The conditions for the Pat West Gaff Rig and Schooner Race, held on Saturday, Sept. 19, were very like those for the Moffett Race on Sept. 12. It was a sparkling day, with a serviceable SE 7-10 mph breeze, and 20 boats jostling for position at the 11 a.m. start. But then the race evolved into a two part contest.

After all boats had rounded first mark east of Hedge Fence, and were halfway to the next mark in the middle of the Sound, the wind died completely, and the slower boats caught up with the leaders. Everyone bounced around for about two hours waiting for the wind to reappear. Four times a tantalizing lift began, moving everyone a couple hundred yards before fading away. Carrying a growing load of frustration can make a boat feel very small.

A strong flooding tide pushed boats east, while the next mark was to the west. Juno and Brilliant, the two largest schooners, anchored for over an hour after they started sliding backward.

Finally, a fine southerly breeze filled in at exactly 3 p.m. Whoops of joy were heard as the race was on again. The smaller, slower boats finished a course of 10.3 miles, while the larger, speedier ones covered 12.6 miles. But most of the participants finished together, regardless of size.

As Scott DiBiaso, principal race officer, put it, ”it was almost like a second start” after the mid-course halt.

When the wind came up, bringing everyone home from the same area, any previous advantage was lost. The results were remarkable. The top five finishers, all smaller boats, were within three minutes of each other on corrected time. The same was true for the schooners. Usually the larger, faster racers finish as much as an hour ahead of the smaller ones in this race.

The Pat West Race is a benefit race for Sail Martha’s Vineyard. Nineteen of the 20 entries were wooden. Traditionally a large proportion of the fleet is associated in some fashion with Gannon and Benjamin. Most of the shipwrights from the yard were sailing on Saturday, either as skippers or crew. Juno, built by G&B and skippered by Scott DiBiaso, was the largest vessel at 65 feet. Matt Hobart’s Heart’s Desire, a 44-foot schooner that he restored here on the Island, completed a fine race, sporting a red heart on the topsail. Wind Rose was sailed by Duncan MacFarlane, who makes the bright green 31-foot double ender his home for most of the year. Lyle Zell, son of Ross Gannon, skippered Incandesa, a 41-foot schooner.

From off-Island and far away, Brilliant, a Sparkman & Stephens 63 schooner built in 1932, made the trip from Mystic, Conn., where, as an endowed part of the seaport, she is used for adult sailing instruction and other educational purposes. Sailing side by side for the first time, Juno and Brilliant played out a rivalry that began with series races in Maine. Alas, Brilliant finished ahead of our Juno.

Brilliant won the award for best corrected time in the schooner class, with Heart’s Desire just one minute behind. Juno was third, one minute later. One minute after Juno was Malabar in fourth position. Amazingly, Cara Mia, a gaff rig New York 30 built in the early 1900s, and probably the oldest boat sailing, was also the swiftest, having the best corrected time for boats sailing the longer course. There is no award for that, but it is certainly worth noting.

The award for best corrected time in the gaff rig division was collected by Wilbur, a 24-foot sloop skipper Billy Bennett built here on the Vineyard. In second place by just one second was Isabella, a G&B 21 foot, sailed by John and Lisa Stout. Woody Bowman sailed his catboat, Julia Lee, into third place less than a minute later, with Wind Rose close behind. In fifth place, Corineus, a 28-foot gaff rig cutter with Jeff Craig at the helm, a second race officer, finished one minute after Wind Rose.

Saturday was the 27th annual Pat West Race, named in honor of Francis (Pat) West, an intrepid, talented, beloved Vineyard sailor and storyteller who loved gaff rig sailboats. An engineer and problem-solver, Mr. West worked for the Sperry Gyroscope Company for 30 years. He died at age 96 on the Fourth of July, 2002. His memory endures.