these guys all get excited.”

He continued: “We waited until after the derby was done. We respect those guys and didn’t want to interfere.”

He said the sportsmanship among the sailors is striking. “The competitors work really hard helping each other out. They work on their boards together. They try to make everyone participating go faster. It is much more than a sport. They are eating together, doing everything together,” he said.

Mr. Callen extends an invitation to anyone interested in meeting these top sailors to come to The Boathouse, at the foot of Main street in Edgartown, at 7 p.m. on Sunday. People who are interested are asked to RSVP on their Facebook page after connecting to The 2011 North American Speed Sailing Invitational.